The temper of the times is often revealed by small details in newspapers, and that is why (I tell myself) I still read them, though it is common wisdom that they are on the path to extinction, as dinosaurs were after the great meteor hit the earth 65 million years ago. At any rate, I hope that they will last me out.
Two days ago I read in a French newspaper an account of the present legal difficulties of the Infanta of Spain, Cristina. I haven’t followed the matter closely because questions of fraud and tax evasion (with which she is charged) are complex and boring, the Devil being in details that are tedious to master. Suffice it to say that I suspect any princess who marries a handball champion is courting disaster.
Naturally, republicans in Spain are using the case for all it is worth (and by all accounts successfully) to undermine the monarchy’s popularity: though illogically, for there is no reason to think that the presidents of republics and their close relatives are less corrupt than monarchs and their close relatives. Spaniards have only to look north of the Pyrenees to see that this is not so: The various corrupt practices of Giscard d’Estaing, Mitterand, Chirac, and Sarkozy were, and are, notorious. No one, as far as I know, has used them to suggest a restoration of the Bourbons in France. To object to institutions on the grounds that some of the people who represent or work in them are corrupt is either to reject institutions as such or to utter a cry of despair at human nature, to reject the notion of original sin.
But this was not what caught my attention in the article. Rather, it was what followed the statement that 2013 was an annus horribilis for King Juan Carlos. It described the annual military parade in Madrid:
Not only did this much-diminished man have to review the troops while in a sitting position, but in the course of his speech he stammered many times, confusing words and paragraphs. “These were worrying signs of senility and the metaphor of a faltering regime,” said the analyst, Ana Romero. This failed ceremony, the object of mockery of most of the media, reduced to nothing the Royal House’s attempts to improve the image of a limping king.