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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spanish King Sets Example For Monarchy

As a celebration of Spain's rich variety of regional identities, the wedding in Barcelona last weekend of Princess Cristina, younger daughter of King Juan Carlos, was meticulously and sensitively planned. At the same time, the wedding was a reminder of the exceptional qualities of the Spanish monarchy, now perhaps the most popular and secure in Europe.

Cristina's wedding to the Basque handball star Inaki Urdangarin was the culmination of a genuine love match between a princess and a commoner. But it was also filled with symbolism of a kind that goes right to the heart of Spanish tradition and modern Spain's image of itself.

Here was the daughter of a Bourbon monarch marrying a Basque in the capital of Catalonia. Here was the grandest Spanish institution of them all offering equal places at the table for the Basques and Catalans, two peoples long suspicious of central Spanish authority.

Cristina herself has lived in Barcelona for five years and has a regular job at the Catalan Savings Bank. Her husband plays for a handball team that is owned by Barcelona's soccer club, revered in Catalonia and far beyond.

No wonder that the banners in Barcelona last week were proclaiming "Felicitats, Felicidades, Zorionak" -- congratulations in Catalan, Spanish and Basque. The wedding service at Barcelona's Gothic cathedral was conducted in three languages.

All in all, the wedding will likely confirm the impression of the majority of Spaniards that they are blessed with a modern monarchy in good working order. There is not a whiff of revolution in the air -- and remember, Spain is a country with strong republican, radical and anarchist traditions.

The high esteem in which Spain's monarchy is held contrasts with the reservations entertained by an ever larger number of Britons about the House of Windsor. Queen Elizabeth, her family and her court could doubtless learn much from Juan Carlos about how to make a monarchy seem relevant in the modern era of mass democracy.

It was not always easy for Juan Carlos. When the monarchy was restored after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, Juan Carlos became king, but he was not especially popular with ordinary Spaniards at the start of his reign.

It was not until 1981 that he earned the enduring respect and affection of his people, by playing a crucial role in defeating an attempted coup by military officers who stormed the parliament in Madrid.

The king's place in Spanish history is secure. In September of last year, a survey indicated that 83.6 percent of Spain's people considered his actions to be good or very good, while a mere 3 percent considered them bad or very bad.

Quite apart from Juan Carlos, however, the Bourbon monarchy itself seems secure. It does not spend money ostentatiously, and its leading members are not remote from the people.

Even Crown Prince Felipe, who has the special responsibility of one day inheriting the throne, went to a day school in Madrid as a boy. He has since made a point of touring all Spain's autonomous regions, and representing Spain abroad, with a view to preparing himself for his future role.

Modern Spain may have its troubles. But 22 years after its restoration, the monarchy looks like one of its greatest strengths.