We are all aware that 2020 is proving a difficult year for the Queen, with the furore surrounding her second son, the Duke of York, and the turmoil around her grandson, the Duke of Sussex, but let’s also spare a thought for Queen Sofía.
Her husband Juan Carlos, King of Spain from 1975 until abdicating in 2014 after a series of scandals, has been forced into exile by yet another scandal. Sofía’s son-in-law Iñaki Urdangarin, who is married to Infanta Cristina, is serving a jail sentence for tax fraud and embezzlement, while her son, King Felipe, is struggling during the pandemic to keep Spain’s monarchy relevant and at a distance from the controversy involving his father.
While Juan Carlos was king the Spanish people accepted that he had affairs, but what they could not accept were the allegations of financial impropriety that threatened the integrity of the crown. Among other things Juan Carlos allegedly received a $1.9 million gift from the ruler of Bahrain, which he is reported to have carried in banknotes in a briefcase to Switzerland rather like the scene in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street.
Juan Carlos now 82, was a close friend of our own royal family. In 1986 he and Sofía invited the Prince and Princess of Wales, with William and Harry, to stay at Marivent Palace in Palma de Mallorca for a summer break. It became an annual invitation, with a press photo call at the beginning in return for privacy thereafter. They were sometimes joined by Queen Sofía’s brother, ex-King Constantine of Greece and his wife, Anne Marie. Through the Duke of Edinburgh’s network of European relations, the holidaymakers were linked in one way or other: King George I of Greece was Prince Philip’s grandfather and Constantine’s great-grandfather, making them first cousins once removed.
This year instead of Mustique, where they spent a fortnight last summer, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge decided to take their children George, Charlotte and Louis to the Isles of Scilly, which are part of the Duchy of Cornwall, for a short holiday. They stayed on Tresco, where they were spotted riding their bikes just as William and Harry used to as children with their parents or sometimes with just a nanny, cook and police protection officer.
The fallout from the book Finding Freedom – which some critics think has the fingerprints of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex all over it, despite denials from its authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand – was fast and furious but did not last. Sadly, the royal family are used to publications such as this, in which neither authors nor those profiled come out as winners.
Within the biography Harry and Meghan are portrayed as whingeing, spoilt and hypocritical, and the book is like a game of consequences – he said to her, she said to him, and the consequence was ... We don’t know what the consequence was, but I do wonder if Harry, although he wanted ‘out’ of the royal family, envisaged it happening in quite the way it has.
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