Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia visited New York, New Jersey and Boston last week to call for stronger ties between the U.S. and Europe, and highlight the importance of Spain in American history and its future.
The week ended on a high note with an appearance with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the end of the United States – Spain Council’s forum in Jersey City.
Their Royal Highneses met with Hispanic luminaries, Spanish business officials and other leaders, including the heads of media giants Telemundo and Univision, to boost Spain’s image in the U.S. and relations between both countries, which took a hit during the debate over the war in Iraq.
Post-Franco Spain has sought to boost its influence in the world, with a focus on Latin America. It appears the Royal Family and other leaders hope to make further inroads in the U.S. through the growing influence of Hispanics.
During a speech at Harvard University in Boston titled “Spain: An American Nation” as in other events throughout the week, Prince Felipe highlighted the common histories between Spain and the U.S., and the growth of Hispanic economic, linguistic and cultural influence.
“I see Spain not only as a European, Mediterranean or American country, but one with universal reach,” he said. “The Spanish Monarchy,” he added, “remains profoundly committed to the cause of Democracy in Latin America.”
The British press has confirmed that King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia will not be celebrating their Golden Wedding anniversary.
The Daily Mail, citing Royal Household sources, said no private or public parties are planned.
The news appears to be getting more attention abroad than in Spain, where the media often refrain from being too critical of the Monarch, especially when it comes to private issues.
Global media outlets have been reporting allegations that King Juan Carlos has been with many other women. And Spanish media noted the Queen’s short hospital visit when her husband was recovering from hip replacement surgery.
El Pais, one of Spain’s leading newspapers and often used as a source for this blog, has published several articles analyzing the Royal Family’s situation in Spain.
Many influential politicians and business leaders, the paper says several factors are affecting the Monarchy’s popularity — King Juan Carlos’ health, his recent trip to Botswana, his son-in-law facing corruption allegations, the economy, leftist movements and the fact that many young people don’t remember the the institution’s importance in establishing democracy.
One article looks at the King’s situation, another reviews Prince Felipe’s role and another reviews the Queen’s recent actions, including only spending a few minutes visiting her husband at the hospital.
Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said he would have told the King not to go hunting in Africa. The comments come amid a debate over how much control the elected Government should have over the Monarch’s activities.
Still, despite other leftist comments against the Monarchy, the Socialist leadership is staying loyal.
Meanwhile, as planned, Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia stepped in for Don Juan Carlos in giving out this year’s Cervantes prize at the University of Alcalá. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born in Alcalá in the 1500’s.
The Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund is expressing concern and requesting a meeting with the Royal Household over King Juan Carlos’ elephant hunting trip to Africa, where he suffered a hip fracture last week.
WWF outlined its concerns in a letter released today, as politicians and Spaniards debated the King’s trip, which many see as lavish and insensitive to the county’s economic woes. WWF in Spain questions whether the King can continue as the group’s honorary president.
Juan Carlos del Olmo, the group’s secretary general, said there was an “enormous backlash” to the King’s hunting activities, even if they were legal. He said people around the world were expressing “energetic protest.”
Meanwhile, Queen Sofia visited her husband today. She said he was showing “phenomenal progress.” Doctors said he may be out of the hospital soon.
His recovery, however, means that he won’t be able to make it abroad to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years as British monarch.
In the chapter titled An Engaging Monarchy, John Hooper, author of The New Spaniards, provides some insight into why the Bourbon royals are different or seen as different compared to other ruling monarchies. Hooper described a memorial service after the 2004 Madrid terrorist attacks:
When the service ended, the dignitaries prepared to file out, led by the Spanish royal family. But instead of leaving the relatives alone with their grief and incomprehension, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, accompanied by their children and their children’s partners, moved from pew to pew consoling the bereaved.
They clasped the hands of the bereaved, hugged their shoulders and kissed their cheeks. The King embraced a stooped old lady, and bent down to listen to her story. The Queen wept openly. Princess Cristina too sobbed as she hugged mourners.
It is inconceivable that any of the Windsors, for example, would have put their dignity at risk in that fashion.