Other Discussions on Spain

A baby's nose...or jaw?

When I first entered Spain in early 1931 through San Sebastian in the Basque provinces, I was shocked to see scrawled in a men's room "Muera el rey!"--"Death to the king!"--since in England he was supposed to be popular. When I reached Madrid, I attributed the graffito to the republican sentiment prevailing there. It was much more complicated than that.

The French Bourbons came to the Spanish throne in 1700 with the death of the Hapsburg Charles II, although King Philip V was not recognized by Britain until 1713. The dates are important. since, as part of the grand design to restore the prestige of the monarchy, Spain is preparing to celebrate in 2000 three centuries of Bourbon rule. This is surprising, since the term Bourbon is not popular in Spain. The French were hated, and critics denounced "la raza espurea de los Borbones"--the spurious Bourbon race. To make matters worse, the Basques and the Catalans in 1831 revolted against the liberal rule of Maria Cristina and launched the Carlist war in support of Don Carlos, the conservative brother of the deceased Ferdinand VII. Basque nationalism has traditionally been conservative, although since the Spanish Civil War it has become more leftist.

In July of this year the older daughter of King Juan Carlos gave birth to a boy, an important event since the King's son and heir apparent shows no sign of marrying. On being congratulated, King Juan Carlos said the baby looked like a Bourbon, whatever that meant. I was shocked, since the term is avoided; some dismissed it as a joke. Spanish TV ran congratulations from various parts of Spain, but none from the Basque provinces. The only explanation seems to be that the tercentennial celebrations will stress the progressive activities of the greatest of the Bourbons, Charles III (1759-88), symbol of the Enlightenment. This would be in line with the campaign to give luster to Alfonso XIII, deposed in 1931. By the year 2000 we should be able to see whether the baby has a Bourbon face, but it is unlikely that the Basques will care.

Ronald Hilton - 07/24/98