WASHINGTON — The latest juicy development in the scandals surrounding the Spanish monarchy is the filing of money laundering and tax fraud charges against Princess Cristina, the younger daughter of King Juan Carlos. The charges are related to a years-long corruption investigation against her husband, Isaki Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player.
Cristina will be the first member of the royal family to face criminal trial, but it’s been a rough few years for the Spanish royalty in the court of public opinion since the King was injured during an extremely politically incorrect elephant shooting trip to Botswana in the company of a "glamorous German businesswoman" in 2012.
More than 60 per cent of Spaniards now believe Juan Carlos should abdicate and pass the crown to his son, Prince Felipe. Support for the monarchy as a whole has fallen to a historic low of about 54 per cent. As El Pais put it recently, "When the monarchy was reinstalled in Spain in 1975, its credibility rested exclusively on the figures of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, and public support was based on how they behaved." Juan Carlos may have initially played a key role in facilitating Spain’s return to constitutional monarchy after the death of Francisco Franco, but lately the Spanish monarchy has been a bit of a trainwreck, and during a time of economic distress, a pricy one.
In 2010 the budget for the monarchy was cut to 8.9 million euros ($12.1 million), making it the cheapest in Europe, though it probably still seems a bit steep in a country where about half of young people are unemployed. Granted, the House of Bourbon has faced worse over the last five centuries or so, but the family’s future doesn’t look all that certain at the moment.
Joshua Keating is a columnist for Slate.