When I see her photos, taken only a few days ago, and I see her dismal look, her stooped shoulders and her lost eyes it seems she cannot be the same happy, vivacious girl of decades ago, or the smiling, happy bride who was getting married to the most handsome sportsman in Spain.
A golden youth
The “infanta” (as princesses are called in Spain) Cristina is the second daughter of former King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain. In a time when Salic law prevailed, meaning the heir to the throne had to be male, her birth must have been a disappointment to her parents, after her elder sister Elena. Still, she was much loved and only a few years after the much desired male heir arrived, ensuring succession – now King Felipe VI, facing a huge crisis of monarchy that leaves me wondering if it will really last.
Those were the days of the reinstatement of monarchy in Spain after the long years of Franco’s dictatorship so there was hope in the air and the royal family was loved and admired. Young Cristina grew in a safe, happy environment and I still remember her in the pretty pink taffeta dress she wore for her débutante party that she celebrated together with her sister Elena. Cristina looked lovely and happy with a bright future ahead of her.
A fairy tale come true
She was the first member of the Spanish Royal family to get an University degree and she had a few romances, but then she met Iñaki Urdangarín, a dashing, tall handball player who played for Spain in several Olympic Games. When she proudly stood by his side, hand in hand, for the engagement photos, it really seemed she had it all.
She was very close to her brother Felipe, the future king, and when he fell in love with a divorced commoner she totally supported him, her house serving as a meeting place for the lovers’ trysts. She welcomed her future sister in law Letizia into the Royal Family and helped her in many ways, namely with protocol.
She eventually became a mother of four and life smiled on her and her husband, who was sought after by companies offering him enviable positions, that allowed them to change their home for a mansion in Barcelona, that was so much more fit for a daughter of the king of Spain, her successful husband and their beautiful, blonde and blue eyed children. A fairy tale come true.
I followed this fairy tale in the pages of my favourite magazine Hola; over the years I saw her grow – she’s only some two years younger than me – into a woman, fall in love, get married, become a mother; she was always there on all Royal family’s occasions, were they family affairs or state celebrations, that she attended on her husband’s arm, both elegantly dressed, a handsome couple if ever there was one.
A horror story
Then one day there were rumours that her husband had been involved in some irregularities with his companies, and the fairy tale turned into a horror story. He was suspected of having committed several crimes, from money laundering to corruption, and even before he was accused he was tried and found guilty by public opinion, as it is so common nowadays.
The happy life of the dream couple had come to an end. They had to sell their mansion, leave Spain for Switzerland; while she found a new job he stayed at home preparing his defence; he was formally accused of several crimes, among them corruption and appropriation of public funds by the Nóos institute. Soon it was clear that, no matter what her husband had done, no matter how true or false were the allegations that he had received millions illegally, he was going to pay for the fact that he had married a princess – in fact, he would have to be an example that even royals are not exempt from punishment – especially at a time when monarchy was at its lowest moment, with King Juan Carlos being discovered hunting elephants in Africa with his mistress.
In such a hard time for her, her family was divided: while her mother and elder sister always supported her and kept visiting her and taking her children on holidays, her brother the king – some say he had no choice – and his wife the commoner she had helped so much began treating her like a leper. They cut all contact with her and the king even stripped her of the title their father had bestowed on her on her wedding day, that of Duchess of Palma de Mallorca. At the time it was said the king her brother had warned her she would lose all privileges unless she chose to leave her husband; if she did, she would be received back into the Royal family. As she did not, staying by his side and supporting him, for better or for worse, she was put aside by those she had helped the most when they had needed her. Now it was her turn to need them, but she found neither pity nor sympathy. She was the black sheep of the family.
All through the lengthy judicial process we saw her and her husband grown thinner and older; he changed from a handsome, tall and straight, strong man into a stooping, prematurely aged, emaciated man, a shadow of what he used to be. She gained a sad bewildered on her face that she has never lost since, but still they stood together against the whole world. She never wavered in her love and support for him, through all the years of the judicial process, during trial and after he was condemned. They appealed and found new hope, but then the harsh result came and they had to face the fact that he was going to prison.
Against the world
This post is not about my finding this man guilty or not guilty, or pitying him because he has been unjustly sentenced to prison. I do not know enough of the facts to have an informed opiniont so I cannot really say whether or not he should be in jail – and it’s not for me to do so. Even if I think the fact that he is the King’s brother in law has not helped him one bit; on the contrary, he had to be set as an example that the Crown does not meddle with justice. Still, that is not why I write this post. I write it because, no matter what, I feel sorry for this sad princess, this woman who has fought bravely for her love, only to lose him to the high walls of a prison. Just the other day, in the photograph published in Hola, where we can see her walking by herself, the look on her face was so sad, so utterly miserable that I felt truly sorry for her. Whatever her husband may have done, he is the love of her life, the father of her children, her companion of good and bad moments and any woman would relate with her. There was an article about her whose title “Infanta Cristina – her saddest summer” is certainly true. Her husband is sentenced to five years imprisonment and even if he will most probably come out earlier whatever time he is in there will feel like a lifetime to her.
When I see her so sad, so alone, I wish I could tell her how much I admire her fortitude, her love so steadfast and true, her courage to fight against the whole world, her decision not to go the easy way if that meant abandoning the man she loves. Cristina has chosen the hard way but I believe life will reward her. When these tough years have gone by and she can finally be reunited with her husband, they will be free of this nightmare and find the courage to start a new life and be happy again. Away from court, from kings and queens and courtiers who despise them, but with the true love of those who have never failed them and above all with the love they have for each other. A love that is loyal and true. And then, when it’s all over, there will be a new photo of her but this time there will be no stooping or the unhappy look in her eyes – the sad princess will walk straight and have a huge smile on her face.