MADRID – Spain’s new King Felipe VI will give his first Christmas Eve speech Wednesday amid intense interest over what he might say – or not say – about his sister Princess Cristina’s indictment two days ago on tax fraud charges.
The speech watched by millions on TV is the most important national address by Spanish kings and is a chance for Felipe to show his style as king and tell the nation what he thinks about the state of the economically hurting country and what Spaniards must do to improve it.
But Felipe’s big night coming six months after his father Juan Carlos abdicated will be overshadowed by the unprecedented news of Cristina’s indictment. She is the first royal family member ordered to trial since the monarchy was restored in 1975.
The 49-year-old princess is accused of benefiting from an alleged scheme by her husband that put embezzled funds into a company owned by the couple. Her indictment comes amid an ongoing effort by Felipe to rid the monarchy of image problems.
Her lawyers have said she is innocent and will soon appeal the trial order.
Probing suspected abuse of company funds to cover the couple’s personal expenses from their Aizoon real estate and consulting firm, an investigative judge compiled detailed lists of alleged examples. They included purchases for the couple’s Barcelona mansion, salsa dancing classes and vacations at luxury hotels.
Most news of the alleged excesses emerged while Felipe’s father, Juan Carlos, was king. And Juan Carlos himself eroded much of the respect he earned in decades on the throne after he went on a secret elephant-hunting trip to Botswana at the height of Spain’s financial crisis.
During his own Christmas Eve speech in 2011, Juan Carlos pointedly said that Spanish law “is the same for everyone.”