The 10 years that have passed since the marriage of Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia coincided with a difficult period for Spain and for the monarchy itself. The prince’s discreet demeanor throughout only adds to the normalcy of his everyday life. The heir to the Spanish throne has demonstrated poise and composure, and the stability of his immediate family contributes significantly to this.
It is not an easy role, given that parliament has never drafted a statute for the royal heir. This ambiguous legal framework opens the door to mistakes — as illustrated by the situation of another European crown prince — and that is precisely where the work of Don Felipe stands out: he has filled in for King Juan Carlos in situations where royal representation was necessary, such as the swearing-in of a number of Latin American dignitaries.
And all this without taking his eyes off the pressing issues in Spain, as demonstrated by his frequent trips to Catalonia, where he could end up being the kind of moderator that the crown has been at other delicate moments in the country’s history. Spanish society has often shown that its support for the monarchy is dependent on that institution’s functionality. We must not forget that it was precisely the crown’s useful role in establishing democracy that created the strong ties between King Juan Carlos and Spanish society.
The monarchy must modernize, embracing social media and showing greater transparency in its finances
It is true that the prince has so far been active without stepping into territory that is constitutionally reserved for the king, but he has not been lying idle on issues where he is expected to remain alert as the future head of state. It is difficult to do an efficient job while juggling all these considerations, but this is the kind of situation that will test Don Felipe’s ability to weather the storms and show that he will be capable of successfully embracing his upcoming tasks.
For decades, the monarchy has been based on the prestige of services rendered by King Juan Carlos, with a special mention for his role in foiling the coup attempt of February 23, 1981. But the king’s success is due as much or even more to his neutrality in the face of partisan confrontations and his respect for constitutional procedures.
These are the kind of qualities that the heir to the throne must evidence as well. The key for a constitutional monarchy is to refrain from taking sides in any given conflict, but without forgetting the role of moderator and arbitrator that the monarchy embodies.
We have seen King Juan Carlos apologizing for a mistake and making efforts to regain lost trust
There is also a need for a modernization of the way the monarchy relates to society, including the embracing of social media and greater transparency in its finances, which entails accountability for anyone who behaves improperly, even within the king’s family. New inroads are needed in this direction, mirroring efforts by other European royal houses.
The monarchy should set an example: we have seen Don Juan Carlos apologizing for a mistake and making efforts to regain lost trust as soon as he has felt strong enough again following his latest surgeries.
This is the way forward, as are the preparations for change in a state leadership that does not belong to the royal family but to all Spaniards.