Do people of Spain care about the monarchy?

And what about Prince Felipe?


1. In your opinion do people of Spain really care about the monarchy or they are just used to have a king?

2. We know the rules so Crown Prince Felipe is first in the line of succession but is he the right one for the “job”?


Carsten Humlebæk, Department of International Culture and Communication Studie, Copenhagen Business School

1. I wouldn’t say that they are used to having a king; it is actually still a rather new thing, since the monarchy only became functional again after the death of Franco. The initial problem for Juan Carlos was that he became king due to the designation by Franco, not because of the popular will to reinstate the monarchy in his person. This doubt concerning his person is very visible if one looks at publications from 1976, 1977 etc. To give you an example, the legendary Communist leader Santiago Carrillo named him “Juan Carlos el breve” or “Juan Carlos the brief”, in allusion to his lack of democratic legitimacy and therefore lack of future in a democratic Spain. He however, gained his democratic and popular legitimacy by working so decidedly for democracy, and particularly his actions to dismantle the coup attempt in February 1981 were important in winning the hearts of the Spaniards. So the question is more whether the Spaniards are for the Monarchy as such (monarquistas) or whether they are for the Juan Carlos (‘juancarlistas’); this latter option would create doubts about the survival of the monarchy after Juan Carlos. This, however, remains considerations of minor importance. When asked about the legitimacy of the institutions in Spain, the monarchy and Juan Carlos invariably scores highest among the principal political institutions of the country and as such has earned a very large basis of legitimacy that is not in danger of eroding in a few years.

2. He has in many ways chosen the same strategy as his father, that is to abstain from making strong statements as long as the old ‘ruler’ (in his case his father, in his father’s case Franco) is still in power. This necessarily casts some doubt about whether he is the right man for the job, but in reality it is difficult to judge. He is the most public figure with respect to his sisters and also (I am quite sure although I have no data to support it) the one that the Spaniards believe most fit to take over as Head of State. I should also think that his matrimony with the bourgeois Leticia (i.e. NOT from one of the royal or even noble families of Europe) is well received in Spain as a sign of modernity; the coming king in this aspect is seen as reflecting the self-image of the Spaniards as a nation that from backwardness has become modern in a remarkably short time. I would really think that his ‘silent’ and not very outspoken – at least not in a critical sense – behaviour is most likely to be a copy of his father’s behaviour. He will not criticise his father or begin to anything differently as long as he lives, but when he becomes King of Spain, I would not wonder if he has prepared a programme that will distinguish him from his father (just as his father came out a strong supporter of democracy).

Alejandro Quiroga, Reader in Spanish History, School of Historical Studies, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

1.  Most of the people in Spain would define themselves as ‘juancarlistas’, that is, supporters of Juan Carlos, but not monarchical.  Perhaps the youngest generations are use to have a king, but public support of Juan Carlos is realated to the fact that he opposed the 1981 military coup. On the other hand, the youngest generations are the biggest supporteers of the republic. According to the latest opinion polls the average backing for the republic in Spain is 25%, but it grows up to 35% among the youngters.

2.  The answer to question 1 implies that the prince is not as popular as his father. The main problem of the Prince is that he does not have the same legitimacy as his father. He did not oppose a military coup and he did not lead a democratic transition. The Royal House has for yeas tried to sell a good picture of the prince, but to no avail. He is not as popular as his father, not only because they have different personalities, but also because he is seen as having no ‘merit to be there’, because ‘he has done nothing’ to be the head of state.

Paul Preston, Professor, Department of International History, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

1. I believe that there are few real monarchists in Spain – meaning people who really believe in the divine right of kings, in the legitimacy and continuity of the royal house.  The majority of people are Juan Carlistas, that is to say they are deeply grateful to King Juan Carlos for everything he did during the transition to democracy and the struggle against military subversion.  In fact, most people probably don’t give a lot of thought to the issue of Monarchy or Republic.

Another reason for the lack of passion about the monarchy is because Juan Carlos does a very good job in Spain , both as a neutral head of state which, in the present atmosphere of political tension, is very important, and also as a great international representative of the country.

2. All of this has a bearing on the likely success of Prince Felipe.  He is intelligent and well-prepared.  If he maintains the neutrality, he should be alright.

It is difficult to predict with absolute accuracy because no one knows the circumstances in which he will come to the throne.

Richard Gunther, Professor of Political Science, The Ohio State University

I can answer the first of your two questions, but not the second (since I have not been following the news about Felipe).

Juan Carlos is an exceptionally popular monarch, in large measure because he played crucial roles in bringing about and then in preserving democracy in Spain .  In early 1976, Juan Carlos fired the reactionary prime minister Carlos Arias Navarro (who was blocking progress toward democratization) and then worked behind the scenes to have Adolfo Suarez nominated as his replacement..  Once Suarez’s name was inserted on the list of three candidates that was presented to the King, he appointed him as PM.  This led to a prompt initiation of a very successful democratization process, in which the King played a strongly supportive role.  Proof of his success in this democratization effort is that the traditionally republican Socialist and Communist parties both enthusiastically supported the restoration of the monarchy in the 1978 constitution.

Perhaps more dramatically, on February 23, 1981, rebellious right-wing segments of the military and civil guard launched a coup, the initial stages of which were spectacularly successful.  They held the entire Congress of Deputies at gunpoint for nearly a full day, as fellow conspirators in some military units began to mobilize to topple Spanish democracy.  With all of the leaders of the Spanish government and of all parliamentary political parties held at gunpoint in the Congress, the only prominent political figure in a position to oppose the coup was the King.  Putting on his military uniform and acting in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the armed forces, he went on television at midnight and asked for all Spaniards to support the new democratic regime.  Perhaps more decisively, he personally telephoned all of the regional military commanders and ordered them to remain in their barracks and support the democratically elected government.  This was sufficient to quash the most serious threat to Spanish democracy.

Finally, unlike his brother-in-law (the former Greek King Constantine), he scrupulously abstained from any kind of involvement in partisan politics, remaining above divisive matters and functioning as an effective symbol of national unity.
For these reasons, Juan Carlos is enormously popular.


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