07 October 2017 ~ 1 Comentario

The King and the Catalans

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

King Felipe VI of Spain addressed his compatriots visibly concerned. That’s not surprising. What’s in play is the future of Spain, such as we know it.

In addition, according to some, the fate of the monarchy itself is at stake. Theoretically at least, the king’s implicit function is to keep the patchwork of Spain united. He is the nation’s symbolic head and we all know how important symbols are for our species. If the country breaks up and a republic emerges from one of its ribs, people will surely blame the monarch even though, in this case, he is totally innocent and nobody is accusing him of breaking the law or being corrupt.

Felipe VI is not Basque, Catalan, Galician or Canarian. Although he was born in Madrid, he does not have a regional motherland. His office as king means he belongs to the entire country, not to this place or another. Earlier, when the king was the only sovereign, all of Spain belonged to him. Ever since a modern parliamentary monarchy was forged, the terms were reversed. He is the property of the nation. He might be the only full Spaniard in the peninsula. The others are Aragonese, Murcian, Extremaduran, and so on, throughout the 17 autonomous regions.

What’s happening is tragic. Felipe V is the best-prepared king in the history of Spain, in addition to being the tallest (6.6 feet, or more than 2 meters). He’s at a good age: 49. He is prudent, cultured, can deal with the great issues of contemporary history and is a lawyer. Because the Constitution makes him chief of the Armed Forces, he served in the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. He holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Georgetown University, speaks fluently in Spanish, English and French and makes an effort to communicate in Catalonian, Galician and Euskara (Basque), the three other languages spoken by many Spaniards. In addition, he is a simple and affable person.

Queen Letizia is not a lesser monarch than her husband. They complement each other. She has character and intelligence. Her former profession as journalist permits her to write her own speeches. Some chroniclers of monarchy derided her working-class origins but that feature brings her closer to the people, who perceive her as one of their own, honest and hard-working. The idea that blue blood is not necessary to reign or be elegant is advantageous to her. She benefits from the attacks of those who don’t appreciate her plebeian background and sneer at her grandfather, a taxi driver.

Could it be that, if the Catalonian separatists (though a minority) achieve their region’s secession, the monarchy will disappear? Not necessarily. The Bourbons have been expelled thrice from the history of Spain, but later were brought back — almost miraculously in one case. In all three cases, they returned because, despite the reticence of the numerous republicans who lived in Spain, the idea persisted that kings are useful for the survival of a nation where the centrifugal forces are usually powerful.

The last time that the monarchy resuscitated, it did so under Juan Carlos I, Felipe’s father, made king by Franco himself, but the Crown’s legitimacy was not due to the Caudillo’s designation (an arbitrary act committed by a dictator) but to the fact that the monarch not only collaborated with the transition and accepted the limitations to his powers imposed by the 1978 Constitution, but also played a stellar role in the rescue of democracy and the rule of law after the 1981 coup by Tejero, Armada and Miláns.

I suspect that Felipe VI’s television appearance had a similar origin. He felt that he was contributing to the rescue of democracy and, simultaneously, of the monarchy. He thinks — and he may be right — that the two elements are intertwined.

One Response to “The King and the Catalans”

  1. Lilicar Rodroguez 7 October 2017 at 8:28 pm Permalink

    I share your opinions 100 o/o

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