What was he thinking? What made him do something so wildly at odds with everything he was supposed to stand for?
It was only because King Juan Carlos ofSpainfell and broke his hip on the way to the bathroom in an exclusive safari camp inAfricathat we found out where he was and what he was doing. As a result, the reputation of this once widely admired man has taken a permanent hit.
Juan Carlos has been credited with presiding overSpain’s transition from authoritarianism (under Francisco Franco) to democracy some thirty years ago. In exchange for his contribution,Spain’s royal family has remained relatively immune to prying by the press and criticism from the public. Those halcyon days are now over. With a single misstep, Juan Carlos made him and his kin vulnerable to the slings and arrows of Spaniards high and low.
Times are tough inSpain. The economy is near double-dip recession and the level of unemployment is frighteningly high: almost half of those between 16 and 24 are jobless. So for the King to choose this moment to vacation inAfrica, rifle in hand to kill elephants, water buffaloes, and other large animals, suggests a cluelessness that is appalling. (To gild the lily, he is honorary head ofSpain’s World Wildlife Fund!)
The King did finally apologize. “I am very sorry,” said Juan Carlos. “I made a mistake and it won’t happen again.” But whatever his remorse, it cannot compensate for a choice that can most charitably be described as boneheaded. Or for a lifestyle which, it is becoming glaringly clear, has not been exactly replete with reason and rectitude.