Saturday, 28 October 2017

Letizia flies solo again as Spain's royals are hit by crisis

The Queen of Spain will, again, be the sole representative of her royal household at a public event this week as the country is engulfed by crisis. The agenda for the Spanish Royal Family, published every Friday, shows just one appearance in the days ahead with Letizia due to attend an awards ceremony on October 30th 2017. 

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The single engagement will take place in Valencia where Queen Letizia is due to present awards celebrating scientific innovation. She will also give a short speech. King Felipe had originally been set to attend but will miss the ceremony now because of the political crisis threatening Spain.

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It's the second time in just days that Letizia will end up flying solo at engagement after she attended journalism awards in Madrid by herself on Thursday when it was decided that King Felipe couldn't accompany her, as planned, because of the situation in Catalonia. That, of course, came just hours before chaos became crisis. 

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On Friday, the Catalan Parliament voted to declare the region an independent republic. Soon afterwards, the Spanish government in Madrid triggered article 155 of the country's constitution, imposing direct rule on Catalonia which was given autonomy in 1977.  It follows a disputed referendum on independence, called by the Catalan Parliament on October 1st 2017. Spanish police moved in to close polling stations on the day and almost 900 people were injured.

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The next appearance of the King of Spain remains unknown. Felipe caused controversy with his first intervention following the referendum when he gave a rare, televised address calling for the unity of Spain to be preserved and criticising those who had called the referendum. But it was his failure to acknowledge the injuries caused that led to criticism on several fronts. A second speech, at the Princess of Asturias Awards in Oviedo last week, repeated calls for unity and condemnation of Catalan independence leaders. Since then, Felipe hasn't been seen in public. He was declared persona non grata by Girona this week and comments on the official Casa Real Twitter feed have been less than sympathetic at time. Elsewhere, there is support for the Spanish monarchy as a symbol of unity.

But how that continues remains to be seen. The Spanish Royal Family has faced many critical situations in its modern history but this threatens to be one of the greatest of them all. There is continued tension in Catalonia where many feel the declaration of independence has been thrust on them but where many are celebrating a move they have wanted for years. The world is now watching to see how power is administered in the area after the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, sacked the Catalan leaders and the chief of the local police force. The area's considerable civil service will now be expected to take orders from Madrid while the administration of politics in the area, ahead of new regional elections called for December this year, remains in doubt as many ask how the Spanish government can take control of a strong region hundreds of miles away. In the midst of this is Europe's newest monarch who will be expected by many in his country to be a neutral figurehead, helping to soothe a crisis that threatens the very notion of Spain as we know it now. Felipe will have to be seen, and soon, but his next move could be crucial.

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