It was his first public appearance after his hip operation on the 21st of November, but King Juan Carlos gave a bad impression in his speech to the Armed Forces yesterday on the 6th January.
Despite it being the shortest 6th Jan speech on record – under 10 minutes – the King stuttered, stammered, lost his place on several occasions and once even started to repeat himself.
By the end of his speech he was visibly supporting himself on the podium, and was visibly relieved when he got to the end of the last page. His audience, of senior military officers and politicians, seemed even more relieved that the odyssey was over.
The appearance of the King lead to stern opinion pieces in the national press today, with editors asking if the King’s health is up to his public role. The King appeared with crutches yesterday, and had to be helped to the podium. Some editors have gone even further, and are trying to open a national debate on whether the 76 year old Monarch, suffering from physical ill health, may simply be past it, and are hinting that his famous gaffes are starting to become something more than just an elderly man being impatient with the world.
However, La Zarzuela this afternoon issued two press releases. The first, talking about the prosecution of the Infanta in her husbands corruption case, was limited to expressing respect for the courts.
The second was an attempt to explain the problems of the King in yesterdays speech. The Palace acknowledged that the speech had not gone well, but blamed a overly large type font, bad lighting and a developing pain in his hip.
Another source from the Palace said that the King was simply nervous. “He was determined to do well after so long away from the driving seat” explained the source in La Vanguardia. But the blogosphere expressed doubts at this : why should a man who has spent the last 40 years appearing in public with no sign of being nervous suddenly get stage fright?