Thursday 18 January 2018

Donal Lynch: Spain and the game of thrones

Discontent over austerity on the streets of Madrid and Barcelona has turned towards a royal family mired in claims of embezzlement, corruption and profligacy. At one stage it even seemed that a princess could end up in jail. Donal Lynch reports on a monarchy that suddenly seems in peril

There have been calls for the King, pictured here with Infanta Elena, to abdicate in favour of Prince Felipe
There have been calls for the King, pictured here with Infanta Elena, to abdicate in favour of Prince Felipe
Prince Felipe with his wife, Princess Letizia
REGAL AIR: Rumours surround the relationship of Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos
Infanta Cristina and husband Inaki Urdangarin, above, have faced legal cases
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

OVER the last few years Spain, like Ireland, has been convulsed by its share of political and financial scandals. Earlier this year, the former treasurer of the country's ruling party was indicted over €22m he is alleged to have squirelled away in Swiss bank accounts. Recently, the head of the country's Supreme Court resigned in disgrace after it was alleged he misused public funds. These were the most famous of some 2,000 cases involving allegations of embezzlement, fraud, kickbacks and secret dealings by high-level officials that have churned their way through the courts since the euro crisis began five years ago and devastated the country. From Barcelona to Bilbao, nearly every public institution has been touched by allegations of corruption.

And yet these outrages seem like mere footnotes to a larger and more destabilising soap opera, one that at one point threatened to land a princess in prison and still portends the toppling of the country's royal family. The Queen of England famously described 1992 – when Windsor castle was destroyed by fire and the Duke and Duchess of York separated – as her "annus horribilus", but the phrase has yet to be coined to sum up the relentless and rolling PR disaster that has engulfed the Spanish royals. After years of unmitigated adoration, the first family for the first time had to read jokes about beheadings, allegations of royal affairs and questions about what exactly their purpose is.

Every week has brought a new mini crisis. The satirical magazine Mongolia recently published the latest in a series of emails that have emerged from the royal household. In them the king's son-in-law, Inaki Urdangarin, makes coarse, sexist comments and jokes at the expense of his family. He suggests his sister-in-law, Letizia, who is married to the next in line to the throne, Crown Prince Felipe, is having a "royal orgasm" and jokes that an ironing board was the female equivalent of a computer. In another email he says he is considering going to work for the UN refugee agency and attaches a picture of the "people he will be working with". The picture shows a group of semi-naked women.

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