KING JUAN CARLOS, due for a knee replacement operation, reacted with sarcasm to media concerns for his health. “Terrible, terrible,” the King told a journalist who asked how he felt. When she said that he looked all right to her, he repeated “terrible, as you can see.”
“You’re always saying I’m ill. You’d like to kill me off with a pine growing out of me. That’s what the Press wants each day,” Juan Carlos said with an ironic grin.
The King, who has always been a smoker, had a benign lung tumour removed two years ago, and the recent news that he needed a knee replacement operation was hardly unusual for a 73-year-old. Nor was the royal household’s admission that that Juan Carlos wore hearing aids.
The incident occurred as the King met members of Madrid business associations at his official residence, the Zarzuela Palace, where he later approached reporters waiting in the gardens.
Exchanging a few words with them and remarking “Since there’s no other news…” he then walked off with a belly laugh.
The exchange was widely reported and analysed although Jose Bono, the Spanish parliament’s equivalent to Speaker, found little to criticise.
It had been “nice” of the King to approach the Press and tell them he was well: “We can’t ignore the passage of time, but his fitness is obvious. I notice that in my audiences with His Majesty,” Bono said.
The PP opposition party felt that too many of the media failed to handle news correctly. “Reports about health are always very sensitive,” commented Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, while pointing out that not all journalists were the same.
Rosa Diez, former socialist and now parliamentary spokeswoman for the UPyD party felt the King’s reaction was somewhat excessive, “but anyone can have a bad day,” she conceded.
Joan Ridao, spokesman for the ERC republican party was less conciliatory. The King was not above what was right or wrong, and ought to accept the democratic control of the media, Ridao claimed. Amongst other things, he said, this was because Juan Carlos was maintained by the State.
Juan Carlos’s outburst aroused more interest and passion in the media than amongst the public. Nevertheless comments from contributors to internet websites veered from support for Ridao’s stance to rabid defence of the King from the ultra-monarchical.
“Don’t grumble, Majesty. The Spanish press is more than tactful with the Royal Family. If it were in Britain or Sweden…” was one of the more detached observations.
But some Britons would agree that Juan Carlos, a Battenburg through his paternal grandmother, is discretion personified compared to the Duke of Edinburgh – another Battenburg, albeit anglicised to Mountbatten – now 90 and infinitely more cantankerous.
By Annie Maples
Photo credited to J Leighfield