Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Temporary Monarchy

Kings don't abdicate every week. For once, therefore, the seismic event merited the Richter scale font sizes that occupied special second-edition front pages. The King is not quite dead. Long live the King. It also unleashed a journalistic earthquake of historical and futurist analysis, doubtless one that had been written in advance. Seismic, yes, but unexpected, no. The tremors of abdication had been felt for a good while. But though the shocks of hunting in darkest Africa and of one of the in-laws being hauled before the beak might have been deemed reasons for the royal resignation, an explanation that it was all about the handing of the Bourbon baton to the younger 46-year-old generation seemed genuine enough. Juan Carlos deserves credit for his foresight in succession planning. Some monarchs go on and on and on. One Spanish wag, and there are such beings as Spanish wags, tweeted that Isabel II (aka Elizabeth II) had announced that she too would be abdicating. In 2064.

Stability. The abdication was also about ensuring stability. But no sooner had the announcement been made than an impression of anything but stability was given. Uncertainty certainly. They were gathering here and there, calling for a new republic. The last thirty-nine years had only been temporary. A provisional monarchy. Time to move on, everyone, and the moving on should mean that the British media can stop referring to the likes of Mariano Rajoy as a prime minister, as even for the British he would genuinely be what he already is in Spain - a president. Head of state of a republic.  

Rajoy, in a rare act of comradeship, thanked Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba for not subscribing to the republican fervour. Socialists can be royalists too, you know, and PSOE are, generally speaking, good Spaniards. They don't want Catalonia going it alone and they also don't want to have to worry about what to do with the various royal palaces if there are no royals to occupy them any longer. One of these palaces is the Marivent in Palma. What was to become of it, future monarch or no future monarch? Francina Armengol, head of PSOE in the Balearics, appeared to suggest that she preferred its return to Balearics ownership. Going against national PSOE sentiment, she insisted that there should be a referendum to decide between monarchy and republic. President Bauzá attacked her "ever more extremist discourse" that is "more left than the left and more nationalist than the nationalists". A correspondent to "The Bulletin", in a superb letter, described her as "an opportunist of the worst kind", styling this opportunism as a means of trying to regain the loss of the left vote to other parties. Precisely.

It has been interesting to note reactions of the non-Spaniard and especially the Brit expat to the abdication. Opinion appeared pretty much evenly divided into the royalist and republican camps. Support for republicanism was the reason, I would guess, for a further observation in "The Bulletin" to the effect that because Juan Carlos is not a Briton's King, he or she should be excluded from expressing an opinion. How would the same Briton like it if a Spaniard was making a judgement on the future of the British monarchy?

This was something with which I couldn't disagree more. If an expat has lived in Spain for any length of time, he or she surely has every right to express an opinion on the monarchy, just as he or she has every right to express an opinion on any subject. Expats are sometimes styled as being indifferent to matters in Spain. They should be encouraged, not told to pipe down.

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