far too much writing, far too many photos

Royal romance: it’s currently happening in a big way in this corner of the world. And I’m not talking your standard tabloid rubbish re: the Princesses of Monaco. A trio of major springtime weddings has gotten underway around the continent — last month in Holland, today in Denmark, next weekend here in Madrid. One right after another. Glamorous, high-profile gatherings of royal clans from around Europe and points in the Middle East, providing both legitimate media outlets and the pink press with huge amounts of easy reporting fodder.

Given the local media’s fascination with the famous (’los famosos’) and Spain’s many centuries of kings/queens/etc., the local royals are an easy, comfortable fit, an anachronism many view with a cynically-cocked eyebrow, yet continue to accept as an adornment on the Spanish political system, as a strangely alluring aspect of the culture. An aspect that provides pomp and happy distraction, that the political world accepts (mostly) and that the commercial world can wrap itself around, currently pumping out commemorative royal wedding flotsam with joyful abandon.

Coming from a culture with no state royalty (ignoring the Kennedys-as-Camelot thing), I’ve never had a whole lot of interest in the vestigial monarchy deal. A quirky part of the old world, I figured, an ocean away and easy to ignore, apart from the ubiquitous updates on the Windsors’ peccadillos. And then I found myself in the old world. Suddenly royalty is a part of the background of daily life.

Walking around the west side of Madrid’s city center, it’s hard to ignore the sprawling influence of the royal palace. Keep an eye on local political hooha, it’s hard to miss the benign, affable presence of King Juan Carlos and family. Read the papers, turn on the TV these days, it’s impossible to avoid the swelling coverage of the future King, Prince Felipe, and his bride-to-be, Letizia. Also, how security for the wedding will impact life here next weekend. The major story these last couple of days re: that last bit: the establishing of a no-fly zone around the city for the wedding day.

I pondered all this at dinner last Saturday night, sitting at a table with individuals from four countries with long histories of the royal sort, three of those — Spain, Norway, Holland — with some version of it still up and running. (The fourth, France, killed off its royals a couple of centuries back in a wild spasm of cultural makeover.)

Most Spaniards I’ve talked with re: the royal family refer to it dismissively, to one degree or another, though that generally seems tempered by genuine appreciation, even affection. In part, I think, because the Spanish royal family doesn’t get itself into trouble. They do their job (without acting out), and it not only seems to matter to them that they do their work well, there seems to be genuine feeling for their country, genuine emotion lurking behind the royally restrained exterior.

On the other hand, one Spaniard I know — an anchorperson for the daytime news on a national network — does not appear to care a whole lot for the royals, and talks about the hands-off policy the press follows (re: reporting on royal family problems/troubles) in tones of disgust. Without itemizing, he assures me that they have their scandals, their misbehaviors. After saying that, he looks off to one side, shaking his head slightly, expression not sanguine.

Ah, well. Can’t please everyone.

Madrid, te quiero.

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