11 June 2015

Cristina Loses Her Title

Via Wikimedia Commons
In my post 15 Princesses to Watch in 2015, I said you would be hearing more about Infanta Cristina of Spain but for all the worst reasons. However, I would never have predicted that her brother, King Felipe, would revoke her title even before here corruption case has begun. This does not bode well for the princess.

Cristina's father, the former King Juan Carlos, granted her the title of Duchess of Palma de Mallorca shortly before her 1997 marriage to Olympic handball player Iñaki Urdangarín. When they wed, he was permitted to use the title and style of His Excellency The Duke of Palma de Mallorca. 

However, it is her husband's business practices which have landed Cristina in this negative spotlight. Four and a half years ago, he was accused of diverting public funds for his own benefit and diverting millions of euros into accounts in Belize and the U.K. Within a month, it was announced that Iñaki would not be participating in any official royal capacity for some undisclosed amount of time. He first appeared before a judge to begin responding to the allegations in February 2012. A year later, he was removed from the royal family's web site. A few months after that, Cristina's name was officially added to the list of people accused in the case--she testified that she had no knowledge of her husband's financial dealings as she leaves the finances of their family entirely in his hands.

In the meantime, Cristina and their four children moved Switzerland. It is also believed that this growing scandal contributed to her father's decision to abdicate the throne last summer. Since the abdication and Felipe's accession, neither of the new king's sisters have been included on the royal web site. Publicly, the official focus has been on Felipe, his wife Queen Letizia, their two daughters, and his mother Queen Sofia, who still maintains a high level of respect among the Spanish people. The former King is still included on the site as a member of the royal family, but his public role has been greatly downplayed due to this and other scandals involving his own behavior (including accusations of womanizing and hunting endangered animals.)

The full load of official charges has included tax fraud, embezzlement, perverting the course of justice, falsification and money laundering. She posted bail in the amount 2.7 million Euros in December 2014. She and her husband are now preparing to stand trial on accomplice to tax fraud charges along with more than a dozen others involved in the case. Although her attorneys staunchly maintain her innocence, the judge in the case has been vocal about his concerns regarding her "attitude." Earlier this month, he refused to reduce her bail because, according to him, “The Infanta never made herself available voluntarily to give her version of events...In her statement, finally obtained with great effort, she did not admit any of the charges, or even acknowledge an error on her part. This attitude is completely legal in judicial terms, but barely compatible to that of someone who is willing to repair damages done.”

(UPDATE: June 12: The Palace now says that Cristina asked to surrender her title. It seems odd that this information was not include in the earlier release yesterday. UPDATE 2: June 12: The Infanta's lawyers claimed she surrendered the title; the Palace clarified that she only wrote The King a letter surrendering the title after he called to tell her that it was about to happen.) Her brother's revocation of her title, which will also apply to her husband's use of the title, does not sound like the crown is willing to publicly support her. If the case does go forward, she would be the first Spanish royal to stand trial in open court. If found guilty, she could face more than six years in prison.

Cristina's youngest child, Doña Irene, celebrated her tenth birthday last week. Her other children are Don Miguel, 13; Don Pablo, 14; and Don Juan, 15. Nothing has been announced regarding their rights to the style of "His/Her Excellency." They have not been removed from the line of succession to the throne. (Speaking of heirs to the throne, King Felipe's oldest nephew, 16-year-old Don Felipe de Marichalar y Borbón, the son of Infanta Elena, has been grabbing headlines recently for his own boorish behavior--screaming racial epithets at other teens in a Madrid theme park and demanding special treatment because he is "fourth in line to the throne." Poor King Felipe--you can't choose your relatives, as they say.)

The fact that the Spanish monarchy's web site includes an entire section labeled "Transparency" speaks to the frustrations currently being experienced there. We royal watchers can only hope that the new king will weather this storm and come out stronger on the other side. 

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