• Spain's news in English
Spain's Princess Cristina: From fairy tale life to national 'baddie'
Infanta Cristina of Spain and her husband Inaki Urdangarin in 2010. Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/ AFP

Spain's Princess Cristina: From fairy tale life to national 'baddie'

AFP · 10 Jan 2016, 16:29

Published: 10 Jan 2016 16:29 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

One of the accused in a historic trial that starts Monday in Majorca, Cristina will find herself in the dock on the very Mediterranean island where she once used to holiday in style. 

The 50-year-old sister of King Felipe VI is going on trial - the first ever member of the Spanish royal family to do so - in a corruption scandal that has outraged Spaniards the country over and contributed to her father's abdication in 2014. 

And her fall from grace could hardly be more dramatic. 

After a fairy-tale marriage to tall, dashing Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin in 1997, Cristina became a darling of the celebrity press and won praise for having a salaried job. 

Her husband, who became Duke of Palma upon their marriage, was part of the Spanish Olympic handball team in 1992 in Barcelona and then in 1996 in Atlanta when the squad won bronze. 

The team would go on to win a second bronze in 2000 in Sydney with the duke as their captain. 

But then in 2011, Urdangarin was put under investigation for allegedly misappropriating public funds through the Noos charitable foundation he chaired, and charged with embezzlement, influence peddling, fraud and money laundering. 

Cristina, who studied in Madrid and has a masters degree in international relations from New York University, is also in the dock for suspected tax fraud. 

"She fell madly in love with Inaki, a tall, blond guy with blue eyes, in a country where people are normally dark-haired, small, with black eyes," said Jaime Penafiel, a royal affairs journalist. 

"And despite all his alleged offences and infidelities, she remains in love, ready to accompany him to prison - otherwise she would have divorced like her father and brother demanded." 

The scandal saw the popularity of the royals plunge and was part of the reason why King Juan Carlos, widely respected for guiding his country from dictatorship to democracy in the 1970s, was forced to abdicate the throne in 2014 in favour of his son Felipe. 

But that was not enough for outraged, crisis-hit Spaniards, and the new king later stripped Cristina and her husband of their titles as Duke and Duchess of Palma. 

Ana Romero, author of a book on the end of Juan Carlos's reign, says Cristina has had a lot of trouble accepting what happened to her. 

"It's huge. Since 2011 her and her husband have (publicly) disappeared from the royal family, and their expulsion from paradise was perhaps all the more painful that it happened gradually." 

Cristina's little brother, with whom she was once very close, did not even invite her to the most important event of his life - his proclamation as King Felipe VI in 2014. 

Intelligent and sporty, Cristina famously became Spanish royalty's first woman to get a degree after studying politics in Madrid's Complutense University where she attended class with a bodyguard. 

A keen skier and sailer, she also represented Spain on the sailing team at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. 

Story continues below…

But already in 2004, the couple's purchase of a 1,200-square-metre (13,000-square-foot) house for six million euros ($6.5 million) in Barcelona had raised suspicion, with centre-right daily El Mundo asking: "Where is the money coming from?" 

And when the Noos case came to light just as an economic crisis ravaged Spain, Romero says the once beloved couple "became... 'the baddies in the film', selfish and hedonistic." 

Now living in Switzerland away from the Spanish media glare, the infanta works for a charitable foundation run by La Caixa bank. 

Cristina's lawyer once argued she is innocent of the accusations. 

"When one person is in love with another, she trusts, has trusted and will carry on trusting that person come hell or high water," Jesus Maria Silva said in January 2014.

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Man rescued from bin after climbing in find old clothes
Photo: Policía Local Murcia

Police were called after passersby reported hearing a man calling for help from within a rubbish bin in the Vistabella neighbourhood of Murcia, southern Spain.

Spain faces crucial week as conservatives re-take power
Mariano Rajoy hopes to form a government this week. Photo: AFP

Spain entered a crucial week as acting conservative PM Mariano Rajoy prepared to re-take power, ending ten rollercoaster months without government marked by hope and disillusion.

Eight very creepy Halloween costumes ideas from Spain
Photo: Pan's Labyrinth

Forget flamenco dancers and bullfighters, The Local counts down the freakiest alternative costume ideas to dress up in this Halloween.

Man attacked by racist thug in UK street for talking Spanish

Tomas Gil, 27, from Valencia in eastern Spain was talking to his girlfriend in their native language after a night out in the British seaside town of Poole when he was set upon by a racist thug.

Malaga: Police probe bizarre 'sex death' of homeless Brit
The man was found near Malaga airport. Photo: Dennis Howlett / Flickr

A British homeless man was found dead tied to a bench near Malaga airport with his trousers down and his genitals in a can of tuna.

Clock ticking as Spain races to avoid third elections
Third elections could now be avoided. Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialists voted on Sunday to allow the conservatives to take power, likely averting a third election for Spaniards tired of going to the polls.

Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Spain's Socialists lift veto on Rajoy to break deadlock
The Socialists have decided to lift their veto on the minority conservative government or not. Photo: Gerard Julien/ AFP

Spain's embattled Socialists on Sunday voted to lift a long-standing veto that has prevented the conservatives from forming a minority government, in what should finally end a ten-month political impasse.

Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
jobs available