Wednesday, 3 October 2012


Life in 21st Century Spain (though you wouldn't know it)

3) Autobiography of King Juan Carlos

Hi everyone, JC here... Juan Carlos de Borbón, that is, King of Spain, Jerusalem, the Ocean Sea and so on. 
Though I don’t speak English, (and to be quite honest I have a little bit of trouble expressing myself in Spanish), my good friend Mr Murphy has promised to listen to my reminiscences and translate them into colloquial English. We’re going to look at some episodes in my life, starting with:

Rome, Italy, 5 January 1938. I am born. My grandfather Alfonso XIII had to run away from Spain after being booted off the throne in an unfortunate misunderstanding seven years earlier, so we live in exile in Italy and Portugal. Later that same year my eldest uncle Alfonso is killed in a car crash in Miami, the second of my grandfather’s four sons to die in a road accident. The second eldest of my uncles, Jaime, is deaf as a post, poor chap, so he renounces his claim to the throne. Which leaves my father, Juan, who therefore becomes next in line to the throne. Meanwhile in Spain the Reds are being spanked and Franco looks set to become Spain’s ruler soon. Will he ask us back? I’m just a few months old and already I’m third in line to the throne of Spain!

Rome, Italy, 28 February 1941. Grandfather Alonso dies and my father becomes King Juan III of Spain. But that Franco doesn’t want to let him become king. So we carry on in exile. Rome, Switzerland, and Portugal are all OK but nothing like being at home in Spain and being an honest-to-God prince. I play at soldiers. I’m tops in the Afrika Corps vs Tommies game I play with my new younger brother Alfonso. I’m Rommel.

Estoril, Portugal, 29 March 1956. I shot my brother little Alfonso in the face and he died. That was very careless and very bad. Father says I must be more careful when handling guns in future. He made me apologise to Mother.

Athens, Greece, 14 May 1962. I get married to a nice Greek girl called Sofía who’s also my third cousin. Her daddy is the King of Greece, mine is King of Spain but only not in Spain. Both of us have Queen Victoria as our great-great-great-grandmother, isn’t that neat? She is some kind of religion called Greek Orthodox, but she changed herself to Catholic just to be really Spanish. She says “Madrid is worth a Mass” and then laughs, but I don’t know what she’s talking about. Is it a joke?

Madrid, Spain, 30 January 1968. We had a son! We already had a couple of daughters, but they don’t really count. Now with Felipe we are a real dynasty.

Madrid, Spain, 22 July 1969. Finally, I get to be heir to the throne! Franco declared Spain a Kingdom in 1947, but my father wrote him a note saying he couldn’t, so Franco got all angry with Father and said he was a Red. Meanwhile the throne stayed vacant. When Sofia and I got married, old Franco suddenly took a shine to us. He invited us to come and stay in Spain. Father was angry with me, saying I was undermining him and manoeuvring to become next King. But I didn’t. I just agreed with Franco to continue his dictatorship in my name when he dies, and pledged eternal loyalty to him. Clever!

Madrid, Spain, 27 November 1975. I get a coronation ceremony with a bishop and everything. Now I’m really king. When old Franco passed away a week ago, I swore to uphold the “Principles of the National Movement” and keep the Franco system alive. But that lot didn’t know that I had one hand behind my back with my fingers crossed! So it doesn’t count. Everybody knows that.

Now I’m going to start something called a Transition – it’s like a change to democracy, but nothing that happened in the Franco time will be held against us. Everyone’s on board, even an old Red called Santiago Carrillo who I pretended to make friends with. This politics stuff is easy – just promise one thing, do another, and try to make friends everywhere you go.

Estoril, Portugal, 14 May 1977. Daddy gives up, finally admitting that he can’t be king. I make him Don Juan, Count of Barcelona as a joke. He doesn’t laugh.

Madrid, Spain, 6 December 1978. The new Constitution is approved by a referendum, and a new Spain is born! I’m the King of a “constitutional monarchy”, legitimate head of state and nobody can take that away, never ever. They tell me that being constitutional monarch means I just shake hands and don’t talk in Congress. Suits me. I was tired of politics anyway.

Madrid, Spain, 23 February 1981. The bloody, bloody, Franco lot just will not give up and go away. Now they’re occupying Congress and have sent tanks out on the street. I’m going to go on TV and tell them all what’s what. Nobody is going to mess with my new Kingdom. I mean, I sympathise with them and everything, but guns in Congress is just too much.

Mallorca, Spain, 17 July 1992. The bloody press keeps mentioning my friends Marta Gayá and Barbara Rey. Why can’t a guy have a bit of discreet female company? I’ve asked Prime Minister Felipe González to kill all this gossip. I’m the King of Spain, not a bloody fashion model.

Madrid, Spain, 22 May 2004. My son Felipe got hitched. Bloody nice girl, Letizia, I used to watch her reading the news on TV and I always thought, nice bit o’ crumpet there. She’s a commoner and previously divorced, but never married in the Church, so it doesn’t count, and she can wear virgin white and be a Catholic queen. Funny, my uncle Alfonso renounced the throne to marry a common lady, but that was a long time ago. Died in a car crash anyway, silly bugger.

Madrid, Spain, 12 December 2011. The bloody, bloody, bloody fool son-in-law of mine, Iñaki, has gone and got himself mixed up in a fraud case. Little yuppy bastard is going out in the cold – I’ve already cancelled his Christmas party invite. I asked Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to kill all the gossip about my daughter Cristina. He says she’ll stay out of the courts, no matter what. 

Madrid, Spain, 9 April 2012. My grandson Froilán was shot in the foot when out hunting with his father, the bloody worthless toff Jaime de Marichalar. My turn to administer the telling-off. I used the exact words my Father used to me back in Estoril so long ago: you’ve got to be more careful with guns in future. Jaime just shrugged and went off to the bathroom. Little Froilán made a face at me like a sad sheepdog, so I said, “Look boy, when I was your age I shot my brother in the face. But since then, I’ve taken care and I never shot anyone.” I think he understood that. I called that nice Mr Rajoy again, he said there’ll be no court for Jaime. Bloody cokehead won’t be grateful.

Botswana, Africa, 14 April 2012. Bloody hell! I fell over while taking aim at a bull elephant and I broke my bloody hip! Now everyone is going to find out I was hunting elephants in Africa just after I appealed to the people in Spain to bear up and face the austerity cuts with good cheer. I’ve already worked out my damage-control strategy. When I get out of hospital, I’m going to limp up to the cameras and say “Sorry, won’t happen again” really quick, then I’m outta there.

London, England, 20 May 2012. My wife Sofía calls me from London. She’s very unhappy that the government told her that she couldn’t attend the Queen of England’s jubilee bash. We’ve got to snub the UK over Gibraltar, apparently. She says Queen Elizabeth said she’s having a great party, except that “Cousin Sofía won’t be coming”, and can she go anyway? I told her, that a) Queen Elizabeth is my cousin too, but I couldn’t go anyway because of my dodgy hip; and b) If that nice Mr Rajoy tells her to be rude to the Queen of England, then it’s her duty to do it. We owe him more than a couple already. And fishing rights in Gibraltar is much more important than cordial diplomatic relations with the UK, everyone agrees on that.

Barcelona, Spain, 27 September 2012. That bloody little bloody bastard Artur Mas snubbed me. Snubbed me! His rightful sovereign! I was visiting Barcelona to do some inaugurating, and I shared a car on the way over with Mas and his sneaky little eyes. He said “You know, it was overstepping your role as constitutional monarch and taking sides in politics when you publicly called my self-determination plan a chimera”. I said “What’s a chimera?” Boom! You could tell he was stuck for an answer. So then he arrives late at the official photo and refuses to stand with me. That little bugger ought to watch it. It’s far more important to appear united than to bother with stupid stuff like rights to self-determination. Everyone agrees on that.

When I got back to Madrid I had a nice chat with that Soraya Saénz de Santamaría, Rajoy's right-hand-girl. She told me not to worry, the Spanish government had all the weapons at their disposal to deal with snotty upstarts like Mas. Nice girl, Soraya. You know it kind of gets me thinking that everything's come full circle. My moment of glory, the consolidation of democracy, was when I faced up to the 23-F coup plotters in 1981. Funnily enough, Soraya's father the General was there, running the police. Now we have his daughter, nice lady, who knows exactly what is needed for democracy. Reassuring, that. Safe pair of hands.

I slept soundly for the first time in months. The hip twinge let up, my mind was at rest. Mas and his smarmy little face receded into the mists. Even bloody Iñaki couldn't disturb me.

King Juan Carlos general background

Paul Preston, Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004)

Father, uncles,_Prince_of_Asturias,_Count_of_Barcelona

Death of Alfonso 1956

23-F 1981 attempted coup
23-F – Did JC sympathise with coup plotters?
Soraya's father in 23-F

Queen Sofia forced to snub Queen

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