Wednesday, June 08, 2005


The bars and beauty salons of Cabanillas are abuzz with excitement. Why? Because Prince Felipe—Spain’s heir to the throne—and his wife, Letizia, recently announced the conception of their first child.

Yet for all the interest that this news has generated in Spain, none of my friends or family from the US have written to offer their congratulations. Or acknowledgement! I suspect, in fact, that 85% of them aren’t aware that Spain has a royal family. The other 15% believe that Fernando and Isabel are still on the throne.

But why? Why are my countrymen so well-versed in the exploits of Windsors and Grimaldis, while the Borbóns fly under the radar of US popular culture?

The answer is simple: Spain—through sheer stroke of dubious luck—has the world’s most well-behaved royal family!

Just think about it. Other countries have royals that would rather cut loose than cut ribbons. They punch photographers in the nose. They make cheesy music videos. They run away with traveling circuses. And on really, really good days—they are photographed having a toe inhaled while sunbathing poolside.

But what images come to mind when one thinks of our royal family? Let’s compile a short list:

* King Juan Carlos is a jolly old man. The phrase, “It’s good to be the king!” was clearly written with him in mind. He couldn’t be more gregarious—or more cuddly.

* Queen Sofía is noteworthy for having picture-perfect hair. Never a strand is out of place. She makes George Hamilton look like Eraserhead.

* Princess Elena (the eldest daughter) is a bit of an enigma. As far as I can tell, she only appears in public during equestrian events. And even then, I suspect that the figure riding the horse is a computer-generated image.

* Princess Cristina (the youngest daughter) and her sportsman husband, Iñaki, are notable for their startling fertility. They've just given birth to their 57th child.

As you might imagine, none of the above are likely to capture the world’s attention—at least, not until a reputable scientist proves a link between the ozone-layer’s depleted state and the Queen’s hairspray consumption.

In an effort to inject a little spice into royal matters, some media outlets tried to fabricate a scandal a few years ago when Prince Felipe dated the beautiful Norwegian, Eva Sannum. What was the scandal? Well…it seems that Ms. Sannum’s professional endeavors included prior work as an underwear model. But few people viewed this as scandalous—presumably because a woman walking around in her underwear still wears 50-70% more clothing than the average sunbather on a Spanish beach. Besides, underwear models perform a valuable public service.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that a member of Spain’s royal family should appear at a costume ball dressed as a Nazi…or drink such enormous quantities of alcohol that he/she nearly dies of pancreatitis. But just once, I’d like to see Prince Felipe drive a Harley-Davidson® through a crowded market? Or overturn a table full of drinks at a Kuala Lumpur disco?

Or—if he’d prefer to start slowly—just wear his shirt untucked?

Just once? For the folk back home?

Unlikely, indeed. I suppose, therefore, that I should—on behalf of my American friends and family—extend my congratulations to Felipe and Letizia on their impending childbirth here and now. Why? Because when the blessed event happens six months from now, it’s unlikely that anyone in the US will hear about it.

Unless, of course, the baby bears an uncanny resemblance to Cristina’s husband, Iñaki.
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