KING Felipe VI’s traditional Christmas Eve speech attracted a million fewer television viewers than the year before, and had the third-worst audience since he came to power in 2014.
In total, 6,711,000 people watched the speech on television, according to figures reported by Spanish daily El Español. The speech actually had a bigger audience share than in 2021, with 64.5% of the total – up 1.3 percentage points. But it attracted 1,145,000 fewer viewers.
In his speech this year, King Felipe called for unity among Spaniards, at a time of a grave and unprecedented constitutional crisis.
The Spanish monarch’s seasonal address on Saturday focused on the possibility of a “deterioration of social harmony” and the “erosion of Spain’s institutions”, should politicians, citizens and institutions not “reflect in a constructive manner on the consequences” of “ignoring these risks”.
He also focused on the war in Ukraine and the economic challenges that families have been suffering since Russia’s invasion.
The speech, which is written by the royal household but supervised by the government, was delivered at a time when the Constitutional Court has taken the unprecedented step of suspending a vote on a legal reform that would change the way its magistrates are chosen.
Both sides of the political spectrum – the Socialist Party and Unidas Podemos coalition government, and right-wing Popular Party and Vox – have been mutually accusing each other of staging a “coup” over these recent events.
The king’s speech was applauded by the Socialists, the PP and Vox, but leftist Podemos and Más País – who are traditionally anti-monarchy – were critical.
The Catalan Republican Left politician Gabriel Rufián, meanwhile, sparked outrage by sharing a photo of King Felipe as a child with former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, commenting that “we mustn’t forget our origins”.
The king made no mention in the speech of his father, self-styled emeritus king Juan Carlos I, who continues to live in self-imposed exile in Abu Dhabi after a series of scandals over his financial affairs.
Queen Sofía is still living in Spain but is reported by El Español to have spent a lonely Christmas without her family.
Juan Carlos is said to have been keen to return to Spain for Christmas, but according to press reports the royal household refused the request.
His first visit to Spain earlier this year since going into exile, when he attended a sailing regatta in Galicia, turned into a media circus. This is something the royal household is reported to want to avoid happening again.