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Old Spain: The Death of the King´s Mother

     Spanish news today was dominated by the story of the death of María de las Mercedes, the mother of King Juan Carlos. It cannot have been unexpected, since was a cripple and went around in a wheelchair. The story provided a rare insight into the feelings of Spaniards.
     Her body was flown from the Canary Islands, where she was resting, to Madrid. Thousands lined up outside the royal palace to pay their last tribute. Simple people were clearly deeply moved. A common comment was that she was "one of us".
     Not really. She belonged to the Borbón y Orleans family, and she married Don Juan, the son of the last king, Alfonso XIII, whom Franco passed over to appoint their son Juan Carlos king. They received the titles of Count and Countess of Barcelona, but she asked people not to use her noble title.
     The Spanish monarchy has a tradition of mingling with the people, and she did. Her father had been governor of Andalusia under the old monarchy, and she grew up in Seville, the home of bullfighting. She used to attend bullfights regularly and mingle with the crowds.
     The blood and sand of the bullfight was in typically Spanish fashion combined with a somber religious cult. She was a lay sister of the Hermandad de la Pasión, an order which has the cult of Christ on the cross.

Ronald Hilton - 1/3/00