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Another dose of royal dessert

January 20, 2011 – 11:44 am

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I am total sucker for made-for-TV mini-series about royals – Letizia and Felipe, The Duquesa de Alba (up to her second marriage), and Alfonso de Borbon (Franco’s granddaughter’s late husband – come on, keep up).

It doesn’t really matter to me if they’re not 100% accurate – the events all happened – it’s just what was said by whom at what point that is made up. And what happened behind the scenes that contributed to things turning out the way they did, who were the main protagonists – the deals, the wrangling, the threats. The machinations of European royalty. I just love it.

The great thing about last night’s new delight, Sofia (Antenna 3), about the courting of Princess Sofia of Greece by Juan Carlos (no royal titles back then), while both were living in exile in Portugal, was that it tied in neatly with the other series. We got to see Franco (no yoghurts this time, sadly) and his granddaughter Carmen, who featured in the Alfonso de Borbon one. She, a fixture of the endless shouty TV discussion programmes so popular here in Spain, is always portrayed unsympathetically, as a spoiled, calculating schemer. And we had the redoubtable Maria Eugenia, Juan Carlos’ grandmother, who also appeared in the Alfonso de Borbon programme (Alfonso was her grandson too), who was a key negotiator in the marriage and its terms.

And the actor who played Juan Carlos so farcically in the Letizia & Felipe series, this time took the role of JC’s father, Juan de Borbon, doing a much better job – no silly walks or facial expressions. He was a serious ex-king, concerned about restoring the monarchy and with an indisguised loathing for Franco. The two young royals, Juan Carlos and Sofia, both smoked like chimneys (this was the 1960s), and spent their time watching Hollywood movies on a big projector screen, but also looked like something out of the Famous Five as they got to know each other cycling along idyllic sun-drenched country lanes with their siblings. He was presented as a cheerful soul, despite having been sent away to be educated in Spain, on his own, at the tender age of 10. Sofia was pretty and intelligent, though with a tough streak too having moved house about 40 times since being sent into exile with her family.

The impediment to their marriage – for there has to be an obstacle to overcome, this was being sold as a love story, after all – was religion. She was Greek Orthodox, he was Roman Catholic. Neither would agree to give up their faith and adopt the other’s, despite wrangling and threats down the phone – Sofia was called a “heretic” by the Spanish. Now all those comments to Letizia, about the challenges she faced in being accepted by the Spanish people when she married JC, started to make sense. In the end, she had to convert to Catholicism, although there was a compromise reached, in having two ceremonies (the Pope’s idea, apparently).

Last night’s episode ended with Sofia putting on her wedding dress, helped by her proud mother and incessantly excitable sister. I’m sure this is novel-ised and soap-ed, but the part about religion being a sticking point was interesting, as I wasn’t aware of it. Maybe it’s not of earth-shattering importance, but it is all part of learning the history of one’s adopted country. There’s nothing like a bit of light TV to round off a busy day’s work and childcare.

Did anyone else watch it? What did you think? Or in your opinion is the monarchy just an irrelevant and outdated institution?

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