Sister’s trial looms large over King Felipe VI’s first Christmas address

Monarch is expected to reference Cristina de Borbón’s situation in tonight’s TV message

Natalia Junquera
King Felipe VI will give his first Christmas Eve address tonight at 9pm.
King Felipe VI will give his first Christmas Eve address tonight at 9pm.Javier Lizon (EFE)

This Christmas Eve, King Felipe VI faces his most important and difficult speech since his historic coronation address on June 19.

The monarch's first televised holiday message to the nation will be closely followed for references to his sister Cristina de Borbón, who it has been confirmed will stand trial for tax crimes.

Felipe is unlikely to be able to avoid the issue, as the judge’s decision to try Cristina was only announced this Monday.

Other topics likely to come up are corruption, citizen disaffection with Spain’s institutions, and Catalonia

In his 2011 speech his father Juan Carlos indirectly mentioned the same case, which back then affected only Cristina’s husband Iñaki Urdangarín. “Justice is the same for everyone,” he said.

In his six-month reign, Felipe VI has made a point of introducing transparency measures and insisting on the honesty of the crown. A growing chorus of voices has been calling on him to convince Cristina to give up her symbolic rights to the throne, as a way of severing the institution’s ties with suspects in a criminal investigation.

But secrecy prevails in the Royal Household. No details have yet emerged about the contents of the message, one of only three annual speeches that the king writes personally with his team before running it by the government, rather than the other way around.

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The Christmas address had not yet been recorded when Judge José Castro announced his decision to try Cristina de Borbón, leaving leeway to introduce a last-minute reference.

Other topics likely to come up in the message are corruption, considering the long list of public officials under scrutiny for wrongdoing, and citizen disaffection with Spain’s institutions, including the monarchy.

While Felipe VI has professed to understanding and even sharing this indignation in his previous speeches, he has also always made a point of ending on a hopeful note that promises change, and is likely to do the same tonight at 9pm.

Cristina de Borbón is refusing to renounce her symbolic rights to the throne despite pressure to do so.
Cristina de Borbón is refusing to renounce her symbolic rights to the throne despite pressure to do so.ALBERT GEA (REUTERS)

The king will also surely mention Catalonia as a result of the independence drive that climaxed with the symbolic referendum on self-rule on November 9. Felipe has made efforts to visit the region frequently, and Catalan regional television station TV-3 will once again be airing the king’s speech after last year’s hiatus – which was caused by a workers’s strike, rather than any political decision.

As for the economic situation, it remains to be seen whether the king will be as optimistic as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who less than 15 days ago called the crisis “history.”

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