New book shows Spain’s roy­als no longer un­touch­able: ex­perts

The China Post - - ARTS & LEISURE - BY ELODIE CUZIN

A new tell-all book that de­tails what led to Span­ish King Juan Car­los giv­ing up the throne would never have been pub­lished just a few years ago in a Spain still def­er­en­tial to the royal fam­ily, ex­perts said.

The vol­ume spares no de­tails on Car­los’s 10-year re­la­tion­ship with a Ger­man mis­tress, an in­fa­mous ele­phant hunt­ing de­ba­cle and Princess Cristina’s up­com­ing trial in one of Spain’s long­est-run­ning cor­rup­tion scan­dals.

“It’s not the king who has changed, it’s self-cen­sor­ship that has changed,” said celebrity jour­nal­ist An­to­nio Mon­tero.

“Be­fore peo­ple knew things and didn’t re­veal them, but now they are com­ing out,” he added.

“Fi­nal de Par­tida” or “End Game,” which de­buted Tues­day and nearly sold out its 25,000 copies in 24 hours, comes less than a year af­ter Juan Car­los stepped down in June 2014.

The 77-year-old royal had been off lim­its to crit­i­cal re­ports be­cause of his role in guiding Spain’s tran­si­tion to democ­racy fol­low­ing the death of long­time dic­ta­tor Gen. Fran­cisco Franco in 1975.

Juan Car­los be­came a sym­bol of sta­bil­ity in the coun­try’s young democ­racy.

“End Game” au­thor Ana Romero in­stead shows a phys­i­cally weak- ened sovereign, whose three chil­dren do not visit, “sit­ting on an empty couch in front of the TV.”

Romero be­lieves the ac­cep­tance of a tougher de­pic­tion of Juan Car­los stems from the in­flu­ence of a more crit­i­cal for­eign press, which be­came ac­ces­si­ble with the In­ter­net’s spread as well as the boom of so­cial me­dia and a string of royal scan­dals.

There was the 2012 photo of Juan Car­los pos­ing with an ele­phant he killed on sa­fari in Botswana at a time when Spain was grap­pling with record un­em­ploy­ment and risked need­ing an in­ter­na­tional bailout.

The ex-king’s mis­tress Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgen­stein, who is 27 years his ju­nior, was among those who ac­com­pa­nied him on the pricey trip.

Juan Car­los thought of di­vorc­ing his wife, Queen Sofia with whom “he had not been living for years,” the book claims, though mem­bers of his en­tourage dis­cour­aged him from do­ing so.

The royal fam­ily de­clined to com­ment on the book.

‘No re­spect’

In the 424-page vol­ume, read­ers also get de­tails of the scan­dal in­volv­ing Corinna, 50, and her 46-year-old hus­band, for­mer Olympic hand­ball player Inaki Ur­dan­garin.

They are fac­ing trial in con­nec­tion with the al­leged em­bez­zle­ment of about six mil­lion eu­ros (NT$200.46 mil­lion; US$6.5 mil­lion) in Span­ish public funds.

Romero, for­mer royal cor­re­spon­dent for the El Mundo daily, de­scribes the ac­tual endgame of Juan Car­los’s rule as a months-long push from some of his clos­est ad­vi­sors wor­ried about the dam­age he was do­ing by stay­ing in power.

The book says those ad­vi­sors in­cluded for­mer So­cial­ist Prime Min­is­ter Felipe Gon­za­lez, Span­ish in­tel­li­gence chief Felix Sanz Roldan and for­mer royal fam­ily spokesman Rafael Spot­torno.

Romero im­plied that she had felt pres­sure over the con­tent of the book, but she said it was nat­u­ral for peo­ple to be ner­vous about its im­pact. Democ­racy in Spain is still a work on progress, she said.

“We are still ma­tur­ing and it is log­i­cal that cer­tain peo­ple worry about what this book can re­veal,” she added.

While Juan Car­los is now fair game in the Span­ish me­dia, not all the taboos around tough re­port­ing on the Span­ish roy­als have fallen.

“Re­spect for the monar­chy has not dis­ap­peared, it’s (re­spect) for Juan Car­los,” said jour­nal­ist Fer­nando Cano, who cov­ers the me­dia. King Felipe VI and Queen Le­tizia “re­main un­touch­able.”

For Romero, an­other area still in need of il­lu­mi­na­tion is the source of the royal fam­ily’s for­tune, for which there is no of­fi­cial data.

“We must in­ves­ti­gate,” she said.

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