In the summer of 1992, the whole world looked at Spain with admiration and a little envy. The country lived in an atmosphere of constant partying and euphoria. Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games, Seville was the scene of the Universal Exposition, Madrid was the European City of Culture and organized the Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government, and everywhere the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America was commemorated. British journalist Selina Scott (Yorkshire, 71 years old), then a television star in the United Kingdom, set out to make a documentary that would reflect the energy of that reborn and vibrant Spain, but she wanted to do it through the eyes of the young and dynamic monarch whom many pointed to as the architect of the “Iberian miracle”: King Juan Carlos.
Scott, visible face of the news world news tonight on the Sky News satellite television channel, had just presented and produced a successful documentary on Charles of England entitled A prince among islands, a report that served as a letter of introduction to the palace of La Zarzuela. Before Don Juan Carlos gave the go-ahead to the project of the independent British channel ITV, entitled A year in Spain (A year in Spain), the journalist had to meet for months with the Royal House to negotiate the conditions of the head of state. “He did not want to speak in Spanish, because the documentary was for the British audience. And he didn’t want to talk about Franco either, ”Scott recalls in conversation with EL PAÍS from her farm in Yorkshire, in the north of England, where she lives surrounded by Angora goats that produce wool. mohair.
At 71, he is a living legend on British television. In 1997 she was one of the first journalists to sign a million-dollar contract to present a talk show in Sky. She is now away from the television medium, which she describes as a macho and sexist ecosystem, “directed by men who discriminate against female professionals because of their age.” “Of course Britain is a society that discriminates against the elderly. The catastrophic number of deaths from covid-19 in nursing homes is just one more symptom of the lack of consideration for the elderly. Television is a powerful mirror of all this, reflecting attitudes and reinforcing prejudices”, she denounces. Currently, she is dedicated to reforesting her 300-acre estate, planting trees, hedges and wetlands to protect Yorkshire’s wildlife. “And I also keep in shape!” Clarifies the veteran informant, to whom in the eighties and nineties she was compared in style and beauty with Princess Diana of Wales.
Although 30 years have passed, he clearly remembers the details of the weeks he spent traveling through Spain with the now emeritus king. Until 1992, the Spanish were used to seeing the monarch on television once a year, giving his Christmas speech in a serious and portentous tone. She set out to strip Juan Carlos de Borbón of his emperor’s suit, showing every inch of the real man: riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle through the streets of Madrid, piloting his helicopter over the fields of Extremadura and flying over El Escorial, or captaining his yacht, the Fortune, At mallorca. “Immediately, we were involved in this whirlwind of macho bravado,” says the journalist, who acknowledges that she found all of this “surprising and attractive.” “What I remember most about him is the high-octane energy of him. The charisma and warmth of him,” she says.
The presenter freely entered the life of the monarch, accompanying him by land, sea and air, with full access to his day-to-day life in the Zarzuela Palace and the Marivent Palace, in Palma de Mallorca. Wherever they went, they were greeted with cheers. “I had the impression that when he woke up every morning he would pinch himself to check that he was the king,” she admits. As they toured Spain, he recalled events such as the coup attempt of February 23, 1981, and analyzed the country’s situation in the world. Scott was also able to interview the then Prince Felipe, the President of the Government, Felipe González, and Queen Sofía.
“Juan Carlos’ public relationship with Sofía was always courteous. The Queen entered into the spirit of the shoot with immense grace. Immediately, she took care of the team, making sure they had cold drinks and were comfortable. She seemed to support her husband and understand her drive and ambition. She was a very important part of the project,” she recalls. “Don Juan Carlos must be lamenting how his behavior has so tragically destroyed his family.”
One of the most interesting moments in the documentary is when she asks the King if, “like the rest of the Spaniards”, he tries not to pay taxes. “I can’t say, but probably…”, replies the head of state between nervous laughs. “Is it important for a king to pay taxes?” she asks. “I think so…”, he replies, hesitantly, it is not known if it is because the interview is in English or because he is not sure. “But he could have easily gotten away, said no,” she insists. “Yes. But later he would have suffered the consequences, ”says the monarch. those minutes of A year in Spain They have gone viral in recent times.
“It seemed like an obvious question to me. I asked him because I was seeing in Mallorca what the Spanish way of doing business was like. At the time, Spain was awash in cash. There was about to be a construction boom”, explains the journalist. “Airports, highways, railways, massive infrastructure projects would soon revolutionize the Spanish economy. And at the epicenter was a young king about to assume the mantle of super seller for the country”.
A year in Spain it was a ratings success in the UK. Don Juan Carlos did not regret participating in the documentary, but he knew that if it were broadcast in Spain it would create a schism in the Royal House and a stir among the old guard. “The palace officials panicked. They did everything possible so that it was not shown on Spanish television. But there was such public demand, fueled by magazines and newspapers, that it was finally broadcast at dawn on the state channel (Television Española’s La 1), when they thought no one would see it,” reveals Scott. “Your attempt didn’t work. Millions of people stayed up to see it. It obtained the highest audience figures for a documentary in the history of television in Spain”.
The night of January 17, 1993, after the broadcast of the film crazy police academy 2, more than five million Spaniards saw the documentary on TVE, which meant almost 40% of those who were watching television at that time. According to data from Ecotel, it was the most watched program in its time slot and one of the highest rated for that month. A few days before its broadcast in Spain, Sabino Fernández Campo, head of the King’s House and the monarch’s most trusted man since 1977, was relieved of his post. Once ceased, General Fernández Campo described the work of the British journalist as “frivolous”, declaring that Don Juan Carlos was too human on screen. “I remember being roundly criticized in the Spanish press for having the nerve to tell her handsome King how to start his Harley Davidson. How dare a woman do that to her sovereign! I thought it was funny,” says Scott.
The journalist has her theory about the fall of the king. “It would be easy to say it was too much temptation for a handsome, hot-blooded man, but his peripatetic and insecure childhood probably had something to do with all of this,” she muses. “Juan Carlos told me that when Franco deposed his father, his family was left at the mercy of relatives. He told me how they were thrown out on the streets in Italy when a family member decided not to take them in. For someone like him, the ignominy of having to beg, of not having the security of a home and money, must have been difficult to accept”, she reveals. She even goes further and suggests that the monarch already intuited what the last years of his life would be like.
“On our first helicopter ride, he insisted that we visit the Yuste monastery, a remote, dilapidated, overgrown site. Before filming the glitz and glamor of his day-to-day life, he wanted to show me the place where many centuries earlier an ancestor of his (Emperor Charles V) lived the rest of his Spartan life after abdicating in favor of his son,” recalls the reporter. . “So it seemed strange to me that it was so important for him to want to start the documentary in that place. Now that he’s in exile, I wonder if he somehow always knew that this would be how he would end up.”
Thirty years later, Selina Scott would interview the king emeritus again. “That way I could ask him the question I couldn’t ask then…Franco,” she says. “Her memories of him. The influence Franco had on him and what went through his head when he decided to rebel against everything he stood for. And, of course, his thoughts on the suffering of all those Spanish families who for so long could not ask questions about where their relatives were buried… All for the sake of social and political harmony”.