06 June 2014

Royal News Update (with Bonus Royal Outfit) of the Day: June 6

The week began with Juan Carlos announcing his intent to abdicate the Spanish throne in favor of his son Felipe, and as it draws to a close, we still don’t have a lot of exact details on just how that transition will occur. There hasn’t been a succession (by abdication or otherwise) since the restoration of the monarchy after General Franco (when Juan Carlos became king) or since the constitution was put in place in 1978, so this is a first. The government needs to fast-track some legislation to make this happen.

Juan Carlos’ legacy as a key part of the transition to democracy from dictatorship in Spain will hold in the history books, but at the moment, scandals like the corruption investigation into his son-in-law Iñaki Urdangarín’s business (and daughter Infanta Cristina’s role in it) and the king’s own troubles (getting caught on an elephant hunting trip with his alleged mistress, for example) are grabbing the headlines. Add in things happening outside the monarchy (such as massive unemployment rates, or the coming vote on independence for Catalonia) and you get one very sticky situation. Thousands met the news of the abdication by protesting for a republic.

I mention all of this because I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to last year’s Dutch and Belgian abdications, and it must be acknowledged that the circumstances are very different. Spain’s power switch is shaping up to be very low key from what we know so far, much lower key than in the Netherlands and perhaps even more so than what we saw in Belgium.

Here’s a bit of what we know so far, on just a couple of hot topics (note that things are constantly changing, so there are no guarantees):

Felipe VI’s Proclamation. Currently there are reports that the Palace has confirmed the dates as follows: Juan Carlos will sign the abdication act at the Royal Palace on June 18. Then, on June 19, the proclamation will take place in front of the Cortes Generales. (Updated to add: these dates have been confirmed.) (I should note that many are using the term “coronation” for this event, but know that there’s no actual crowning or anointing going on here.) A video of what this looked like in 1975:

As you can see, at that time Queen Sofia was in a long court dress with sash. The ladies' dress code for what’s to come is unknown at this time. I hope that even if it is an “everyday” dress code, she’ll still have Felipe Varela make her something a little bit special.

There will be no foreign royals at the proclamation, according to the Palace. It remains to be seen how much of the Spanish royal family will be in attendance. (Updated to add: Queen Sofia, Infanta Elena, Infanta Pilar, and Infanta Margarita will be present at the proclamation in addition to the new King and Queen and their two daughters.)

Several days after the proclamation of Juan Carlos, a mass was held and some foreign royals were in attendance. Initial speculation was that Felipe would have something similar, perhaps in July, but it is now being reported that Palace says there will be no such service. As I said, it looks like they’re going an extremely low key route – make the switch and get back to work. And given the current climate that could be the best way to go. (…Yes, even if it disappoints those of us that love the pageantry.)

Title and status changes. Felipe will reign as Felipe VI. His oldest daughter, Infanta Leonor, will automatically become the Princess of Asturias when her father becomes king. It’s not yet known for sure what titles Juan Carlos and Sofia will assume after the abdication. (Updated to add: it has been confirmed that they will retain the titles of King and Queen.) On another note, the King will lose the legal immunity he enjoyed as sovereign. This could have interesting implications; a couple of paternity lawsuits were dismissed a few years ago because of his immunity. (Updated to add: it seems the government might be exploring some form of immunity for the King after abdication after all.)

Infantas Elena and Cristina, the daughters of Juan Carlos, will no longer be members of the official royal family, meaning they won’t partake in official engagements. (This pertains to official business only, not personal family relationships.) This is nothing new (the two sisters of Juan Carlos have a similar status now) and nothing unique (other royal houses, such as the Dutch, also limit the size of the royal house by degree of relationship to the monarch). Infanta Cristina has basically been removed from all of this already due to the corruption scandal.

Introductory visits. As we've seen with the other new sovereign couples, Felipe and Letizia will be making short visits abroad after the transition - France, Morocco, and Portugal are on tap for this summer. They'll also be present in Belgium in August for the World War I centenary commemoration.

Jewels. As you've gathered by now, these transitional events will not be opportunities for big jewelry. But the future of the Spanish jewelry collection is interesting to ponder; Queen Victoria Eugenia designated some jewels to be passed down and worn by future queens, including the big Fleur de Lys Tiara and some other important pieces. We can assume these will be given to Letizia for her use (though when, or if, she would wear something like the big tiara is a different question). But many of the tiaras used regularly by the Spanish ladies were gifts to Queen Sofia and are, as far as we know, still her personal property (including the Floral Tiara, the Mellerio Shell, and the Prussian Diamond, plus the Niarchos rubies). There might not be a change here, but it will be interesting how this is dealt with in the future.

So there you go, just a few points of interest. With that information (or lack of information) out of the way, let’s have an outfit to look at, shall we?
The Prince and Princess of Asturias attended an awards presentation in Navarra this week.
This was the couple’s first joint appearance after the big news. I might have picked a different style for the jacket, since this one’s a little formal for a tropical print, but I love that Letizia went with something happy and bright. Even if nothing else is cheery, dang it, her dress will be! That’s the spirit.

P.S.: 88-year-old QEII is on a mission to show us all up in the energy department during her state visit to France, and you can head over to the Jewel Vault for complete coverage of that. You can also head over there to discuss any royal appearances at the D-Day services today!