Monday, January 4, 2010

Controversy, Carlism and Juan Carlos

Over the years I have heard from many self-described monarchists who have nothing at all good to say about King Juan Carlos I of Spain, usually from the camp of the small but committed modern day Carlists, or perhaps I should say -one of the many camps. It has happened often enough to prompt me to state my perspective on the issue even though I try to stay out of dynastic disputes here on the blog for the sake of unity amongst the minority of monarchists still scattered about the globe. Longtime readers and followers from Yahoo! Will likely already know that, in the time and place that it mattered, my own sympathies are with the Carlists. In choosing that side I have the benefit of hindsight. How the Carlist pretenders might have ruled Spain we can only guess but history certainly shows that their opponents and their policies were not good for the long-term strength and stability of the King of Spain.

Aside from this, I also take the Carlist side because of the legality of their original case as well as my sympathy with their overall attitude of rejecting the modern mass political system and so-called “enlightenment” ideals in favor of old fashioned altar and throne monarchy. They put up a long and gallant resistance and in the story of Spanish history I consider them the “good guys”. However, that does not translate to any opposition on my part to the Spanish monarchy today or King Juan Carlos personally. One of the problems the Carlists had in recent times, probably due to such a long period as the underdog, is that they fractured and as they became an ever smaller and less significant minority many became even more fanatical in their opposition to any and everyone who did not coincide with their own exact position. Such as King Juan Carlos.

Exactly who the legitimate Carlist claimant is disputed today among a number of individuals (something problematic all on its own) and despite what many may think one of those who is considered legitimate heir to the Carlist mantle is King Juan Carlos himself. However, much of the movement known as Carlism today has more to do with religion, politics, social issues etc rather than royal bloodlines. I also consider the fact that monarchists should not throw away the preferable in pursuit of the ideal, which is where King Juan Carlos comes in.

I have certainly not agreed with every act that King Juan Carlos has put his name to. I like him personally, I would prefer it if he would take more of a principled stand on certain issues but then I could say the same for virtually every monarch in Europe. I also do not think, as some seem to, that Juan Carlos alone could stop the current trend of Spanish government and society. Were he to do so, the most likely outcome would be that the monarchy would be abolished and a leftist republic established. With the current situation there is at least the framework in place for an eventual recovery. As far as claims of legitimacy or illegitimacy (and I will say again that the current king is heir of one of the line of Carlist claimants) simply being the monarch in these difficult times counts for a great deal. I take the same attitude regarding King Juan Carlos in Spain as I do Queen Elizabeth II in Great Britain where you will still find some diehard Jacobites who insist that the Duke of Bavaria is the rightful king and they hold the reigning Queen in utter contempt. For me, in both cases, regardless of past merits, the only possibilities for Spain or Great Britain is their current monarchs or a republic and the last thing the world needs is yet another republic.

For all of these reasons, though I have the utmost respect for the Carlist tradition and though I certainly do not agree with every act King Juan Carlos has put his name to, I will recognize and support him as the King of Spain and encourage in any way I can his maintenance on the throne. If one disapproves of certain actions of the government my answer would be to give the King a more safe and powerful part in government rather than disregarding the King altogether as he has made no secret of his personal opposition to a number of bills he has felt obliged to sign. For myself, given the option of King Juan Carlos or another Spanish republic it is a very simple decision as to which side to take. Viva el Rey!


  1. I think in the beginning of his Reign King Juan Carlos had tried to reconcile with the Carlist and in doing so he was also somewhat reaffirming his “legality” before the world. The title Juan Carlos in a way “represents” both dynastic lines, the alfonsines: Juan (after his father King Juan III) and the Carlist: Carlos (after Prince Carlos (V); the founder of carlism.

  2. He is the result of an effort to combine the two lines; successful enough with most I suppose but never enough for the most extreme. As much as I sympathize with the Carlists, even today, I cannot help but feel sorry for them in a way as they seem to go to ever more extreme lengths to always pick a losing fight. For example, I know a traditionalist Catholic Mexican Carlist. A nice enough fella but one I fear is doomed to perpetual disappointment. Even if by some miracle the Mexican monarchy was restored that would not satisfy him -that monarchy was illegitimate to him. If by some greater miracle the Spanish dominion over Mexico was restored that would also not satisfy him as he regards King Juan Carlos as illegitimate and if by some greater miracle the Catholic Church stepped in to settle the dispute he would not accept that either as he does not regard Pope Benedict XVI is legitimate. I like the Carlists, admire their zeal but -really?

  3. Sometimes particular monarchists are their own worst enemies, I think.

  4. Very true ... unfortunately, I've seen alot of it myself.

  5. I really feel this is no time for *more* succession disputes...bad enough the ones complicating French and Russian monarchism.

    As for reconciling conscience and politics, that's a hard question. My instinct is that the monarch should *not* compromise his/her principles and sign immoral laws. Yet, in the contemporary context (as you noted), such an attitude would seem to lead to the monarch simply being bypassed (eg. King Baudouin in the abortion crisis) or losing more powers (eg. Grand Duke Henri), or possibly even losing the throne, none of which would help the Catholic or otherwise conservative cause.

    Still, in the end one cannot (and this goes for Belgium and Albert II, too) do a bad thing (sanction immoral laws) in order to do a good thing (preserve the throne). But that said, I realize these monarchs are in a very difficult position, and, given that they are attacked and undermined so often anyway I don't like to add to all the subversion by criticizing them too strongly over these issues, which, in any case, are largely beyond their control.

  6. I feel much the same way. I would like to see monarchs refuse royal assent to a number of things, but it's also a fact that a monarch cannot force their people to do the right thing and they are also subject to the same social trends as everyone else. If the majority of the people want a certain thing, even if it is immoral, a monarch cannot do much about it at this point. If they refuse to go along they are stripped of their powers and might be dethroned and it would all go through anyway. We have come to this point in history after a long trend of turning away from traditional values and I think it is rather unfair to expect monarchs, an endangered species already, to stop the crashing wave of secularism on a dime.

  7. Ideally, the Monarch would be able to give signals of disapproval long before an odious bill were thrust before them for signature. But even that is tricky to pull off without the shouts of "undemocratic!" being made. I don't envy the tightrope they have to walk. 1 Tim 2:1-2 springs to mind.

  8. I believe that is essentially what Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg did and the process was promptly started to strip him of his role in government. I know there have been monarchs like that (ol'King George III comes to mind) who usually signed what was put before them but also made it clear what things should NOT be put before them to avoid difficulty. Today, however, I don't think monarchs (outside of maybe Liechtenstein and Monaco) have that sort of authority. Plus there is now all the EU-regulations that have forced a number of countries to pass laws they ordinarily would not have.


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