The ceaseless battering of the Spanish royal family’s reputation continues unabated, with official confirmation that Spain’s highest court will indeed hear a paternity suit from a Belgian woman who claims former King Juan Carlos is her father.
The Supreme Court’s surprise decision to examine the controversial case could well develop into a major headache for the beleaguered royal family, which also is coping with a potentially terminal financial scandal involving the Infanta Cristina and her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin. Cristina looks set to be charged and almost certainly will have to appear in court in Palma later this year.
In the paternity case, Ingrid Sartiau says her mother, Liliane Sartiau, first met King Juan Carlos in 1956 in France and again in 1966 in Luxembourg, where she was conceived.
“My mum told me who my father was while we were watching the TV together,” Ingrid Sartiau said in a 2012 interview. “An image of him flashed up on the television and she said, ‘That man’s your father.’”
Given the former king’s philandering reputation, it is perhaps unsurprising that there are several people who claim to be his offspring. Juan Carlos, who stepped down last year in favor of his son Felipe, is even alleged to have had an affair with Princess Diana.
But while Juan Carlos was king, there was nothing that those who suspected they had royal parentage could do about it. Article 56.3 of the Spanish constitution baldly states: “The person of the King is inviolable, and not subject to responsibility.”
In addition, many Spaniards, grateful for the important role Juan Carlos played in transitioning the country from the Franco dictatorship to democracy and facing down the 1981 coup attempt supported him regardless.
Needless to say, Spain’s macho culture when it comes to womanizing didn’t hurt Juan Carlos’s reputation, either.
But in an effort to draw a line under a welter of financial and other scandals, including an ill-advised elephant-hunting trip, Juan Carlos stepped down in 2013 in favor of his son Felipe, citing ill health.
The former king, who is weak and walks with a cane, is facing the action in the Supreme Court rather than a lower court because the Spanish government rushed through legislation after he abdicated that means he can face legal action only in the country’s highest court. In theory, this makes it more difficult for cases against him to succeed.
So the 10 judges of the Supreme Court’s insistence on further examining the case is deeply inconvenient for the royals, who had hoped the case would be thrown out.
Sartiau, a housewife, and a man who claims Juan Carlos is his father, café waiter Alberto Solà Jiménez, underwent DNA tests in June 2012 that showed there was a 91 percent chance they had one parent in common. The court, however, dismissed Solà Jiménez’s case, saying there was not enough evidence to proceed.
Juan Carlos’s legal team has 20 days to challenge the court’s decision. A royal spokesperson declined to comment on ongoing legal proceedings.