Monarchy is one of the most powerful social and above all political myths circulating in Spanish society today. It revolves centrally around the figure of the King, Juan Carlos I, but in the second half of the 1990s it came also to include some of the younger members of his family. The Spanish royal family was in a state of suspended animation for most of the twentieth century, following the abdication of Alfonso XIII in 1931, the introduction of the Second Republic shortly thereafter, and the establishment of a dictatorship in 1939 by General Franco following his victory in the Spanish Civil War. Juan Carlos was proclaimed King after Franco's death in November 1975.
   The development of the particular myth of monarchy which has emerged in Spain can be seen to revolve crucially around a few highly symbolic dates, these being 1975, 1981, 1992 and 1995.
   The first of these, 1975, includes by extension the following two years of "transition to democracy". Juan Carlos is routinely described in all branches of the Spanish media as the "architect of democracy", and is credited with having steered Spain from dictatorship to democracy almost single-handed. There can be little doubt that the path chosen by Juan Carlos was not the one which Franco had planned for him; but the simplification of history involved in this kind of personalization of complex historical processes condemns to oblivion the long and at times dangerous struggles undertaken by people from all walks of life against the Franco regime, and also fails to acknowledge the level of sacrifice-including in some cases imprisonment and even death—which many had to suffer.
   The second key date is 23 February 1981. This was the day of the Tejerazo, when a group of Civil Guards stormed the parliament building in Madrid and called for the reinstatement of a military dictatorship. During the tense hours which followed, Juan Carlos made a brief appearance on national television—a matter of a few minutes-wearing his uniform as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and stated his personal commitment to a democratic system in Spain. The dominant analysis of this key turning point in the history of contemporary Spain is that it was the King himself who saved democracy by refusing to play the insurgents" game. It is true that his statement in favour of democracy was clear, and the situation would have become much more complex had he either said nothing or expressed any kind of willingness to compromise with the attempted coup, but it is a gross oversimplification to suggest that this brief intervention was the reason why the coup failed. In retrospect, there seems little likelihood that this attempted coup could ever have succeeded, even in the medium term, since it lacked anything like the necessary social or political base, and was certainly not supported by Spain's business sector, which had seen for itself the limitations inherent in dictatorial regimes. On the level of myth, however, this event served to strengthen Juan Carlos as the ultimate guarantor of democracy, as the protector of the Spanish nation against all attempts to undermine its basic freedoms. 1992 was a crucial year not just for Spain, but also for the Spanish monarchy. Seville's Expo-92, and in particular the Barcelona Olympic Games brought Spain on to the world stage. Not only Spaniards, but indeed viewers from across the world were able to see the Spanish monarch in shirt sleeves attending Olympic events in Barcelona, looking very much like any other Spanish citizen, and they were also able to view him and other members of his family warmly embracing and congratulating those Spanish athletes who won medals in different events. This served to consolidate a further strand of the Spanish monarchic myth—that of the citizen king, living not above his people but among his people, and closely in tune with their wishes and aspirations. However, the most important event of 1992 for the Spanish monarchy took place, not in Spain, but in the United Kingdom. This was the announcement of the separation of the Prince and Princess of Wales. This event was seized upon by the Spanish media to sing the praises of their own monarch by comparison, stressing the modesty of his court and his closeness to his people, and introducing on a major scale two further elements of the contemporary myth. The first of these was that of the working king: being King of Spain was firmly established at this point as a job, done well by a family of professionals who were contrasted favourably with the amateurs of the British court. Second, a clear attempt was made to link the current monarchy with its historic predecessors. Monarchy thus became a means of bypassing the Franco regime, of relegating it to the level of historical mistake, of establishing dynastic monarchy as the historical truth about Spain. March 1995 added an important new chapter to this narrative: this was the month of the marriage of the King and Queen's second daughter, the infanta Elena. Media coverage of this event— which was on a truly massive scale—consolidated all the previously existing elements and simultaneously associated all of them with the up-and-coming generation of future royals.
   The myth of monarchy in Spain is one of the most successful myths of modern times. It would be incorrect to say that it is accepted uncritically by all Spaniards, but its general level of social approval is high—so much so that many in Spain believe that their monarchy offers the ideal model for the future: more glamorous than the bicycling mon-archies of Scandinavia, more modern than the anachronistic monarchy of the United Kingdom— a job well done on behalf of one's fellow citizens.
   Further reading
   - Blain, N. and O'Donnell, H. (1994) "Royalty, Modernity and Postmodernity: Monarchy in the Spanish and British Presses", ACIS: Journal of the Association for Contemporary Iberian Studies, 7, 1.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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