by Anda Bulhac

A first sign that the Spanish society was not the same as in 1979, when many more had applauded the new King, was the very modest number of people who were at that hour on the main boulevard of Madrid, Gran Via. The historical conditions are, of course, totally changed and that is why people are questioning the existence of a monarchy (read more in the first part of the article, here).

Totally unexpected for some or completely predictable for others, the change of King in Spain took place on 19th of June, a historical date from now on. With the reign of the new King, Felipe VI, the Spanish society is divided in two: the ones who bet on the absolute success and change of line both in Spain’s foreign policy and of its economic situation, and the ones who are ferociously asking for a change of regime, a return to the Republic. After two months since the historical event, after assimilating the changes and getting used to the new King, my observation regarding the participation of the society remains the same: it was far more deceitful than what the royal house was probably expecting. At 9 in the morning, Felipe VI was already on his way to the Congress, where the procedure of taking the title from his father and having the speech in front of the members of Congress was to take place. A first sign that the Spanish society was not the same as in 1979, when many more had applauded the new King, was the very modest number of people who were at that hour on the main boulevard of Madrid, Gran Via. The historical conditions are, of course, totally changed and that is why people are questioning the existence of a monarchy. This lack of support that was seen as an incapacity of the monarchy to fill La Plaza Oriental, The Oriental Square, has been attributed by the press to the hot weather (almost 40 degrees) and the strict control of the police for the ones who chose to assist at this historical moment[1].

As for me, I chose to take part at the event for various reasons: first of all, I was led by the passion for history, diplomatic knowledge and international relations theory, and in this case, practice. Secondly, because by coming to Spain I chose implicitly to be a part of this society, for the good and the bad. Of course, I had the option to be a passive observer, but I rejected it. For me, it was the first event of this kind that I took part in and I won’t deny that the feelings I had are very different from any others related to any political circumstance I have assisted at so far. With the thirst of a historian who was only reading about this kind of outcomes for more than 3 years, and the curiosity of an East-European, integrated in the Spanish society, but still feeling her roots quite strong, I was watching the event through two different lens. My first observation, and I cannot say it surprised me, was the lack of young people at the palace and the presence of almost no Latin-American immigrants, who normally fill the streets of Madrid.

The support offered by the ones who chose to be a part of this historical day was discreet in diplomatic words, or weak, in more real political words: most of the middle-aged persons were there more because of a generational empathy with the former king than because of a true desire of sharing the importance of this day with Felipe VI.

Once the King has appeared in a luxurious Rolls Royce, people suddenly became nervous, mumbling about how they were dressed, whom were they with, how many cars were there and so on. They entered the Palace quite fast, after only a few minutes, which gave the participants a chance to comment the appearance of the Royal family. The coronation ended fast, because after no more than 15 minutes the king, surrounded by the entire family, appeared at the balcony, waving to his people and swearing devotion. The deception I was mentioning earlier regarding the conviction of the persons attending the event was once again confirmed: once the King got back inside the Palace in order to attend his more than 2000 guests, people immediately left, happy to have accomplished their civic obligation of receiving their new king. In the meantime, in the city center, in Plaza del Sol, Sun’s Square, almost the same or even more people were fervently protesting against the new king and against the institution of monarchy, asking for the return of the republic. However, this was mentioned briefly by the press and television, since they fear raising more anti-monarchy feelings.

After two months from the historical event, things are back to normal. The ones who were asking for a change of regime still maintain the hope of making it real and the ones who are partisans of the monarchy are happy to see its continuity in the person of Felipe VI. With a society weakened by crisis and scandals and a huge desire of change, with more and more persons leaving the country in search for a job that their country cannot offer them, it remains to be seen what parts of his speech the new king will apply and if his role will be the one expected by his partisans. And if he will indeed succeed in keeping the country united, having the pressure of segregation from the region of Catalonia, which can lead to the same result in what the Basque Country is concerned, and in offering the Spaniards what they lack the most these days: the confidence that they can enjoy the same life conditions before the crisis stroke in 2008.


[1]http://www.abc.es/casa-del-rey/20140620/abci-periodico-frances-habla-nostalgia-201406192042.html, seen on 22nd of June 2014.

photo source