Thursday, 15 May 2014

A tale of two weddings

On May 14th 1962, a Spanish prince and a Greek princess were married in Athens in front of many of the crowned heads of Europe.  Juan Carlos, Prince of Spain was in line to be king of his country on the death of Francisco Franco but there were no guarantees he would ever take the crown and certainly no idea of what life would be like under his regime.  Sofia, daughter of King Paul and Queen Federica of Greece, had several educational firsts under her belt as well as a formidable sporting CV to her name.  They married in hope and weathered several storms before becoming monarchs of Spain. But for several decades, the royal family they built was a popular part of the democracy they helped bring to Spain after the death of Franco.

Juan Carlos of Spain and Sofia of Greece on their wedding day, May 14th 1962

Forty two years and eight days later, their only son married in Madrid.  Felipe, Prince of Asturias had grown up as heir to the throne of Spain and was hugely popular on the day he married Letizia Ortiz Rocosolano in the Cathedral of La Almudena in the heart of the Spanish capital.  On May 22nd 2004, the hope that had been so fragile in Athens in 1962 was strong and buoying the popular Spanish monarchy along.

Felipe and Letizia on their wedding day in 2004

And yet as both wedding anniversaries come round again, hope is not so much a friend of the Spanish monarchy as it was.  The 52nd anniversary of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia passed largely unremarked while the tenth wedding anniversary of the Prince and Princess of Asturias isn't exciting nearly as much attention as the same event has done in Denmark where the Crown Prince and Princess have just marked a decade of marriage.  After several years of scandals and bad news for the throne of Spain, these major marital moments are silent milestones in royal history.

King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia, Prince Felipe, Princess Letizia and the Infanta Leonor on the day of her christening in January 2005

The Spanish monarchy is rebuilding and trying to put what have been two terrible years behind it as it looks to the future.  In that context, celebrations for wedding anniversaries are largely unimportant as the royals try to shore up support.  Both weddings were celebrated in hope but with different degrees of certainty about the future.  As the anniversaries come round, there is still a lack of certainty over how the Spanish monarchy will look in the decades to come.  

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