The last stand of the House of Bourbon


This article was published on PETRIe,  on July 8, 2016. You can read the original here.

The House of Bourbon have held the Spanish throne since the beginning of the XVIII century. They introduced Absolutism to the country, survived the French Revolution, and endured two republic periods and two dictatorships. Contemporary corruption claims against the current monarch’s closest family and other related scandals have Spaniards divided, many of them wondering whether the reign of The Bourbons and the monarchy in Spain will come to an end.

In 1701, the grandson of King Louis XIV, Philip of Anjou, ascended the Spanish throne as Felipe V of Spain. However, the fear of the possible union of France and Spain triggered the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), which concluded with the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) that preserved the balance of power in Europe, and forbade any future union of the two thrones under one crown. As a result, Felipe V could reign in Spain with the consent of the rest of the European royal families. Currently, Felipe VI wears the Spanish crown amid allegations of corruption against him.

Corruption and scandal have overshadowed The Bourbon’s royal lineage, and have fostered mistrust about the crown. Former King of Spain Juan Carlos I infamous elephant-hunting trip in Botswana, in 2012, is a good illustration of the crown’s wrongdoings. As a result of this shameful safari, Juan Carlos I was heavily criticised by the national and the international media, leading to the King’s first public apology. This episode bred even more suspicion, doubt, and disbelief among the Spanish public.

After Juan Carlos I signed his abdication in 2014, Felipe VI ascended to the throne. Swapping titles did not, however, free the crown from scandals, nor from people’s distrust. At the moment, Felipe’s sister, Princess Cristina, is facing criminal charges over tax fraud allegations in the so-called Nóos case. Constant scrutiny by public opinion and the media does little to limit the emergence of these types of scandals. Is this the result of bad public relations advisers or a slippery slope of privilege and immunity?

Monarchies have always been symbols of power and wealth, especially across Europe, where many countries are now faced with harsh austerity measures. This seeming paradox turns ludicrous in a country such as Spain, where the throne is, at the moment, surrounded by royal scandals.

Contemporary concerns and social structures seem to erode the standing of lasting European monarchies. As public opinion becomes more educated, informed and empowered, thus craving transparency and accountability from its rulers, the symbolic importance of royal lineage decreases. We can argue that our globalised, digitalised world, affected by various crises, struggles to accept royal heritage as an institutional value.

With an increasing number of Spanish citizens declaring to have no trust for the institution of monarchy, we are left wondering whether the structure of the monarchy will adapt to these new ways, or will Felipe VI put an end to the royal lineage of The Bourbons in Spain.


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