It is not only the Queen of England who has had an 'annus horribilis'
It was already being said when Froilán, the eldest grandson of Don Juan Carlos, King of Spain, accidentally shot himself in the foot with a shotgun, that 'This is not the best moment to be king of Spain' And if this wasn't enough, within the same week the following headlines were that the king had fallen and broken his hip while hunting elephants in Botswana requiring him to return to Spain for immediate surgery. (It has to be noted though that in reality the King did not actually get to shoot any elephants despite what the media has been saying!)
While the eldest grandson of the king, who is thirteen years old, was practicing with a 36 caliber shotgun in a hunting estate in Soria accompanied by his father, Jaime de Marichalar, the firearm accidentally went off. The weapon used by Froilán is not authorized for fourteen-year-old minors and Marichalar might face a fine of up to 3.000 euros for a serious negligence under the law of Weapon Regulations, on having allowed that his son should use a firearm without being provided with license.
In only one year, the image of the Spanish royal family has been tarnished by a series of events that have reduced not only the King's popularity but that of the whole royal family. On top of all this, the health of Don Juan Carlos, (King of Spain) is also another topic of debate since he has suffered from a whole series of mishaps and/or problems.
The recent episode with his grandson Froilán and, especially, the much publicised imputation of his son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin, for the presumed pilfering of public funds from the Institute Nóos has added more salt to a wound that does not seem to heal ever.
Urdangarin and his wife, the Infanta (Princess) Cristina, have been removed from the monarchical agenda. It is the first case of corruption that involves the royal family and the information with regard to this scandal has cracked the robust shell which up to now seemed to have protected the palace. The King's Christmas message was very different and unique compared with that of other years. It was clear to see that the king was both serious and angry, while he mentioned that the law was the same for everyone (obviously referring to his son in law) and predicting that 2012 was going to be a difficult year for the monarchy.
Several events have happened in an escalating way over the last months that have affected the popularity and the image of the Spanish monarchy:
Firstly the health of the monarch has deteriorated quite considerably. Including this latest operation to repair his broken hip, Don Juan Carlos has passed through the operating theatre three times in less than one year. The first operation took place in June, 2011, when an operation was performed to his right knee in order to replace the damaged knee joint with a prosthesis of titanium.
A few months later, in September, he had a problem with his Achilles heel in the left foot. In this case, the monarch did not need hospitalization and left the clinic shortly after the operation.
Another of the much commented accidents of the king during the year was the bruise to his left eye and a wound in the nose, consequence, it is said, of a domestic accident and which left him wearing dark sunglasses for a considerable time.
The last photo of the whole royal family together was taken when they attended the Easter Mass in Majorca but neither Iñaki Urdangarin nor his wife the Infanta Christina were present. The investigation of the king's son-in-law has more than provoked a social dissatisfaction towards the royal family. Iñaki Urdangarin is accused of robbing more than a million euros of public funds from the Institute Nóos, the foundation which he directs. He was summoned to declare in the courts of Palma de Mallorca during a hearing which lasted a whole week-end, and in which Urdangarin replied that he didn't know or couldn't remember to the majority of the questions asked by the judge and continually put all the blame onto his ex-associate Diego Torres.
The Urdangarin case has resulted in that the royal family has decided to remove the Infanta Cristina from all official acts in the future and the wax figurine of Urdangarin has been removed from the setting of the royal family to that of the sports area, seeing as Urdangarin was a basket ball player before he got married to the Infanta.
The Christmas Message of the King referred to Urdangarin when he pronounced phrases such as 'the justice is the same for all' or 'that any disreputable act by people with public responsibility must be sanctioned according to the law'.
In his speech he also mentioned his son, Prince Felipe, as being heir to the crown where he would diligently serve the Spanish people and Spain.
After all this scandal the royal family have felt obliged to publish, for the first time ever, a breakdown of their yearly expenditure, and their estimated budget for the future. It was thus revealed that the annual salary for the king in 2011 was 292,752 euros of which 152,233 was destined to business expenses whereas that of the Prince of Asturias, Prince Felipe was of 146,376 euros.
The King has had many affairs (albeit none of them have ever been commented on nor publicised) during the course of his 50 year marriage to Queen Sofia and while she has always remained discreet throughout it seems that of late her patience and understanding are running thin and the comments are that the only thing that remains between them is that of a marriage of convenience. And on top of all this we can't forget that the Infanta Elena, the eldest daughter of Don Juan Carlos went through a difficult divorce with her ex-husband Jaime de Marichalar with whom she hardly has any contact even when her son got shot in the foot!!!
The Spanish royal family were in years gone by considered as an institute for good public relations between Spain and other countries but in the light of recent events it remains to be seen whether the Spanish royal family will ever be able to regain their past prestige again.