The King of Spain was shown on television seated at a plain desk signing his resignation from his country’s—or rather his kingdom’s highest position; a position to which royalty in other countries cling like tuko; though never as hard as commoners cling to elective or, for that matter, appointive office (e.g., a bad man fingered by Jane) until a revolution kicks them out.
If history teaches us anything, it is that more revolutions topple elected presidents than hereditary kings. Combine the two—heredity and election—and there is a greater prospect of enduring democratic leadership: elected kings, like Napoleon’s Marshal Bernadotte, are rarely unseated and their dynasty endures long. (I think Bernadotte’s dynasty still reigns in Sweden, which imported him at the end of a dynasty.) This shows that democracy works best when electoral choices are made by the best people, from a set limited to the best people, for positions where they can do no harm; in short, to ceremonial offices.
But even in the ceremonial respect, the King of Spain did away with “regalities” and ceremonies; showing that those who are to the palace born, as others are merely to the manor, like things to be plain and simple; whereas those elected from the sewer enjoy the fanfare more.
Philip II, the king after whom our country was named, reigned from the Escorial, a palace as spare as the monastery to which his father retired—
To save his own soul
Before he was too tired.
Love of finery and ceremonial is baduy and betrays low social provenance.
When the King of Spain resigned, American and British media said he was pressured to do it. His daughter had married a dashing crook, who put Delfin Lee to shame by using government housing funds to build himself a mansion because he was homeless when he married her. I heard that story myself on a pilgrimage in Spain to Santiago Matamoros to which I have a great devotion.
The American and British media also said that public opinion had turned against him when he shot one elephant too many; even if an elephant is only good for mounting its head on a wall—and it’s gotta be a big wall. Those ears alone.
But the distinctive advantage of monarchy is a glacial indifference to public opinion. It isn’t monarchy if mere public opinion and media pressure can change the king or dictate his successor—as the syphilitic Earl of Rochester so eloquently argued in defense of a lousy monarch and his worse son. You can watch his performance in Parliament brilliantly re-enacted by Johnny Depp in The Libertine.
King Juan Carlos is—was—the George Washington of Spain but handsome and with his own teeth. Washington had wooden implants.
In his first act as king—after the death of the Catholic dictator Francisco Franco and that of the young monarch’s military regent, Carrero Blanco—Juan Carlos made Spain a truer and more vibrant secular democracy than the U.S. with its conservative Taliban or the U.K. will ever be. Spain does not have a national security act that can make a citizen disappear for no reason the abducting government needs to give. Juan Carlos defended his gift of democracy to the people of Spain by standing up to another army attempt to kill it. Oh, and Carrero Blanco was killed by Basque terrorists with explosives so powerful his car landed on the roof of a four-story building, earning him the honorific “the first Spanish astronaut.” This is Spanish humor at its best as is the following story.
Spaniards fondly call their king, not without even and with plenty of good cheer, Juan Carlos de Pajamas because, they say that he sneaks out of the palace at midnight on a Harley Davidson to pick up girls.
How he does it without the Queen calling him to account proves either that she is a very sound sleeper or he is a very convincing advocate of his long tenure in the toilet whence he repairs at night muttering, “I gotta pee,” in Spanish only to reappear by the bed hours later. Maybe he resets the clock. “You smell motor oil? You gotta talk to the servants about the cleaning agent they use in the bathroom.”
But it is not true he does not change out of the pajamas in which he pretended to sleep. The king changes into a skin-tight black leather outfit that covers him from his black helmet down from his neck to his black boots. Yet what is that but just a nostalgic turn back to when bondage was the royal thing to do in dungeons?
This total disguise made sure that if a woman took a fancy to him, it wasn’t for his money or title or even his manly good looks; but for the way he carried himself on a Harley Davidson.
Unlike other royals who went to public schools where, to put it politely, “gaiety” is rife, the King of Spain was trained from youth in all branches of the Spanish armed forces including its dreaded African Legion under the reptilian eye of Franco to be the primus inter fascist with his blue blood. He has casually dropped the throne like a man drops his sword at the victorious conclusion of battle. What else can he do that he hasn’t already done as king, including save his country from tyranny.
Juan Carlos has better things to do with the time that is left to a man of his age than to go on reigning in Spain when he can rain his blessings on girls who take a fancy to him, I figure but only if the stories fondly told of him are true. In my usual bad Spanish: un hombre macho real. No wonder the Chicago meat company named its best chorizo, “El Rey,” in his honor. If only we had rulers like him.