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The Spanish monarchy has a new face, but problems run deep

More than 25 per cent of the country’s labour force is actively seeking work

The sun is out on Spain’s new King, but the rain can’t be escaped. It is falling – nay, dumping – on the national football team.

With La Furia Roja, champions in 2010, having been sent unceremoniously out of the World Cup by Chile – a former colony no less – and a new man on the throne, Spain is faced with quite the identity crisis. 

Yet the problems for ordinary Spaniards run deeper than questions about the royal family and the ability of their footballers. Spain, after all, was acutely affected by the global crash of 2008; its housing bubble burst much more spectacularly than Britain’s. It emerged from recession last autumn but the retail sector remains weak and unemployment has risen in the past two quarters. More than 25 per cent of the country’s labour force is actively seeking work.

The fortunes of all nations go in cycles. In Spain, the wheel seems to turn more obviously and more swiftly than elsewhere. Franco’s dictatorship left the country without a seat at Europe’s top table for decades and, while the domestic economy boomed, social and cultural developments were fundamentally limited. Conversely, after Franco’s death in 1975, the oversight by King Juan Carlos of a successful transition to democracy in which greater personal liberties were permitted came at a cost to the economy. The last three decades have seen further economic and political swings.

Today, there are plenty who believe that the delicate, post-Franco constitution of 1978 is not fit for the 21st century. The momentum behind the independence movement in Catalonia shows no sign of abating and will be a major challenge to the status quo. The new monarch, Felipe VI, is popular and untainted by corruption; he has called for “a new Spain that we will build together”. And so the wheel of fortune turns again. Y Viva España!