Wednesday, August 18, 2010

An interview with the late Duke of Parma

In April 1978, shortly after his return to Madrid after several years of exile, Prince Carlos-Hugo of Bourbon-Parma sat down with a New York Times reporter. He was. according to James Markham's report, Spain's "last political exile" to come home. The "slim, intelligent, 48-year-old aristocrat, heir to an anarchic populist movement" that plunged 19th-century Spain into several civil wars, renounced his claims to the Spanish throne.
The French-born Prince conceded that the question was difficult to answer. "In a democracy, no one has to renounce his past. The Communists have not renounced their past, the Socialists have not renounced their past, and I do not feel I have to renounce my past."
Thanks to "some radical updating" by Prince Carlos Hugo, Carlism has become "a voice for socialism and a decentralized federal state." Carlos Hugo is "Spain's socialist prince."
He said: "Carlism has always been socialist without calling itself such." He and his family were sent into exile in 1968. They lived in Paris until last October, when the exile was lifted. He "does his best" to play down the "monarchical side of the party he leads."
"The dynastic question does not present itself, at least for the moment. I say that in Spain there is not a dynastic quarrel."
King Juan Carlos seems to have taken the Prince at his word. Last month, the King invited him for a private meeting at the Zarzuela Palace. The meeting lasted for 45 minutes. "Many difficulties from the past have been overcome," said Prince Carlos Hugo. "He is the King. Of course it is necessary to accept him, because if we don't we will rupture the coexistence of Spanish politics."
The New York Times' correspondent notes that the the present "Carlist cause is little more than a curiosity," but it once was a "mass-based, sometimes violent rear-guard nuisance."
Prince Carlos Hugo's father, Prince Xavier, fought with Franco in the Spanish civil war, but eventually broke with the dictator, and ended up joining the anti-Nazi resistance in France. He was arrested by the Germans, and was taken to the Dachau concentration camp. He was liberated by the Americans in 1944.
A year ago, the "aging pretender" was kidnapped by Prince Carlo Hugo's "right-wing brother" Prince Sixte. But before his death, Xavier "passed on the mantle of succession" to Carlos Hugo.
The "shady Sixte" has been "compromised by various far right wing adventures in Spain. He represents "a more authentic streak of Carlism," but he is now in hiding "after a gunfight in 1976 at the Carlist shrine at Montejurra," which is located in Basque country, where two people were killed.
In 1964, Prince Carlos Hugo married Princess Irene of the Netherlands. They have two sons and two daughters. Four years after their marriage, Carlos and Irene were expelled from Spain, due to the Prince's outspoken liberalism.
A year later, in 1969, Franco named Juan Carlos as the Prince of Spain, "dashing the hopes of some Carlists who had bet on the young man's father, Don Juan, hoping to marry their ambitions with his and close the dispersed Borbon ranks."
While in exile, Prince Carlos Hugo "revised his doctrine," and maintained contact with different political leaders in Spain, including the head of the Communist Party.
He claims that his party could win 20% of council seats in the next municipal elections. The claim "appears wildly ambitious" as the party "was illegal at the parliamentary elections last June."
"Since my infancy, I've always lived in rare situations," the prince said, puffing on his cigar. "I have always aid that everything is possible -- even something good."

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