I have been reading with interest ‘La Reina – Muy de Cerca’ – the biography on the Spanish Queen Sofía by celebrated journalist Pilar Urbano.
The section that caught my immediate attention is the scenario surrounding the Spanish King and Queen’s boycotting of Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding because of the decision that they should sail on their honeymoon from Gibraltar.
Queen Sofía was very much looking forward to the wedding as Prince Philip is her second cousin. The prince’s father, Andrew of Greece, was the queen’s father’s first cousin. Of course both the queen and prince are Greek.
The closeness between King Juan Carlos and Queen Elizabeth is shown in when he phoned her at Balmoral to discuss the dilemma he called her ‘Lilibeth’.
According to the Spanish queen her British counterpart was shocked and dismayed when she found out that the honeymoon would depart from Gibraltar and hence it would be unacceptable for Sofía and Juan Carlos to attend. The Spanish government would just not accept it.
Juan Carlos pleaded with the Queen for Prince Charles and Lady Diana to come first to the Bay of Cádiz, Algeciras, Málaga or other ports in Spain so that the Spanish Royals could greet them and then escort them to Gibraltar.
However Queen Elizabeth made it clear that although she was the monarch, and it was her son that was getting married, the decision about which she had apparently not been consulted to send them off on the Royal Yacht Britannia from Gibraltar, had been taken by the British government and she could not interfere with or alter it.
The suspicion in Madrid is that it was Britain’s then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who had insisted on a calculated snub to Spain and of course once that decision was taken there could be no backing down to apparent Spanish pressure.
It shows how in both Britain and Spain the royal households are manipulated by the politicians of the day.
Hence it was that the Spanish Royals did not attend the wedding and Prince Charles with Lady Diana sailed off from Gibraltar – a disastrous start to what proved to be a disastrous marriage.
Queen Sofía stated: “Estábamos entre la espada y la pared.” Literally meaning between a Rock and a hard place – the Rock being Gibraltar.