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King’s big-game fall comes at just the wrong time

Spain’s royal family was already having enough difficulties before King Juan Carlos hurt himself while on holiday shooting elephants.


King Juan Carlos poses for the camera in Botswana in 2006. Photo:

One week and two accidents related to the Spanish royal family’s predilection for guns.

On April 9, King Juan Carlos’s 13-year-old grandson, Felipe Juan Froilán, suffered a foot injury while out shooting in Soria, an incident that is being investigated due to the age of the boy. But when the king had a serious fall in Botswana at the weekend while on holiday hunting for big game, it seemed as if it was the monarch who had shot himself in the foot.

By a strange twist of fate, the same day that Juan Carlos had his hip operated on, several thousands people marched through central Madrid to commemorate the 81st anniversary of the Second Republic. Their other motive for being there was to call for the end of the current monarchy, reflecting a recent disenchantment with the institution.

The king’s Botswana visit was a private one and in other times, both his fall and the trip itself would have attracted less attention. But confusion over whether the royal household had informed of the visit or not has made it look slightly secretive. Also, Spain is currently in its worst economic crisis since the Civil War and the photographs of the holidaying monarch posing next to dead elephants and bison that have been published in recent days have not reflected well on him. For many it’s also a reminder of the reports that emerged from Russia in 2006 that he had shot dead a bear in that country that had been force-fed vodka.

Spain’s monarchy is going through perhaps its most difficult period since the democratic transition. A poll taken in October of 2011 showed that for the first time, the institution had an approval rating of less than 50 percent.

Much of the blame for that situation lies with the corruption case surrounding the king’s son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin, who faces charges of siphoning off public money from the charity he used to head. One chant sung by protesters at the April 14 Republican demonstration was the unlikely but catchy: “Urdangarin, Urdangarin, a trabajar en Burger King” (Urdangarín, Urdangarín, go and work in Burger King).

The king has made quite serious efforts to treat his daughter’s husband appropriately, not least by suspending him from royal activities. But many critics see this simply as a ploy to ensure the “outsider”, Urdangarin, takes all the heat while the truly blue blood avoids the bullet.

The royal family have also taken the step recently of publishing their financial details (although not the king’s financial dealings) in a bid to demonstrate transparency.

But as the glory days of the Transition, in which the king was so fundamental, fade further into the past and the current pain of the economic crisis bites deeper, Spain’s royal family are going to have to work extremely hard to recover the kind of support they enjoyed only a few years ago.

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Published: Apr 15 2012
Category: Iberoblog, Featured
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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1 Comment for “King’s big-game fall comes at just the wrong time”

  1. This is the Spanish royal family’s annus horribilis.

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