MADRID -- The Web site of the Spanish royal family features pictures of the king, Juan Carlos I, in a blue sash, his bejeweled wife, Queen Sofía, and the couple's three glamorous children. But most of the photographs of the dashing Duke of Palma, the king's son-in-law, were scrubbed from the site last month.
The duke's official biography was also banished from the site. And for more than a year, the royal family has barred the duke, a former Olympic handball player named Iñaki Urdangarin, from attending official family functions.
With a multitude of graft cases undermining Spaniards' faith in just about every institution of government, an intensifying investigation aimed at Mr. Urdangarin has placed the palace under siege as well, and left the nation's aging monarch and his aides struggling to quell the crisis.
Mr. Urdangarin, 45, who is married to the king's youngest daughter, Cristina, 47, is scheduled to testify on Saturday before an investigating judge over allegations that he embezzled millions of euros after leveraging his blue-blood connections to gain inflated, no-bid contracts from regional politicians for his nonprofit sports foundation, Instituto Nóos.
The royal family has tried mightily to distance itself from the investigation. Officially, the palace has insisted that the king knew nothing about the foundation activities of Mr. Urdangarin, who has pledged to prove his innocence. It publicly maintains that Juan Carlos ordered his son-in-law to abandon the troubled foundation in 2006, a year before dubious financial dealings surfaced.
But last weekend, the duke's former business partner, Diego Torres, who is also under investigation, told a judge that the duke made no move without palace approval, and he turned over nearly 200 e-mails to support his claim. Many of those e-mails have now surfaced in the Spanish news media. Others were provided to The New York Times by a person close to the legal process who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution.
The e-mails suggest that the palace was concerned about what was going on at the sports charity well before it has acknowledged, and began pressuring Mr. Urdangarin to leave it at a time when investigators now say he and his partner were involved in inflating contracts and moving money offshore. Despite the palace's insistence that the king had little to do with his son-in-law, the e-mails show that the king was monitoring his affairs. They include boasts by Mr. Urdangarin about the king's backing of sponsorships for events he was organizing.
The e-mails do not indicate any wrongdoing by the king. But they have brought the scandal to the palace doorstep, further tarnishing a monarchy that has come under scrutiny as Spaniards suffer through an economic downturn and as corruption cases -- including envelopes of cash handed out to top politicians -- stoke their resentment over the privileges and special connections that have insulated Spain's elite from the same pain.
Meanwhile, the king and his courtiers have been working aggressively at damage control. Over the past 10 days, the king, his attendants and the Spanish intelligence service have been pressuring the suspected sources of leaks and approaching top newspaper executives to tone down coverage of the investigation, according to people with ties to the palace and some of Spain's leading newspapers.
Top editors at leading newspapers like El País and ABC, a loyal supporter of the monarchy, have denied being pressured.
The e-mails obtained by The Times suggest that the worries over potential harm to the palace are not new. Some show the palace searching relentlessly for a way to steer Mr. Urdangarin away from the sports foundation, scouring for a new job for him through a blue-chip network of contacts in 2004, two years before it has publicly acknowledged.
As the hunt extended into 2005, the duke complained about mounting pressures to avoid conflicts of interest. "We have been suffering a permanent surge of press releases, not always precise concerning our professional and private lives," he wrote in stilted English in an e-mail to another aristocrat, Corinna Sayn-Wittgenstein.
Ms. Sayn-Wittgenstein, a German princess through a former marriage, has described her role as an unpaid adviser and friend of the king, dismissing reports in the Spanish news media that they had a romantic relationship.
The king gave Ms. Sayn-Wittgenstein the task of finding a new job for his son-in-law, preferably something in the sports field and with a multinational company or foundation, according to a person familiar with the recruitment search who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
E-mails show that the king and his chief of staff, Alberto Aza, a former diplomat, kept close track of her efforts. The job search started in June 2004, when a Nóos secretary forwarded the duke's résumé, along with a personal note from the duke, to Ms. Sayn-Wittgenstein.
"I am sending you the resume that his majesty, Juan Carlos I, king of Spain, asked for," the duke wrote in English to the princess. "I hope to receive positive news from you very soon."
At the time, prosecutors believe, Mr. Urdangarin and Mr. Torres received about $8 million from the regional governments of the Balearic Islands and Valencia to organize sports and tourism events, and then redirected much of the money to offshore accounts and private businesses, including a real estate firm jointly operated by Mr. Urdangarin and his wife. Lawyers for the two men did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Although Princess Cristina is not part of the investigation, Mr. Torres has indicated in testimony that she was involved in the running of the foundation along with her husband, either directly or through her royal secretary, Carlos García Revenga. It remains to be seen whether the princess, too, will become a target of investigators.
The Spanish Constitution gives the king immunity from civil or criminal prosecution. Not so for other members of the family.
By many accounts, Mr. Urdangarin, a suave former athlete from a wealthy Basque family, felt pressured by his wife to maintain the couple in a style that includes an $8 million mansion in suburban Barcelona that is also part of the investigation into whether it was remodeled with public funds funneled from the sports charity.
Beyond whether Mr. Urdangarin violated any laws, the scandal has exposed the ways in which the royals used their connections to seek high-paying posts and leverage business deals to support a way of life that outpaces allowances provided by Spanish taxpayers for their personal appearances, like the 260,000 euros, almost $343,000, that the queen and other royal women share this year.
The search for new work for Mr. Urdangarin is telling of how the family operates in its rarefied world. The e-mails show that Ms. Sayn-Wittgenstein sought to make him president of a new Spanish branch of the Laureus sports foundation. Laureus, based in London, organizes a yearly international awards ceremony sponsored by luxury brands with top-flight athletes.
A flurry of activity followed. The duke's duties, outlined in an e-mail, included attending meetings once or twice a month and regular e-mail and phone contact to offer advice on "strategic" issues. Compensation for the part-time job was expected to start around $66,000 and rise to about $260,000 as new corporate sponsors were recruited, according to the e-mails.
By February 2005, however, Mr. Urdangarin seemed to grow worried about seeking foundation money from sponsors. He sent a letter to Ms. Sayn-Wittgenstein expressing his misgivings, noting a copy had been sent to the king.
"Without doubt, the publication of my name within the Laureus foundation would cause badly interpreted reactions that would provoke a negative impact to our family and to the royal household, which is where our duty lies," it read.
By March 2005, Mr. Urdangarin rejected the job offer. "Sorry for my silence along these days," he wrote in an e-mail to Mrs. Sayn-Wittgenstein, "but I wanted to check with my father-in-law."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.