Well, Prince Felipe, the Principe de Asturias, the heir to the throne, has officially announced he's going to get married. Everybody was expecting this to happen pretty soon, since Felipe is 35 and it's about time he got around to producing his own heir. The future Queen is a very attractive young woman who has had a good bit of plastic surgery and was, until Friday, one of the newsreaders on the 9 PM TV1 newscast. Her name is Letizia Ortiz and she is from a middle-class family in Asturias. She is 31 and has been married (civilly, not religiously) and divorced, so there are no phony standards of virginity operating here.
Prince Felipe has a long history of romances attributed to him; the three most famous former aspirants to the throne were Isabel Sartorius, of the minor Spanish nobility, with whom he actually had a long romance, or at least what was publicized as one; Giselle "Gigi" Howard, an attractive upper-class New Yorker; and Norwegian model Eva Sannum. There are only two possiblilities about our Prince. Either he's a real lady-killer, since his name has been linked with everybody's from Elle McPherson to Tatiana of Liechtenstein. Or he's got Prince Edward / Albert of Monaco problems and all the women are smokescreens. It's one or the other.
The Spanish media are absolutely wild with the news; the Royal Family is actually pretty popular. They're not known for being a bunch of Eurotrash or spendthrifts or perverts or whatever (can you say "Belgium"?); their behavior is exemplary. They are a comparatively poor bunch of nobles--it's not like they're homeless or anything, but their resources are limited. There was a big stink a few years ago about the taxpayers' paying for the King's yacht, and it hasn't been that long since they sold off a couple of palaces back in the Eighties. One of them that they unloaded was the palace in Santander; my impression is they turned it over to the State in lieu of taxes. We are not talking the British royals here, we are talking about fairly shabby nobility. They are pretty popular but I don't think many people have a real affection for the monarchy. I doubt many people would mind if Spain were a republic.
Catalan feeling seems to be, great, lovely for them, big deal. They are not precisely swept up in the excitement.
To demonstrate the good sense of the Spanish Royals, Juan Carlos's and Sofia's first daughter, Elena, who is apparently a little retarded and maybe a little autistic, married minor Spanish noble and fellow borderline person Jaime de Marichalar. They've had two children who seem pretty normal. The ceremony was held in Spain's third city, Seville. The second daughter, Cristina, who is perfectly normal and quite pretty, married Inaki Urdangarin, an Olympic and FC Barcelona team handball player from the Basque bourgeoisie. These two apparently carried on a secret romance for years, and their marriage was celebrated in--Barcelona. They have three kids. Cristina "works" here in Barcelona. The big wedding, that of the heir to the throne, will of course be in Madrid.
The only thing nasty that's rumored about the Royals is that the King supposedly has problems keeping his pants zipped. Supposedly he has gone through half the women in Spain. There is allegedly a videotape of the King in action with aging starlet Barbara Rey which has been covered up, paid off, whatever. He is also supposed to like a drink but not to be a Boris Yeltsin. Maybe not even as bad as Ted Kennedy.