We had our royal wedding yesterday, and from the theatrical point of view everything went fine apart from the weather, the archbishop dropping one of the coins (which are exchanged to symbolise wealth in the marriage), and Felipe fluffing his lines. Letizia is divorced (as are her parents) but that was no problem for the Church as her previous wedding had been civil, not religious. Security was obviously tight – only two helicopters, one police and one TV, were allowed into Madrid’s airspace and the nearby air force base was on permanent alert. However, there were no incidents and the number of calls to the emergency services was an all-time low. This was the first wedding of an heir to the Spanish throne since 1906, when an Anarchist bomb killed over 20 people during the procession – and terrorism is still an obvious threat of course.
Felipe always said that he would marry for love and his father agreed with this. There has never been any serious suggestion that there is anything wrong with his marrying a commoner, though the Norwegian lingerie model of a few years ago was too much for many people; it is said that after he was forced to give her up he threatened to abdicate from the succession if he was frustrated again in his marriage plans. Letizia was a news presenter on TVE and her father and grandmother have both worked in radio.
The Spanish crown prince is the Prince of Asturias, and Felipe takes a serious interest in the province. As it happens, Letizia is also from there. The government of Asturias gave them an apple tree and a cider press as a present, and an Asturian pipe band played their anthem as they left the cathedral. The Prince of Asturias Prizes are a smaller-scale Spanish version of the Nobel Prizes and are highly regarded internationally.
The wedding is an important part in Spain’s constitutional progress. Juan Carlos is well-liked, and Felipe is certainly popular, but Republicanism is a fairly strong under-current in Spain and a number of people are ‘Juancarlistas’ rather than monarchists. Spain has a history of throwing out monarchs, and there is still a memory of the medieval oath to the Aragonese-Catalan kings ‘We, who are as good as you, swear to you, who are no better than us, to accept you as our king and sovereign lord, provided you observe all our liberties and laws – but if not, not.’ My guess is that when the time comes Felipe will be accepted but he will have to work for it first. The monarchy is widely seen, and not least by the King himself, as an important institution of Spain’s constitutional democracy, and as long as it remains under democratic control it is hardly worth opposing in republican principle. However, the Catalan Republicans and the Green/Communists did not attend, but the Basque Nationalists did turn up after having threatened initially not to. The leaders of the country’s two trade unions were there in lounge suits instead of morning dress; the representation at the wedding of all the institutions of the State was seen as an important symbol. Some people said it should not have been a religious service as Spain is a secular State.