Queen Elizabeth II's coffin arrives at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday evening. / AFP

Opinion divided over former king of Spain attending the Queen’s funeral in London

The Spanish government says it is a personal decision and he is not representing the country, Unidas Podemos describes him as 'a criminal on the run' and the PP says it is opportune, appropriate and logical that he should attend

CRISTINA VALLEJO Madrid

The decision by Spain’s former King Juan Carlos and his wife Queen Sofía to accept the invitation to the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II has caused such a stir among politicians that the government spokeswoman, Isabel Rodríguez, has had to explain the government’s position on the matter at a press conference.

She said the former king, who abdicated in 2014 and has caused various controversies, had responded to a “private invitation” and it was nothing to do with the government. She also explained that Spain will be represented by King Felipe as head of state, and he will be leading the delegation.

However, La Moncloa has not said whether the former king will be using official resources to travel from Abu Dhabi, where he resides most of the time, or whether he will make his own arrangements as he did last spring when he visited Galicia. Nor has it been announced whether he and Queen Sofía will be travelling to London with King Felipe and Queen Letizia or separately. All that has been said is that the visit will follow the protocol guidelines issued by the UK.

"Criminal on the run," according to Echenique

The Unidas Podemos party, the other party in the coalition government, made its feelings about the matter very clear, with Pablo Echenique describing the former king as a “criminal on the run” and politicians from other parties agreeing that he should appear in court in the UK to testify regarding his alleged harassment of his former close friend Corinna Larsen, saying it was “shameful” that he will be representing Spain and the funeral and demanding to know who was paying for his trip to London.

Others, however, see nothing wrong in the situation, especially given the close family links between the royals in the UK and Spain. The president of the Partido Popular, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, said it is “opportune, appropriate and logical” for Juan Carlos to attend the funeral, while Edmundo Bal of Ciudadanos argued that he is a private citizen with no role as a representative of Spain and can therefore make his own decisions.

According to officials at La Moncloa, the British royal family issued the same invitation to Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands and it is for the heads of state and their consorts, and the former heads of state with theirs.