The ridiculous shenanigans of Europe’s most accident-prone royal family

Felipe VI: trying to redeem his family.
Felipe VI: trying to redeem his family.
Image: Emilio Morenatti/AP
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The international tabloid world has long been enthralled by the blunders and the infidelities of the British royal family. But the juiciest monarchical scandals of late have come from the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid, not Buckingham Palace.

Don Froilán, the 16-year-old nephew of King Felipe VI, is responsible for the latest episode. According to several Spanish media outlets, he tried to jump the queue at a Madrid amusement park and, when somebody protested, he responded with a racist comment, which roughly translates as: “You shut up, you fucking Chinese.” (Officials at the royal house have declined to comment on the incident to Quartz, since Froilán is not considered part of the core royal family.)

And this is far from the worst thing a member of the royal family has reportedly done in recent years. Here is a rundown of the lowlights, with useful parallels to Game of Thrones:

Infidelity, sport hunting: Juan Carlos I as Robert Baratheon

Juan Carlos I as Robert Baratheon (Juan Carlos I as Robert Baratheon. (Rann Safaris / HBO))
Juan Carlos I as Robert Baratheon.
Image: Rann Safaris/HBO

Like Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones, the last king, Juan Carlos I, had always been portrayed as cheerful and good-natured. Long admired for his supporting role in consolidating democracy after 36 years of fascist dictatorship, the decline of his once solid popularity began with a hunting trip to Botswana in April 2012.

The getaway would have probably remained secret if the king hadn’t broken his hip. A picture of Juan Carlos I posing beside a dead elephant in a similar safari in 2006 popped up in the website of the Botswana-based Rann Safaris and generated outrage in Spain.

After his surgery, the king, who was honorary president of the environmental group WWF, made an unprecedented and not particularly artful apology: “I’m sorry, I made a mistake. It won’t happen again.”

The press, traditionally respectful to monarchy, started questioning the institution and the ability of Juan Carlos I, then 74 years old, to head the institution.

“The spectacle of a monarch hunting elephants in Africa while the economic crisis in our country causes so many problems for Spaniards transmits an image of indifference and frivolity,” opined the conservative newspaper El Mundo.

The monarch’s alleged affair with a German businesswoman based in Monaco who had attended the safari with him surfaced a little later.

A corruption scandal starring his daughter and son-in-law put paid to his reign. Last June, Juan Carlos I abdicated the throne, ceding it to his son Felipe.

Alleged corruption: Princess Cristina as Cersei Lannister

Princess Cristina as Cersei Lannister. (Reuters / Paul Hanna / HBO)
Princess Cristina as Cersei Lannister.
Image: Reuters/Paul Hanna/HBO

After a four-year probe, Princess Cristina and her husband Iñaki Urdangarín, a former Olympic handball player, were charged with tax fraud; they are awaiting trial (just as Cersei Lannister faces her own charges in Game of Thrones).

They are accused of embezzling millions of euros in public money through Noos, Urdangarín’s non-profit organization, which reportedly transferred part of the funds to another society, co-owned by the princess. In 2011, Princess Cristina was barred from all royal activities, although she has never renounced to her position. All traces of the Urdangaríns have been erased from the royals’ official website.

Felipe’s strategy has been to establish a firewall to protect his reputation from his sister and brother-in-law’s scandals. He did not, for example, invite her to his coronation.

Brattiness: Don Froilán as Joffrey Baratheon

Froilán as Joffrey (Reuters / Stringer / HBO)
Froilán as Joffrey.
Image: Reuters/stringer/HBO

The racist remark allegedly made by Froilán (Felipe Juan Froilán de Todos Los Santos, in full) is not the first embarrassing incident involving the nephew of the King. Last year, he failed his exams and was kicked out of school. His parents forced him to drop his job doing public relations for a famous night club in Madrid. And in 2012, when he still hadn’t reached the legal age to use arms, he shot himself in the foot during a hunting trip.

Like Joffrey Baratheon of Game of Thrones, his misbehavior started early: When he was 5, cameras caught him kicking a little girl at his uncle’s wedding.

The model family: King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia as the Starks

Felipe VI as any of the Starks (AP / Daniel Ochoa / HBO)
Felipe VI as Jon Snow—or really, any of the Starks.
Image: AP/Daniel Ochoa/HBO

In his first year of reign, Felipe VI has tried to convey an image of austerity and modernity, distancing himself from the shenanigans of his relatives. He held one of his first official meetings with representatives of gay and transgender groups, and made a point of lowering his salary by 20% (although he also raised the expenses in other budget items). In accordance with the new Spanish Transparency Act, he made public some of his financial accounts.

His marriage to Letizia Ortiz, a public television journalist who covered the Iraq war and has become known as “the first middle-class Queen,” was seen by many as a sign that Felipe has his feet on the ground.

It is not unusual to see the good-looking couple at the concerts of indie bands such as the Eels. They have two daughters: Leonor, 9, and Sofia, 8. Like the Starks of Game of Thrones, they’re seen as an exemplary (if somewhat boring) representation of the monarchy.

Since Felipe VI took the throne, the royal family has slightly risen in popularity, but it is still far from regaining the levels it enjoyed before his sister’s corruption scandal.

The decline of Spanish monarchy's popularity in one chart
Image: Quartz