Living History

By Margaux Walker

As the city came together as one in preparation for the Coronation of King Felipe VI, Miami Country Day School’s GATEway ¡Madrid! joined right in with the madrileños to feel the excitement. We stood amongst the masses at the foot of the Palacio Real de Madrid, waving our flags while cheering “¡Viva España!”

It is not very often one is presented with the opportunity to watch a royal coronation; but to be given an opportunity to see the King’s first appearance on the royal balcony amongst a sea of Spaniards, is even more noteworthy. The last transition of the throne took place 39 years ago by King Felipe VI’s father Juan Carlos. Juan Carlos peacefully stepped down from his position as king and passed the honor down to his son. This is the first time in Modern Spanish history, since Franco’s death, that a king has abdicated his throne.

Prior to the balcony wave, we stood in the Plaza de Callao where we watched the proclamation on the big screen. As we watched history in the making, we learned that King Felipe VI’s daughter, Leonor, is next in line for the throne.

King Felipe VI is a descendant from the Bourbon family, who has been the Spanish Royal family since 1724. The family was in power until Spain’s second republic took over the country just prior to when the Spanish Civil War began in 1936.  The family lived in exile until Fransico Franco called back Juan Carlos years before his death so that he could train under him so as to, one day, be his successor. He convened politicians to create a constitutional monarchy where he would be the head of state and elected officials would make the laws.

When walking the streets of Madrid, it is evident that people believe that monarchy is outdated. Those who are against the idea of monarchy are referred to as Spanish Republicans who proudly display their red, yellow, and purple flags around the city. When looking around neighborhoods of Madrid, it is common to see Spanish Republican flags hanging on apartment balconies juxtaposed with Spanish flags. Those who hang their country’s flag represent those in favor for the constitutional monarchy. It is interesting to see one apartment building with such contrasting ideas.

According to Esther Llopis i Solères, a Catalán friend of Mr. Turf, “I am anti-monarchy.  I hope they consult us as to whether or not we want this, and that the transition is done peacefully.” Anti-monarchy is common amongst the Spanish people. Our tour guide in Toledo, Elena, had similar feelings towards the monarchy; she felt that since the country is considered a democracy, the citizens should be able to vote on whether they should have this type of relic from the past. However, the receptionist, Elena at the front desk (yes, we have found quite a few “Elenas”) has a very different opinion of the monarchy. She feels that the King acts as a peacemaker between different countries and is a positive contribution to Spain.  Elena also feels that compared to most countries who have a monarchical system, Spain’s is the most austere.

New Spanish King, Felipe VI, and Queen Letizia, take their first royal wave accompanied by members of the royal family.
New Spanish King, Felipe VI, and Queen Letizia, take their first royal wave accompanied by members of the royal family.

From the news of Juan Carlos’ abdication of the throne to the royal family’s official first wave on the palace balcony, we have experienced a once in a lifetime opportunity while facing Spanish history in the making.