Monday, June 23, 2014

Royal News Special Report: The New Reign in Spain

His Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain had tears in his eyes on Wednesday when his forty year reign officially came to an end. At the Royal Palace in Madrid, the King signed the official instrument of abdication before embracing his son and heir. The assembled guests and close members of the Royal Family applauded before the Royal March started playing. It was done simply, representing how hastily arranged everything was as the constitution made no provision for a monarch abdicating. Legislation had to be passed after King Juan Carlos announced his intention to abdicate to make everything legal. Further legislation was passed allowing for King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia to retain their titles and their immunity from prosecution. Some media outlets have tried to make a fuss over the latter point but this is Spain we are talking about, a country that seems to have more than its fair share of publicity-hound judges who have ordered all sorts of foreign and domestic people of high profile to appear before them to answer charges. HRH Infanta Cristina can attest to that, as could the late President Pinochet of Chile and, as we mentioned here not long ago, another judge ordered the arrest of former Chinese leaders Jiang Zemin and Li Peng (which of course will never happen). Given that, not to extend the sovereign immunity of King Juan Carlos would be asking for trouble.

Later on there was a poignant moment of “passing the baton” as King Felipe VI donned the official uniform of the Captain-General of the Spanish Armed Forces. He was then assisted by his father who bestowed on him the red sash of this office, following the formal abdication. Not everyone may have appreciated the significance of this event, but I would think most monarchists would. Tradition and ceremony are vital elements of both the military and monarchy and the two institutions have always been very closely linked together. On hand for this ceremony, besides the royal father and son, were Queen Sofia, Queen Letizia, new Princess of the Asturias Leonor and Infanta Sofia, Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo and (I believe) her son Don Felipe. And, speaking of tradition, with the accession of King Felipe VI the Spanish Royal Standards received a makeover. When King Juan Carlos came to the throne a new Royal Standard was adopted that was different from previous designs, being blue with a smaller coat of arms set over a Burgundy Cross in the center. For King Felipe VI the standard has reverted back to the traditional style of a larger coat of arms on a crimson flag (previous royal standards have generally been red or purple) and with that, the other standards of other Royal Family members changed as well since all are basically modifications of the King’s official flag.

Later on Thursday came the formal swearing-in ceremony at the Cortes Generales (Spanish parliament). King Juan Carlos absented himself from the occasion, but Queen Sofia was present, joined by Infanta Elena. King Felipe VI emerged on the platform accompanied by Queen Letizia, Princess Leonor of Asturias (now the youngest heir to the throne) and Infanta Sofia. There was a long applause by those assembled, despite two subtle attempts by the King to signal them to stop. With the ceremonial crown on a nearby cushion, Felipe VI took his oath to uphold the constitution and was then proclaimed King Felipe VI with shouts from the chamber of ‘Long live the King’ and ‘Long live Spain’. The new monarch gave a short speech in which he thanked his father for his long years of service, pledged to have a renewed monarch for new times, promised to listen and to advise and to work for reviving the Spanish economy and creating jobs. He also pledged his support for Spanish unity and ended his remarks by saying thank you in the four regional languages of Spain; Castilian, Basque, Catalan and Galician.

Afterward, the Royal Family made their way to the palace in an open car with the new King standing to wave to the crowds lining the streets. It was quite a display of military pageantry, particularly the cuirassiers with their shining breastplates and helmets with long horse-hair manes escorting the Royal Family. As they pulled into the palace the Royal March was played again and artillery fired a thunderous salute. Once back inside, all came out on the balcony to greet the public, this time with King Juan Carlos joining in. The immediate Royal Family had some time on their own and King Felipe VI also had some time on the balcony alone, just himself and his subjects together. To make sure that there were no disruptions to make the country look bad at a time when world attention was focused on Spain, a special law banned all republican symbols though, alas, only temporarily as people must always be free to espouse the cause of treason (at least in monarchies it seems). It was a great day for Spain, a day of transition but also of stability and continuation. Everyone present seemed genuinely happy, for their country and for the monarchy. It was not lost on everyone present that Spain is a diverse country and for those who do not wish to see their country broken up into a collection of small, petty-republics, the monarchy provides an invaluable source of unity if the people choose to avail themselves of it and not make the mistake (again) of throwing it away.

There was also, from what I was able to see, no focus on King Juan Carlos or any of the recent troubles the family has gone through but a positive and hopeful focus on King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia which does give hope that the monarchy can get beyond the recent rough patch and move forward to happier times. Everyone seemed impressed with the King and willing to give him a chance, which is probably the best that can be expected. Let us hope that, with King Felipe VI, all of that former talk of people being ‘Juan Carlists’ but not monarchists will stop and that the monarchy is here to stay will be taken for granted. ¡Viva el Rey! ¡Viva EspaƱa!

8 comments:

  1. I was very sad to read that there were no religious references nor coronation mass. Apparently, this was OK with the Spanish Bishops’ Conference. I can provide a link to the story if that's OK.

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    1. I would have preferred that but I've been more surprised at the number of people who've commented on this. Did anyone really expect otherwise? I've been a bit bewildered by the number of comments about it. The people have voted into power politicians that have legalized practically everything the Catholic Church opposes. The idea that Spain is a solidly Catholic country is just no longer reality. It's sad in my book but it's not really anything new. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but that boat sailed quite a while ago.

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    2. Despite the fact it was inevitable, it was sad. I think many secretly hoped that whoever the new monarch was might be of a more traditional sort. The mere decision to have a non-religious coronation ceremony (or "swear-in" or whatever it was) was a visual formalization of a horror no one wants to be true: Catholic Spain is finished.

      I hold out hope for renewal. But a gesture like this is just another knife in Catholic Spain to me. It also raises the horrifying prospect of a king who is fine with the decline of Spanish Catholicism, and what future that might hold for Spanish Catholics.

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    3. Divorce, gay marriage, abortion are all legalized and the lack of a mass after a ceremony is what convinced you that Catholicism was dead in Spain? You may choose your enemies as you please. For the condition of the country I blame the people who voted in these changes, not the King.

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  2. You are of course correct and yes the Church's hierarchy in Spain may be ok (frankly they have been okay with a lot of things and have been in full retreat in all fronts for a long time) with it but if I was King Felipe I would be more concerned.

    Church's problems in that regard are of course the doing of the churchmen them selves. I believe of course that may be a topic for a different blog.

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    1. Does the Church fully support the monarchy these days? Can you imagine Pope Francis championing such a cause? In this regard, the King is exactly in line with the Church, pleasing the masses and trying not to appear too grand. If change is needed (and it is) it is the people that need to be changed.

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    2. Let me first say that I am Catholic (Roman rite) not only that I would say that people would consider me what is now called a "Traditionalist" in the Church. At the same time I can not speak for the Church that is the job of Vicar of Christ the Bishop of Rome who is him self a Monarch.

      Yes the Church does still support its children (the monarchies and their monarchs) however as you well know the Church is not only a divine institution it also has a human aspect to it and hence it must emphasize certain things while at the same time not emphasizing others.

      The Church can never really disavow the monarchies as it is part of sacred doctrine and stated as the most natural form of government for man as it believes that God rules over a Kingdom plus it has even during the turbulent 60s rejected the notion that the Church it self can be governed as a democratic system. Having said that it is outside the scope of the Church to tell people what form of government they must live under.

      And yes you are right in the last assertion change must begin with the people because it is in the people that now a days reside the power and that change has already began. The fact that people like you and me exist is proof that we are in the very cusp of that beginning.

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  3. No offence here but does anyone think that the Cross of Burgundy might make a better flag for the Kingdom of Spain.

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