King Juan Carlos I and Reina Sofía are spending their annual holiday in Mallorca at this very moment, as they have done for the last 30 years or so.
Only two months ago, the Spanish King and Queen were able to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. 14 May, 1962, was the happy date, when the two descendants of Queen Victoria were joined in matrimony, in Athens in case you should wonder.
Not many people would have foretold at that time that King Juan Carlos would lead the way for Spain to become a modern and democratic society. Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón was born on 5th January 1938 in Rome, where the Royal Family was living in exile at that time, having had to leave Spain when the Republic was proclaimed in 1931. His father was Don Juan de Borbón y Battenberg, Count of Barcelona and Head of the Spanish Royal Household ever since King Alfonso XIII had relinquished this reign in 1931. His mother was Doña Maria de las Mercedes de Borbón y Orleans.
At the express wish of his father, he was educated in Spain which he visited for the first time at the age of ten. In 1954 he completed his Baccalaureate at the San Isidro School in Madrid. In 1955 he began his studies, at the Military Academies of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. During this time he carried out his practice voyage as a midshipman on a training ship. He also qualified as a military pilot. In 1960/61 he completed his education at Madrid’s Complutense University, where he studied constitutional and international law, economics and taxation.
And in 1962, Juan Carlos married Princess Sofía of Greece, the eldest daugther of King Paul I and Queen Federika.
Juan Carlos and Sofía are related several times. Juan Carlos is a grandson of Queen Victoria-Eugenia of Spain, born a Princess of Battenberg. Victoria-Eugenia was the only daughter of Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice of Great Britain.
Sofía is a descendant of Queen Victoria through both her parents. King Paul I of the Hellenes was the youngest son of King Constantine I and Queen Sophie, born a Princess of Prussia. Sophie was the third daughter of Kaiser Friedrich III and Kaiserin Victoria, who was Queen Victoria’s eldest child. Sophia’s mother, Frederica of Hanover, was the only daughter of Duke Ernst-August of Brunswick and Princess Victoria-Luise of Prussia, Kaiser Wilhelm II’s only daughter. Wilhelm II and Queen Sophie of Greece were siblings, both being children of Kaiser Friedrich III and Kaiserin Victoria. Duke Ernst-August was closely related to the English royal family, as the head of the old Hanoverian royal family. Ernst-August was the grandson of King George V of Hanover, only son of King Ernst-August of Hanover and Duke of Cumberland. Ernst-August was the younger brother of Edward, Duke of Kent, Queen Victoria’s father.
The Spanish Dictator, Francisco Franco, had designated Juan Carlos as future successor to the Head of State, way back in 1969. Two days after Generalissimo Franco died, Juan Carlos I was proclaimed King of Spain, on 22 November, 1975.
Upon his proclamation as King, Juan Carlos expressed in his first message to the nation the basic ideas of his reign – to restore democracy and become King of all Spaniards, without exception. The transition to democracy, under the guidance of a new Government, began with the Law on Political Reform in 1976. In May 1977, the Count of Barcelona transferred to Juan Carlos his dynasty rights and his position as head of the Spanish Royal Household, at a ceremony which confirmed the fulfilment of the role incumbent on the Crown in the restoration of democracy. A month later the first democratic elections since 1936 were held in Spain and the new parliament drafted the text of the current Constitution, approved in a referendum on 6th December, 1978.
Of course, there is a reason why I am telling you all this.
Last week, a member of the new Balearic Government, only sworn in three weeks earlier, proclaimed that the Royal family was not welcome in Mallorca any longer and should seek a different place in Spain, or elsewhere, to spend their annual holidays. There was surprisingly little uproar about this in the Spanish press, to my mind, and I am certain that the kings and queens will continue their summer vacations in Mallorca for some time to come.
But I also believe that in the Europe of the XXI Century, one ought to have a closer look at today’s role of monarchy, here in the Kingdom of Spain and possibly elsewhere as well.
After all, it seems an out-dated model, to say the least.