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1969 Franco Announces that King Carlos will Secede Him - History

1969 Franco Announces that King Carlos will Secede Him - History

Spanish dictator Francisco Franco announced in 1969 that Juan Carlos was to become his successor and King of Spain when Franco retired or died. Alfonso had been deposed in 1931.

As Spain's Ex-King Flies Into Exile, Are The Bourbons Europe’s Most Shameful Monarchy?

Spain's former king Juan Carlos has reportedly flown into exile in the Dominican Republic after being linked to a US$100 million corruption scandal. The Bourbon family has had a chequered history in Spain.

King Juan Carlos, the 82-year-old former Spanish monarch, has left the country and gone into exile as investigators probe a deal to sell trains to Saudi Arabia.

"I think he's running away like a coward. He should admit what he has done and be up front," Madrid resident Paz Rodriguez told Reuters.

Juan Carlos ruled Spain for 38 years before abdicating in favour of his son Felipe VI in 2014.

The latest scandal swirling around the Spanish royal family has led some in Spain to question whether the country should become a republic again.


Addressing parliament, Felipe VI called for a 'new Spain that we can build together'.

The new 46-year-old king swore an oath promising to uphold the constitution.

The speaker of the lower house of parliament, Jesus Posada, then proclaimed him king, declaring: 'Long live Spain! Long live the king!'

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A royal kiss: Queen Letizia gazes lovingly at her husband Felipe VI moments after he officially became king in a ceremony at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid

Spanish bullfighter Juan Jose Padilla walks away after greeting new King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia during the official reception

Handover: This morning, Juan Carlos and his son Felipe stood side-by-side in the Zarzuela Palace of Madrid in front of their family before the red sash was passed on

His father King Juan Carlos, right, hands over his military chief sash to Spain's newly crowned King Felipe VI during a ceremony at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid today

Embrace: Once he was fully dressed to reign over the country, Felipe received a loving embrace from his wife Queen Letizia as they made their way to the parade


Moments before King Juan Carlos signed the abdication papers, Spain lost 2-0 to Chile, crashing out of the World Cup in the first round.

The undisputed kings of global football in the last six years, Spain won the 2008 and 2012 European Championships and their first World Cup in South Africa. But their supremacy is no more and an ageing team needs to be rebuilt.

Spain became the third champions in the last four World Cups to be eliminated at the first hurdle and their departure will almost certainly end the long international careers of their greats Xavi, Iker Casillas and Xabi Alonso.

Today, as Felipe headed to his procession, newspapers mourned 'the end of a generation' - referring to the football squad.

Headlines across the country scream: 'Goodbye to a golden generation', and 'End of the party'.

And now, the disgraced players have to face the wrath of the internet.

Within seconds of the final whistle, memes began swarming Twitter, mocking the side as 'the Titanic'.

In a speech to parliament, Felipe said he had 'great hope' for the future of Spain and called for unity.

'You will find in me a loyal head of state who is ready listen and understand, warn and advise as well as to defend the public interest at all times,' he said.

'The monarch wants to be close to citizens… ensuring it can preserve its prestige and dignity.'

'Now more than ever, citizens of Spain are rightly demanding fundamental ethical principles should govern our public life.

'The king should not only be a reference but who serves all citizens of Spain.'

He ended his speech by saying 'thank you' in three Spanish regional languages - Catalan, Basque and Galician.

Some people in those regions want to secede or achieve greater independence from Spain.

Hopes for the new king are high, and some believe that, despite his role being mainly symbolic as head of state, he will use his position to push dialogue over the challenge of a separatist movement in wealthy northeastern Catalonia.

'I am sure that our new king Felipe VI will be a king for hope and harmony, a king for freedom and equality among Spaniards,' Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wrote in a column published in leading newspapers on Thursday.

Felipe, who is 46, wore military uniform with a sash and swear loyalty to Spain's constitution before addressing the chamber.

After the ceremony he was driven through central Madrid with his wife, Queen Letizia, a former journalist.

'The new king is going to contribute his own personality and ideas and a lot of people hope he will bring change to Spain.

'I personally hope for greater unity,' said Alba, 20, who had gone to central Madrid with her mother and sister to catch a glimpse of the new king after his swearing-in.

Felipe, and Spain, face plenty of problems.

The country is struggling to shrug off a double-dip recession and drive down its 26 percent jobless rate.

Scandals have tarnished the royal family and fueled campaigns to abolish the monarchy, while influential groups in some Spanish regions continue to push hard for independence.

In an oblique reference to separatist groups, Felipe insisted, 'We all have our place in this diverse Spain.'

Thousands of people lined the streets of Madrid streets as Felipe and Queen Letizia drove from parliament to the royal palace in an open-topped Rolls-Royce, waving to the crowds.

Authorities prohibited a demonstration by groups seeking to abolish the monarchy.

The cheering crowds and pageantry provided a welcome distraction as Spaniards reeled from the embarrassment of the national team's shock defeat by Chile in the World Cup, which ended Spanish hopes of winning a second consecutive title.

Felipe's inaugural speech came at a ceremony in the country's parliament, where the 18th-century Spanish crown and 17th-century scepter were on display.

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Prince Felipe, crowned as Felipe VI of Spain, and Queen Letizia, arrive to Spanish parliament in Madrid accompanied by daughters Princess Leonor and Princess Sofia

Family: Princess Leonor (right) is now the youngest direct royal heir in Europe at the age of eight but looked calm and collected with her sister Sofia, aged seven

Felipe VI, pictured with hsi wife Letizia, two daughters, and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (left) has taken to the throne after his father Juan Carlos tearfully signed his abdication papers at midnight last night following a 36-year reign

Oath: The new 46-year-old king swore an oath promising to uphold the constitution before calling for a 'new Spain that we can build together'

Popular: Letizia and Felipe are seen as a down-to-earth couple, loved by the nation. They have remained free from scandal, unlike many of the other royals

Adorable: Sofia (right) stole a gleeful grin as she followed her older sister Leonor out of parliament in their matching dresses

Honoured: To complete the ceremony, the family stood outside parliament on a red-carpeted podium to her the national anthem

Parliament: Politicians crowded into the chamber to witness history being made at the official ceremony this morning

Later, a reception for 2,000 guests at the royal place featured finger foods instead of an elaborate banquet, a deliberately modest touch that acknowledged the financial hardships being endured by many Spaniards.

Felipe's father, Juan Carlos, did not attend the event to allow the spotlight to rest fully on the new monarch, according to the palace.

Also absent was the prince's sister Cristina, who has been completely sidelined from the Royal family since her husband became the focus of a corruption scandal that has implicated the princess herself in money laundering and tax evasion.

The outgoing king and his wife, Queen Sofia, will stay away from the afternoon reception at the Royal Palace with 2,000 guests from all walks of society.

The mass party is part of Felipe's bid to show an all-inclusive front.

Juan Carlos and Sofia will however greet crowds from a balcony at the Royal Palace alongside the new monarchs.


It may be a big day for her father, but eight-year-old Princess Leonor is also shouldering a heavy title.

For today, as Felipe VI was crowned king of Spain, she became the youngest direct heir to any throne in Europe.

It is a role her father assumed at the age of seven in 1977.

Responsibility: Eight-year-old Leonor, left, has become the youngest direct heir to any throne in Europe and is now in line for military training as future head of the army

Until now, her life has been private and normal.

She and her younger sister Sofia, seven, have been shrouded from the newspapers by their mother Letizia, a former journalist.

But soon, they will struggle to conceal her from the eyes of the world's media.

Already an accomplished English speaker, she attends the same private school her father did in Madrid.

Private: Apart from a select few appearances and photos (including this family shot in 2012), Felipe and Letizia have fought to protect their daughters' privacy

She is expected to follow him into studying abroad in the US.

As she will one day be head of the army, she will also have to carry out military training before she turns 18 and swears allegiance to the Kind and constitution.

However, if her parents have another child and it is a boy, her title will be relinquished.

'Felipe is going to be a good king because that is what he was brought up to do by his parents. He doesn't turn away from problems,' said bystander Rosario, an 80-year-old pensioner.

Last night, Juan Carlos signed legislation, approved by Parliament earlier this month, setting out the legal framework for the handover.

The retiring monarch, who underwent a hip replacement operation last November, used a walking cane and moved with difficulty during the televised signing ceremony.

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Royal roller: Felipe opted for one of the most excluse and British limousines, a Rolls Royce, to take him to the palace

Style: Despite the strong republican faction across the country, people from all over the country applauded Felipe's style

Patriotic: Despite having just crashed out of the World Cup in the first round, Spaniards held their flags with pride and banners saying 'Long live King Felipe VI!'

Austerity: Determined to maintain the country's era of austerity, as one in three Spaniards remains unemployed, the family have opted for a low-key ceremony

It may have been a relatively low-key affair, but police were still aware of the tensions surrounding the monarchy, lining the streets with officers

Red and yellow: In the early hours of this morning, the main Cibeles square could be seen lined with Spanish flags ahead of the procession


El Pais, Spain's largest newspaper, has hailed the coronation as 'a great opportunity to change the climate of pessismism we have had these past few years to shift the terms of debate'.

In a gushing endorsement for the new king, the paper believes Felipe VI will inspire politicians into repairing the country's ailing economy and building bridges that have been burned.

Even La Vanguardia, the leading media voice in Catalonia - which is pushing for independence - conceded that the king's style is 'new and interesting'.

Columnist Enric Juliana worte: 'It was a well-constructed, solid speech, with a move to using a new kind of language'.

By royal standards, the ascension of King Felipe and his wife Queen Letizia was humble affair, with reception guests served hot and cold tapas-style nibbles, to be eaten while standing.

There was no champagne, just sparkling cava wine from Spain's Catalonia region.

The reasoning behind that choice is easy to understand, says Emilio de Diego Garcia, history professor at Madrid's Complutense University.

'In a time when every expense is examined with a magnifying glass, particularly public money, any ostentation would have been criticized' he said.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy immediately ratified the law, which went into force at midnight in Spain.

King-to-be Felipe has remained untouched by a royal corruption scandal, in which his brother-in-law is charged with embezzling millions of euros of public funds in a case that shocked ordinary Spaniards.

Juan Carlos also lost favour after going on a secret elephant hunting trip at the height of Spain's financial crisis in 2012.

Aside from private scandals, the monarchy has also had to face a growing republican faction.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Spain to demand a referendum on the future of the monarchy after Juan Carlos announced plans to abdicate and pass power to his son Felipe.

More than 20,000 demonstrators rallied in Puerta del Sol square in Madrid on June 3 in support of the end of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic.

Thousands more descended on Barcelona's Catalunya square.

Petitions appeared online with one collecting 113,000 signatures calling for Spain's political parties to take advantage of this 'historical opportunity to promote a public debate that will help regenerate democracy and determine the future of the monarchy.'

Alejandro Ricas, a 19-year-old student, said: 'I would like for us Spanish people to be able to choose whether we want a monarchy or a republic. The monarchy is obsolete'

Dressed up: Crowds of people painted their faces and donned crowns for the occasion. But it was not unmanageable numbers as many nursed World Cup woes

Monarchists: Crowds of wellwishers gathered outside the palace this morning to catch a glimpse of their new king, queen and princesses

Workers give last touches in preparation for the King's proclamation acts at the Lower House in Madrid

Three small leftist parties - Podemos, United Left and the Equo green party which together won 20 per cent of the vote in May 25 European Parliament elections - called for a referendum on the monarchy.

Pro-republican activists also called for rallies in Spanish squares.

'There will be tension, there will be difficult times, but the prince just has to demonstrate that he is capable, because he is. He has a clean record, is fair, hard working. You can't ask for more,' said royal biographer Cesar del al Lama.
'He will not be weighed down like the king by having a corrupt son-in-law. He will not make a mistake like the Botswana hunting trip.'

Felipe will come to the throne as the government of the wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia is pushing to hold an independence referendum in November - a vote that is fiercely opposed by the central government in Madrid.

The king has called Felipe, who was schooled for his future role as monarch in the three branches of the armed forces and during studies abroad, the 'best prepared' heir to the Spanish throne in history.


While Felipe and Letizia look the height of sophistication, any well-wishers hoping for a tacky fix were not disappointed.

Memorabilia of all shapes and sizes were available across Spain with the royal couple's faces branded on everything and anything - reminiscent of the royal wedding.

With such short notice before the momentous change for the country, crowds clamoured to get their hands on miniature badges, giant mugs and plastic plates to mark the occasion.

He kept him at his side on the night of February 23, 1981 when soldiers firing shots over the heads of lawmakers seized parliament in a bid to re-establish a military regime.

Juan Carlos appeared live on television in military uniform and ordered the coup plotters back to their barracks, a move that cemented his image as the guarantor of Spain's young democracy.

'It is a difficult time but the prince has had the best preparation since the day he was born to lead at this moment,' said Fermin J. Urbiola, a journalist who has written several books on the king.

Juan Carlos decided to step down on his 76th birthday and hand the throne to his son Prince Felipe, 46, and his glamourous wife Letizia, a former award-winging newsreader and divorcee.

Last night, Juan Carlos (pictured next to his wife Sofia) signed legislation, approved by Parliament earlier this month, setting out the legal framework for the handover

The retiring monarch, who underwent a hip replacement last November, used a walking cane and moved with difficulty during the televised signing ceremony

His is the third European monarch to abdicate in just over a year after King Albert II of Belgium gave his crown to son Philippe last July, three months after Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands made way for her firstborn, Prince Willem-Alexander.

Juan Carlos, who oversaw his country's transition from dictatorship to democracy, has seen the twilight of his monarchy blighted by scandal and health problems, including five operations in the last two years.

While polls show the decision to hand over to Felipe has boosted the popularity of the royals, almost two thirds now also support the idea of a referendum on whether Spain should continue to be a constitutional monarchy, according to a recent poll by Metroscopia for El Pais newspaper.


Statesman-like: Felipe looked every inch a king as he cruised through sunny Madrid in a Rolls Royce, waving at his people

He may be a thoroughly modern Spanish monarch ascending to the throne in the 21st Century.

But his chosen transport is one of the most exclusive and thoroughly British luxury limousines that harks back in history to a bygone era of style, formality and royal opulence.

For the stunning open-topped Rolls-Royce which transported newly crowned King Felipe VI turned almost as many heads as his former newsreader wife Letizia.

A favourite model of our very own Queen and Royal Family, it is one of just 18 Rolls-Royce Phantom IVs produced exclusively by Rolls-Royce specifically for royalty and heads of state in the 1950s. And of the original 18 built between 1950 and only 16 still exist, including the one on royal duty today.

Most were sold under the strict proviso that they would not be resold – making them the most exclusive Rolls-Royces ever built.

With the chauffeur and bodyguard sitting up front in their own compartment , the royal couple – surrounded by their own glass privacy screen - have room in the rear to sit or stand when the retractable roof of the drop-top is lowered.

Powered by a mighty 5.7 litre engine linked to a four-speed automatic gearbox, its top speed and acceleration are, as Rolls-Royce would say in the day, ‘adequate.’

It is the only Rolls-Royce model to be fitted with a ‘straight 8’ engine chosen because it was powerful but could also run smoothly over long-distances at slow speeds for long distances – perfect for ceremonial use.

The silver flying lady ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ statuette on top of the monumental grille, with a royal standard flying alongside for good measure.
The whitewall tyres reflect the fashion of the 1950s.

And the tell-tale green leatherwork is a hallmark of coachbuilders HJ Mulliner, who would style the body on the Rolls-Royce underpinnings.

As with the current 21st century Rolls-Royce Phantom, the coach doors of the Phantom IV open outwards from the rear – sometimes dubbed ‘suicide doors’ to allow ease of access.

They are most commonly used by Royal Families and Heads of State for formal occasions. Many, including two that feature in the Spanish Royal family’s fleet were also armoured before delivery.

In 1950, HRH Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh broke a long-standing royal tradition by switching from Daimler and taking delivery of the first Phantom IV before she was crowned.

Later as Queen Elizabeth II she took delivery of a ‘laudlette’ bodied Hooper Phantom IV in May 1954. A ‘laudlette’ is a traditional limousine with the passenger section covered by a convertible top.

The claret and grey car was kept by Rolls-Royce for the exclusive use of Her Majesty until 1959 when the Royal Household purchased it. It saw active life until the late 1980s and currently sits on display at the Sir Henry Royce foundation.

Princess Margaret took delivery of a 7-seater limousine bodied Phantom IV in July 1954. She eschewed traditional leatherwork for a beige cloth interior scheme.

Unusually the car was fitted with an adjustable seat in case the Princess felt inclined to drive herself.

Other famous Phantom IV owners include The Shah of Iran and the Aga Khan III.

Rolls-Royce said: ‘Designed exclusively for Royalty and Heads of State, the Phantom IV is one of the rarest Rolls-Royce motor cars in the world, with only 18 ever being produced.’

A Rolls-Royce spokesperson added: ‘For over a century a Rolls-Royce has remained the conveyance of choice for great occasions of state. It is testament to the timelessness of our cars that HRH King Filipe VI chose to mark his accession to the Spanish throne with a ride in a beautifully preserved heritage Rolls-Royce motor car.’

Security forces are taking no chances and police have carried out house-to-house searches along the route King Felipe will be driven, with 7000 police and 120 snipers out on the streets. A Republican rally has been refused authorisation by the Madrid authorities.

Red and yellow flowers - the colours of Spain's flag - are decorating the route from Congress to the Royal Palace that will be taken by the motorcade and an escort of mounted guards.

Hundreds of Madrid buses will be decorated with Spanish flags and the palace is giving out 100,000 flags for well-wishers to wave as the new king is driven to a reception at the royal palace, a 1738 building used for visits of heads of state and special ceremonies.

Handover: Juan Carlos, who will not attend today's event, embraced his son after he signed his papers

Monarchists expect the couple to be the signal of a new era of popularity for the royal family

Juan Carlos announced his surprise decision to abdicate on June 2, saying he was stepping aside after a four-decade reign to allow for younger royal blood to rally the country that is still trying to shrug off a double-dip recession and a 26 percent jobless rate.

During most of his reign, the monarch was held in high esteem for his role in helping steer the country from military dictatorship to democracy.

He took over the throne in 1975, two days after the death of longtime dictator General Francisco Franco, and then endeared himself to many by making army rebels stand down during an attempted military coup in 1981.


A world of difference: Once a reporter for TVE in Spain, who would have thought Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano would one day by the queen consort of the country

Her husband may be the king of Spain, but TV reporter-turned-consort Letizia is something of an icon herself.

The 41-year-old mother-of-two has carved out a name for herself as the most stylist royal in Europe - even outshining First Ladies such as former model Carla Bruni.

Her current wardrobe of tailored sheath dresses, sky-scraping court shoes and eye-catching jewels lambast any concerns that monarchies are outdated.

But getting to this point has been a journey.

It is all a far cry from her early days as a newsreader, when she embraced the bland Armani suit and was rarely seen in public wearing anything else.

Since marrying Felipe, Prince of Asturias, Prince of Gerona, Prince of Viana, Duke of Montblanc, Count of Cervera and Lord of Balaguer, in 2004, her wardrobe has undergone a remarkable transformation.

Out went grey suits and in came a more colourful, feminine style - although, as a recent appearance at the a reception for members of the Patronage of the Prince of Asturias Foundation at the Royal Palace in Madrid revealed, she's yet to give up the black.

So what are the secrets of Princess Letizia's enviable style? Like the Duchess of Cambridge, she knows what suits her lean body shape and is partial to a knee-length shift dress and a bracelet sleeve.

She adores a leg-lengthening nude heel and is almost as addicted to her Magrit suede tan court shoes as Kate is to her nude patent L.K Bennett 'Sledge' heels.

Out went grey suits and in came a more colourful, feminine style - although, as a recent appearance at the a reception for members of the Patronage of the Prince of Asturias Foundation at the Royal Palace in Madrid revealed, she's yet to give up the black.

So what are the secrets of Princess Letizia's enviable style? Like the Duchess of Cambridge, she knows what suits her lean body shape and is partial to a knee-length shift dress and a bracelet sleeve.

She adores a leg-lengthening nude heel and is almost as addicted to her Magrit suede tan court shoes as Kate is to her nude patent L.K Bennett 'Sledge' heels.

The Spanish consort also shares another trait with the UK's future queen: a penchant for homegrown labels and the high street.

Her secrets: Like the Duchess of Cambridge, she knows what suits her lean body shape and is partial to a knee-length shift dress

In Letizia's case, that means slim-fitting sheath dresses picked up in Mango, Zara and Uterqüe - many of which she wears time and time again.

That, however, doesn't mean she won't splash out on a more expensive frock should one catch her eye. Her favourite piece is reportedly a black guipure lace dress by local designer, Felipe Varela, which she wore on a state visit to Portugal in 2012, again for her 40th birthday party and again in March this year.

Another favourite is a softly fitted yellow and royal purple print dress by Hugo Boss which made its first appearance in summer 2012 before being dusted off the following year and spruced up with a black blazer.

Off duty, the Princess' style becomes markedly more relaxed, with cropped trousers, billowing shirts and even the odd pair of jeans making up the bulk of her wardrobe.

But as her occasional foray back into grey Hugo Boss tailored trousers reveals, some style habits die hard - Queen or not.

Juan Carlos I, the King who oversaw transition from dictatorship to democracy in Spain

As King Juan Carlos I announced the end of his 38 year reign, he will be remembered as the Head of State who drove the transition to democracy after the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, and overcame the coup d'état on 23 February 1981. In 1969, Franco appointed him his successor, and he took the throne on 22 November 1975. Within months King Juan Carlos had chosen Adolfo Suárez as the first Spanish Prime Minister after Franco's Dictatorship. Once the Spanish Constitution was approved in 1978 and parliamentary monarchy established after the 1981 coup, the King enjoyed years of relative stability as one of Europe´s most popular monarchs. However, since 2011, his image has deteriorated as a result of a long running corruption investigation into the business dealings of his daughter and her husband, and in 2012 his reputation was further tarnished by a &euro10,000 hunting trip to Botswana during Spain´s deep economic crisis.


Madrid (ACN ).&ndash As King Juan Carlos I announced the end of his 38 year reign, he will be remembered as the Head of State who drove the transition to democracy after the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, and overcame the coup d'état on 23 February 1981. In 1969, Franco appointed him his successor, and he took the throne on 22 November 1975. Within months King Juan Carlos had chosen Adolfo Suárez as the first Spanish Prime Minister after Franco's Dictatorship. Once the Spanish Constitution was approved in 1978 and parliamentary monarchy established after the 1981 coup, the King enjoyed years of relative stability as one of Europe´s most popular monarchs. However, since 2011, his image has deteriorated as a result of a long running corruption investigation into the business dealings of his daughter and her husband, and in 2012 his reputation was further tarnished by a &euro10,000 hunting trip to Botswana during Spain´s deep economic crisis. Now, the abdication and proclamation of his son Felipe as the new King are considered an attempt by the Crown to build its reputation back and also push for political reforms in Spain, at a time when public trust in democratic institutions is extremely low.

Born in Rome on 5 January 1938, Juan Carlos is the son of Juan Battemberg de Borbón, Count of Barcelona, and Maria de las Mercedes of Orléans. He spent his early childhood in exile in Switzerland and Portugal, and only arrived in Spain in 1948 during Franco's Dictatorship. The Regime had him back from exile, while his father was not allowed to come back. At sixteen, he finished high school in Madrid and then continued his education at the Military Academy of Zaragoza. His military studies carried on until 1960, and during those years he attended the Naval Military School of Marín and General Air Academy of San Javier.

In 1962, he married Sophia of Greece, daughter of the Greek King Paul, with whom he has three children: Elena, Cristina and Felipe, the heir to the Crown, named Prince of Asturias and Girona, and also soon to be Felipe VI. The Crown Prince will reign alongside Letizia Ortiz , his wife of ten years with whom he has two daughters , 8-year-old Eleanor, now the first successor to the Kingdom, and Sofia.

Juan Carlos was appointed Prince of Spain by Franco, who named hi his successor

In 1969, at the suggestion of the Dictator Francisco Franco, Juan Carlos was appointed successor as Head of State and was named Prince of Spain. On 22 November 1975, two days after the death of Franco, Juan Carlos was officially sworn King of Spain. He gave his first speech to the public in Spanish Parliament. Thus, Juan Carlos assumed the position in front of his father, the Count of Barcelona, u200Bu200Bwho officially resigned his dynastic rights in 1977.

On 6 December 1978, the Spanish people voted in a referendum on the current Constitution, which recognizes, in Article 56.1, the monarch as "a symbol of unity and permanence" and the arbitrator and moderator of the regular functioning of the institutions. In addition, the text describes the position of the monarch as "inviolable," which means he does not have penal responsibilities.

The 1981 coup was the consolidation of the King's public image

Three years later, on 23 February 1981, the King had to deal with a military coup, in which 200 armed officers of the Guardia Civil stormed the Spanish Parliament, which was in the process of electing Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo as the new Prime Minister. After hours of uncertainty, with MPs inside the House of Representatives held under the control of Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero, Juan Carlos gave a televised address to the Spanish public at dawn, denouncing the coup, urging the restoration of law and order and reaffirming his commitment to democracy.

Scandals started to erode the King's image

Since then, the King and Spanish institutions have been consolidated in the social and political landscape. However, in 2011, the popularity of the monarchy plummeted following the 'case Nóos' corruption scandal involving the King´s son in law, Iñaki Urdangarín, who is married to his youngest daughter, Cristina. In an ongoing investigation, Urdangarín (Duke of Palma) and his ex-associate, Diego Torres, are accused of appropriating public money for their own profit, through their setting up of a non-profit foundation, Institute Nóos.

While the palace has always maintained that the King knew nothing of the activities of Iñaki Urdangarin, in February 2013, Diego Torres told a judge that the Duke made no decisions "without palace approval" and released a series of emails which appeared to support this claim. Even 'The New York Times' published a piece which observed that Undargarín´s scandal "corners" the King.

Juan Carlos' declining reputation was exacerbated in April 2012, when he decided to go on a luxury elephant hunting trip in Botswana, accompanied by his close-friend Corina zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, who has travelled with the King on many other occasions. During this trip, Juan Carlos sustained a hip fracture and had to be airlifted to Madrid for treatment. The trip provoked outrage because of the expense of the holiday and the medical transfer, during a time of financial crisis. From hospital, the monarch sent a brief message "to apologize" for his behaviour and promised "it would not happen again." The relationship between Juan Carlos and Corina also caused much controversy, particularly as Corina had exchanged emails with Urdangarin, suggesting she may have been involved in the business of the King´s son in law.

Health problems

The monarch´s health has also deteriorated in recent years. In 2010, he underwent surgery at the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona to remove a lung nodule, from which he successfully recovered. More recently, he has had a herniated disc operation, and, following problems caused by arthritis, he has had to have a prosthetic hip implant. The King´s latest operation was in November 2013.

Coinciding with these episodes, in February 2013, the palace had to shake off the rumours of a possible abdication of the monarch. Specifically, palace sources claimed that the king would reign and there was "no plan A, nor B nor C." This denial also coincided with statements by the First Secretary of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), Pere Navarro, who was in favour that the King should resign, although his words were vehemently opposed by the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), to which the PSC is federated.

King and Controversy

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Left, King Juan Carlos skippers the yacht Bribón during the Copa del Rey race, in Palma de Mallorca, 2004. Right, Princess Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein at the Ascot racecourse, 2004. Left, by Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images right, © Dafydd Jones.

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Before dawn on Friday, April 13, 2012, King Juan Carlos of Spain took a fall while on an elephant-hunting safari in Botswana and was immediately flown home to Madrid, where he underwent emergency hip-replacement surgery the next morning. Were it not for the injury, His Majesty’s African adventure would have no doubt remained a secret, as had almost everything to do with his private life since he took the throne, in 1975, upon the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the long-ruling dictator who had arranged for the restoration of the monarchy. Instead, the 75-year-old King—long accustomed to stratospheric popularity ratings and deferential treatment from the press for his role in securing Spain’s democracy—was confronted with an avalanche of scathing criticism. “The spectacle of a monarch hunting elephants in Africa while the economic crisis in our country causes so many problems for Spaniards transmits an image of indifference and frivolity,” thundered El Mundo, Spain’s leading conservative newspaper. The country’s largest paper, El País, calculated that a luxury safari like the King’s would cost nearly $60,000 (including $15,000 for the permit and fees to kill an elephant)—twice the average annual salary in a country suffering through the worst depression in Europe after Greece’s.

Nearly every Spanish newspaper, TV channel, and online news site ran the now infamous photograph of Juan Carlos standing proudly in front of a dead elephant, which he had killed on a previous undisclosed big-game shoot. Compounding the embarrassment, four days before the King’s fall, his 13-year-old grandson—the son of his older daughter—had shot himself in the foot during target practice at one of the royal family’s country houses, and police were investigating the incident because in Spain the use of firearms by those under the age of 14 is illegal. This in turn had allowed the press to bring up a family tragedy that had occurred 56 years earlier, when Juan Carlos, then 18, accidentally shot and killed his 14-year-old brother, Alfonso.

It soon came out that the King’s hunting party had included Princess Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, a glamorous, 46-year-old, twice-divorced German businesswoman based in Monaco, and that she had flown with him on the plane of Mohamed Eyad Kayali, a Syrian-born Saudi deal-maker, who paid for the safari. Although Sayn-Wittgenstein denied any “improper relationship” with the King, it was reported that Queen Sofía, who had flown to Athens Friday, to spend Greek Orthodox Easter with her brother, former king Constantine, was informed of her husband’s fall upon her arrival there, and decided to stick to her plan to return to Madrid on Monday.

The first call for the King to step down in favor of his son, Crown Prince Felipe, came that weekend, when Tomás Gómez, Madrid’s regional Socialist Party leader, told the press, “The moment has arrived for the head of state to decide between his obligations and public responsibilities and an abdication that would allow him to enjoy a different life.” Such a suggestion would have been unheard of a week earlier, and it shocked most Spaniards. Three days later they were stunned again. Leaving the hospital on crutches, Juan Carlos addressed the waiting journalists and TV crews with a statement about the ill-timed safari. “I am very sorry,” he said. “I made a mistake. It won’t happen again.”

From Bad to Worse

Unfortunately for the King, the Botswana fiasco followed by only a few months another messy royal scandal. In November 2011, the Spanish people learned that Iñaki Urdangarín, the husband of the King’s younger daughter, Infanta Cristina, was under investigation for allegedly embezzling millions of euros from his nonprofit sports foundation, the Nóos Institute. A former Olympic handball champion, Urdangarín, who had been given the title Duque de Palma de Mallorca upon marrying Cristina, in 1997, denied all charges. Nevertheless, the royal household announced that Urdangarín would not participate in official family functions while under investigation, and in his annual Christmas address Juan Carlos made a point of stating, “Justice is for everyone.”

On December 28, the royal household published for the first time its earnings and expenses. In 2011, the King had received close to $400,000 from the state, almost evenly divided between salary and expenses he paid 40 percent income tax on his salary. Crown Prince Felipe received nearly $200,000, and the royal women—Queen Sofía, the Infantas Elena and Cristina, and Felipe’s wife, Princess Letizia—shared some $500,000. The total budget for the royal household, including a staff of about 500, was approximately $11.34 million, a relatively modest sum compared with other European monarchies.

Yet questions remained as to how Juan Carlos had amassed a personal fortune said to be about $2 billion. And the royal lurch toward openness would prove futile as developments in the Nóos imbroglio threatened to ensnare the King, and as the press dug deeper into his private affairs. In February 2012, Urdangarín testified for the first time before Judge José Castro, the Majorca magistrate presiding over the Nóos case. He admitted under questioning that he had defied an order from his father-in-law in 2006 to disassociate himself entirely from the Nóos Institute. Though he resigned as president, he continued for two years to be involved in its activities. His testimony raised new questions concerning the King for example, if he knew of shady business at Nóos, why didn’t he inform the authorities?

Meanwhile, in a book titled The Solitude of the Queen, Spanish author Pilar Eyre called the King a serial womanizer and alleged that he had even made a pass at Princess Diana while she and Prince Charles were vacationing on King Constantine’s yacht with the Spanish and Greek royal families. Within weeks of the monarch’s apology for the Botswana safari, Spanish Vanity Fair caused a sensation by putting Sayn-Wittgenstein on the June 2012 cover as “The Mysterious Friend of the King.” Lourdes Garzon, the editor in chief, told me, “Everyone more or less knew about this woman, but it was impossible to find anything written about her. Because to write about the monarchy was the biggest taboo in our society.”

Things just kept getting worse. The Palace announced that the King and Queen would not be celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. In February of this year, Diego Torres, Urdangarín’s former business partner, testified that the King’s son-in-law never made a move without Palace approval, and that his wife, Cristina, as an officer of the Nóos Institute, was involved in the running of it. To support his claims, Torres submitted more than 200 e-mails to the court. They revealed that, as early as June 2004, the King had asked Sayn-Wittgenstein to help Urdangarín find a new job, which suggested that her role in royal matters was even larger than suspected. When Urdangarín arrived at the Palma de Mallorca courthouse, he was taunted by protesters shouting, “Down with the monarchy! Down with corruption!” In sworn testimony he insisted, “The royal family did not give its opinion on, advise or authorize the activities of Nóos.” Several weeks later, however, Judge Castro subpoenaed Infanta Cristina—the first time in history that a member of the royal family had been ordered to appear in court.

On March 3, Juan Carlos returned to the hospital for back surgery, his fourth operation in less than a year. The previous week Sayn-Wittgenstein had given an interview to El Mundo. She told investigative reporter Ana Romero that she had met the King nine years earlier, at a shooting party at the Duke of Westminster’s estate in England, and that they had become “close friends.” She further confided that she had performed “sensitive and confidential” assignments for the Spanish government, adding, “These were specific classified matters and I helped for the good of the country.” On March 19, Reuters reported that Félix Sanz Roldán, the head of Spain’s National Intelligence Center, had been questioned by a parliamentary committee “probing whether Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein … had ever benefited from a Spanish security detail or received any payments from the state as a lobbyist for Spanish firms abroad.” In early April, El Mundo alleged that Juan Carlos had secreted in Swiss accounts millions of dollars that he had inherited from his father, Don Juan de Borbón, who had lived in exile during the Franco years (and would have been king had the Generalissimo not chosen his son as his successor instead).

All this was happening as increasingly harsh austerity measures imposed by the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and an epidemic of political-corruption scandals had Spaniards feeling beleaguered and angry. With Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announcing her abdication in favor of her son in January, and an ailing Pope Benedict XVI resigning in February, the idea of an ill and embattled Juan Carlos giving up his throne suddenly seemed plausible. By mid-April, when I first traveled to Madrid to explore the situation for Vanity Fair, the King hadn’t been seen in public for six weeks, his approval rating had plummeted below 50 percent—both the Queen and Prince Felipe were polling higher—and talk of abdication had reached a fever pitch across all of Europe. SPAIN’S KING JUAN CARLOS IS ENGULFED IN SCANDAL, declared The Guardian of London. Germany’s Der Spiegel went further: IS IT TIME FOR SPAIN TO DISSOLVE THE MONARCHY?

The Defense Team

‘If the King leaves, it would be a disaster. He’s the center of everything. It’s not only that we love him, we need him.” So said Doña Blanca Martinez de Irujo, a grande dame of the Spanish aristocracy, as she passed me a plate of finger sandwiches in her Madrid apartment. She and her sister, Doña Victoria, Marquesa de Tamarit, had agreed, reluctantly, to talk about Juan Carlos, who is both their friend and relative. “We have known him since he was a young boy in short pants,” said the marquesa.

A full-length portrait of Queen Isabella II, the great-great-grandmother of Juan Carlos and the sisters, hung over the mantelpiece. The ladies’ mother was a princess of the Borbón dynasty, which has produced Spanish monarchs since 1700 and French kings from the 16th to the 19th century. Their grandfather the Count of Romanones was a prime minister under King Alfonso XIII, the last Borbón ruler before the monarchy was replaced, in 1931, by the Second Spanish Republic, which in turn was vanquished by Franco in the Spanish Civil War of 1936–39.

“I think the best thing we have in Spain is the King,” continued the Marquesa de Tamarit. “We don’t have to criticize him. We—all of us who are not Communists—have to help him. He has done things, maybe, that people can think are not so good. But he’s a human being.”

Former king Simeon II of Bulgaria, who was exiled as a boy after the Communist takeover of his country, in 1946, more or less grew up with Juan Carlos after Spain granted his family asylum in 1951. He told me that abdication had suddenly become a buzzword, which he was not happy about. “One has to put the King’s whole life in context and not focus on things that are accidental or incidental and, finally, trivial,” he said. “And looking on the balance at what the monarchy itself and the King personally have contributed to Spain’s contemporary history, I would think it’s absurd to blow up these unpleasant situations. The definition of monarchy is a lifetime job. It’s a dedication. All of a sudden, because the King has had four operations in a row, he’s got to abdicate? Give me a break.”

Even one of Juan Carlos’s toughest critics, Pedro J. Ramírez, the editor in chief of El Mundo, the paper that has been most aggressive in pursuing the royal scandals, had nice things to say about him. Ramírez told me of an exchange he had had with Juan Carlos in 1990, after being fired from his previous job as editor of Diario 16 because the King had complained to the owner about stories he didn’t like. “The King said, ‘I know you know that I told your boss to get rid of you. But I didn’t think he was going to be such an asshole as to accept my suggestion,’ ” Ramírez recalled. “I thought, O.K., this is Juan Carlos, a guy who always tries to be nice with everyone. I would not say he’s intelligent. He is shrewd like a fox. Well, now he is an old man with a lot of health problems and personal problems. But I think, on the whole, he has been a great king.”

That was clearly the consensus among Madrid’s political, media, and society circles. Laurence Debray, the author of an unauthorized French biography, Juan Carlos d’Espagne, called the King “a real political animal,” who deserved enormous credit for declining to become the absolute monarch Franco had set him up to be, and for refusing to go along with the attempted coup staged in his name by right-wing military officers in 1981. “That was the moment when he really won his crown,” she said. “To my mind, he is one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.”

“King Juan Carlos is really the founding father of Spanish democracy,” noted historian Charles Powell. “That’s why people feel this could have massive political consequences,” he added, referring to the King’s present predicament. “If this goes wrong for him, it isn’t just the head of state who’s in trouble the whole political system will be called into question. Some people argue that it’s high time, that the model that was created in the 1970s is exhausted, that political institutions—including the monarchy itself—need to be revisited in a fundamental way.”

One afternoon in Madrid, I had drinks at the Ritz with Luis Venegas, the editor of the hip fashion magazine Candy, and his friend Leo Rydell Jost, a design student. “It’s true King Juan Carlos did many things to assure that democracy came to the country,” said Venegas, “but more than 30 years have passed since then.” Rydell Jost added, “With everything that has happened recently, you see the whole monarchy thing as a joke. Most people under 30 want a republic.”

Detractors of the monarchy were generally reluctant to talk. One disillusioned baby-boomer royalist, however, had a lot to say: “This King has had the biggest red carpet in the world forever. No leader has ever gotten such an amount of protection, adoration, and schmoozing. And he took it all, went all the way with it. You cannot feel sorry for him. He did it to himself. He’s like a spoiled brat who has had everything, and one day it’s taken away.”

The King’s Lady Friend

‘For the King it’s been like a bomb to his brain,” said the Condesa de Toreno, a prominent Madrid hostess. “Imagine, his illness and then this thing of—let’s call it la petite fiancée.” The condesa was obviously referring to Princess Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.

Virtually everyone I talked to for this article seemed to take it for granted that the King and Sayn-Wittgenstein have had a romantic relationship, but almost no one wanted to be quoted saying so. “They say the King is very much in love with her,” confided one of his American friends. “And I think he’s right to be, because she’s very beautiful.” A well-placed jet-setter was less kind: “She’s a bad-news girl. And he’s such an old fool. She knows exactly how to play him.”

When Sayn-Wittgenstein learned that I was writing about her, she offered through a mutual friend to give me an interview. “I’m doing O.K.,” she told me at the start of our conversation in June. “I’m trying to ride out the storm.” In her rapid, straightforward English, she hardly sounded like the cunning femme fatale the press has made her out to be. (“She’s not a bimbo,” said a Spanish source. “If she was a bimbo, we wouldn’t have such a problem.”) I asked her when she had last been in Spain. “Not since December last year, and I’m not planning on going back, because that would not be very appropriate or very smart.” Does she keep in touch with the King? “Yes. We are close friends. Some people don’t understand that things can happen at a certain point in time, and then they end, but the friendship doesn’t end. He is now an elderly gentleman struggling with his health, and I think he needs all the support he can get. . . . People are expecting something big to happen, one way or the other. Nothing is going to happen, minus he can’t go hunting and I won’t go to Spain. He keeps in touch. He calls my children on a weekly basis to see how they’re doing. He behaves like you and I would behave with a friend.”

When she met the King with the Duke of Westminster in 2004, she had recently broken with her second husband, Prince Casimir zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, whom she had married four years earlier. (“His family was aghast,” said the jet-setter.) Her father, the Danish-born Finn Bonning Larsen, was the European director of Varig, the Brazilian national airline her mother, Ingrid Sauer, was from Frankfurt, where Corinna was born on January 28, 1964. She told me that she grew up between Frankfurt and Rio de Janeiro and attended girls’ schools in Germany and Switzerland. After graduating from the University of Geneva, in 1987, she went to work for L’Oréal in Paris. That led to a job with Compagnie Générale des Eaux, the utilities-and-construction giant, she said, where she did public relations for the opening of La Grande Arche in La Défense, in Paris, an event attended by François Mitterrand, Margaret Thatcher, and Helmut Kohl. “And that’s largely what I do today. I manage relationships on a long-term basis between institutions, government institutions, or large corporate institutions.”

She met her first husband, Philip Adkins, a graduate of Columbia and Harvard, in Paris in 1989 they married the following year and set up house in London. They were divorced three years later, but they remain the closest of friends and business partners. In fact, Adkins was on the safari in Botswana, as was Corinna’s 10-year-old son from her marriage to Sayn-Wittgenstein. “I was in my tent with my son,” she told me. “My ex-husband was in his tent, and the King was in his tent. There was no hanky-panky.”

Corinna’s relationship with the King apparently started on a professional basis, when he called and asked her to arrange the May 2004 honeymoon trip of Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia to Jordan, Thailand, and Fiji. She had been working the past four years at Boss & Co., the London bespoke gun-makers, organizing hunts for high-profile clients. According to Spanish Vanity Fair, she put together two safaris in Mozambique for the King, in 2004 and 2005, and on the first was “by his side all the time.” Since then, a royal insider said, she has been a regular guest on the partridge-shooting weekends Juan Carlos hosts every spring at his country estate, south of Madrid. According to that person, “The King is still in love with her.”

Boris Izaguirre, a popular young TV personality in Madrid, recalled that the rumors about the King’s girlfriend started four or five years ago: “Apparently, Corinna took the manicurist that all the big Madrid ladies use on trips with the King, and people started asking, ‘Who is this German woman who travels with the King?’ Then came the stories about the house in the El Pardo palace compound. The King refurbished it, and people said that it was Corinna’s house, and that he was always there with her and her kids. It has two pools—one indoor—and subterranean parking. El Mundo published all of these things, and questions were asked in parliament about who paid for the refurbishment. The royal household replied that the house was used for foreign guests.”

More seriously, the press began to ask why Sayn-Wittgenstein—who left Boss & Co. in 2006 to start her own consulting firm, Apollonia Associates—accompanied the King on trips to foreign countries, including Germany, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. Suspicions were raised after the Botswana story broke, when El Mundo reported that Mohamed Eyad Kayali, the King and Corinna’s safari host, was the “right-hand man” of Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Saudi defense minister, who had “fixed” the $9 billion deal for a consortium of Spanish companies to build the high-speed railway between Mecca and Medina.

“In the Corinna affair, there are two aspects,” said Pedro Ramírez. “One is the personal relationship. I would say in Spain this is not important, that the King has a lover or a very close friend. What is embarrassing in the affair is the financial implications.” A few days before I interviewed Ramírez, his newspaper had linked Sayn-Wittgenstein to the Saudi-Spanish Infrastructure Fund, which had been dedicated at the El Pardo palace in 2007 by King Juan Carlos and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. “Spanish companies committed $200 million, but the fund collapsed when the Saudis didn’t come through with their $800 million,” Ramírez explained. “The only money spent was $15 million, which went to the fund managers, Cheyne Capital, who were friends of Corinna, who got close to $5 million.”

When I asked Sayn-Wittgenstein about the extent of her involvement in the King’s official business, she responded firmly, “I have never done business for the King, or collected any money on his behalf… Business in Spain has been conducted for the last 30 or 40 years in a particular manner… Whenever there are large deals for Spanish companies in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, or Latin America, the person that politicians and the business community call is the King, and he makes the calls.”

She said that she had had “absolutely nothing to do” with the Saudi high-speed train deal, that Shahpari Khashoggi, the third ex-wife of Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, “was the agent for the Spanish side on that.” She also told me, “Yes, I was involved in the Saudi-Spanish Infrastructure Fund, and I was paid, because I worked for two years giving advice to the fund manager.” She concluded, “My message is I don’t have an agenda, other than huge respect for the King and Prince Felipe.” Had she met the Queen? “I bumped into her once, accidentally.”

A Tough Life

All requests for interviews with the royal family were being declined, but the King authorized his friend Pepe Fanjul, the Cuban-American sugar baron, to speak to me on his behalf. “The King and I became very good friends back in the 60s, when he was still Prince,” said Fanjul. “He is certainly one of the most charismatic individuals I’ve ever met. He’s a people person, like Ronald Reagan. Without a doubt he has been Spain’s No. 1 ambassador to the world, and he has gotten huge contracts for Spain.”

Fanjul told me that he had met Corinna and Casimir zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn shortly after they were married, and that he had come to know her over the years. “We have mutual social friends, and she was involved in the shooting world. I’ve shot with her in different parts of the world. She’s a brilliant, hardworking businesswoman. The King feels it would be unfair if her business were ruined, as she’s really an innocent bystander. He considers her to be a dear and loyal friend, who has always been very respectful to the royal family.” He added, “People think the King has had a charmed life. I would say it’s one of the hardest lives of anybody I know.”

Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias was born on January 5, 1938, the second of four children, to Don Juan de Borbón and Princess María de las Mercedes de Borbón-Dos Sicilias. He is a direct descendant of King Louis XIV of France from both of his parents, and of England’s Queen Victoria through his father. The royal family was living in exile in Rome during the Spanish Civil War, but they left Mussolini’s Italy for neutral Switzerland in 1942. When Juan Carlos was eight, his parents settled in Estoril, Portugal, leaving him behind at a boarding school for boys run by Marian fathers. “I was really very miserable,” he later said.

In November 1948, according to Paul Preston’s biography Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy, a “tearful ten-year-old Juan Carlos was waved off by his tight-lipped parents” as he boarded an overnight train from Portugal to Spain, where, for the next 27 years, every aspect of his existence would be overseen by Franco. For Don Juan, delivering his son to the dictator was the only way to keep alive the hopes of a Borbón restoration, but for Juan Carlos it meant becoming something between a pawn and a hostage. He was sequestered at a country estate near Madrid, where a private school was set up for him and eight boys from the aristocracy and rich right-wing families. In 1950 the school was relocated to a former royal palace in San Sebastian, where Juan Carlos’s brother, Alfonso, and eight boys of his age joined the student body. In 1955, Juan Carlos, then 17, was moved to Madrid to prepare for the Military Academy of Zaragoza. He lived in the Duke de Montellano’s mansion, under the watchful eyes of a general, a major, and a priest from the Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic movement.

“He was not allowed to go out to anything, not even to the theater,” said Doña Blanca Martinez de Irujo, adding that occasionally his riding instructor “would help him escape” for half an hour to see a girl. Her sister, Doña Victoria, volunteered, “He always loved girls, our King, and he loved dancing, especially the waltz.”

On Holy Thursday 1956, while on Easter vacation in Estoril, Juan Carlos and Alfonso were playing around with a gun in the game room of their parents’ villa. What happened next is not clear, but it resulted in Alfonso’s death. The following day the Spanish Embassy in Lisbon, at Franco’s direction, released an ambiguous statement: “Whilst his Highness the Infante Alfonso was cleaning a revolver with his brother, a shot was fired hitting his forehead and killing him in a few minutes.” Subsequent comments, however, from the boys’ mother, Doña María, her dressmaker, and a family friend, suggested that Juan Carlos had been holding the gun, which he thought was not loaded. The King has never denied his responsibility or offered an explanation, but as Reinaldo Herrera, a Vanity Fair contributing editor and a longtime acquaintance of his, said, “It marked him for life.”

The following summer Juan Carlos graduated from Zaragoza, and then spent a year each at the national naval and air-force academies. In 1960 he entered the Complutense University of Madrid, where he studied law, economics, and taxation. Franco’s wife, Doña Carmen Polo, personally decorated his new residence, the Palacio de la Zarzuela, a hunting lodge built in the 17th century for King Philip IV. “It’s a palace in name only,” noted Pepe Fanjul of the 20-room villa, where King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía live to this day.

They were married on May 14, 1962, in Athens, first in a Catholic cathedral, then in a Greek Orthodox ceremony (she would later convert to Catholicism). The wedding was attended by more than 150 members of 27 royal houses. “It was a marriage of convenience, and it was largely Queen Frederica’s doing,” one friend of the royals told me, referring to Sofía’s mother. But Paul Preston, among others, believes the couple were in love, at least initially. Their three children, Infanta Elena, Infanta Cristina, and Prince Felipe, were born over the next six years. Most importantly, Franco gave his stamp of approval to the prim and deferential Sofía. On July 22, 1969, Franco officially designated Juan Carlos as his successor, and the Prince swore fealty to the Fundamental Principles of the National Movement, the sole political party under the dictatorship.

The Enlightened Monarch

King Juan Carlos began his reign in 1975 in the most modest way possible. There was no elaborate coronation, only a high mass. He and his family remained at La Zarzuela rather than move into the 2,800-room Royal Palace. And they eschewed the traditional trappings of a court. In all of this Juan Carlos had the support and encouragement of his wife, who had seen her brother, King Constantine, driven into exile in 1967.

“I think one of the cleverest things Juan Carlos did was to avoid the old aristocracy,” said Charles Powell. “They thought, Oh, great, our time is back. But Juan Carlos realized these people were the kiss of death. They had been largely responsible for the crash of the monarchy in 1931. They had isolated Alfonso XIII from public opinion, from the political elite, and from the intellectual world.”

In any event, nobody thought Juan would reign for very long. To everyone’s amazement, however, the King took charge. Within months of his coronation he appointed Adolfo Suárez, one of the few moderate officials of the National Movement, as prime minister. In 1977, Juan Carlos outraged Francoist loyalists by supporting the legalization of the Socialist and Communist parties.

Most significantly, he was instrumental in the writing of a new constitution to replace the one left by Franco, which envisioned an extension of the authoritarian system in the guise of an absolute monarchy. Generally referred to as Spain’s Magna Carta, the 1978 constitution was overwhelmingly approved by the Spanish people in a referendum. King Simeon II recalled visiting Juan Carlos while the new document was still being written. “In his room he had a whole lot of pages strewn on the table and even on the bed. I said, ‘What on earth is this?’ He told me, ‘This is the draft of the constitution.’ I noticed there were a lot of cross-outs—literally paragraphs. He said, ‘These are the prerogatives I have.’ And I said, ‘But you are striking all these prerogatives out?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I don’t see why I should have so many powers.’ ”

On February 23, 1981, 200 armed officers of the Guardia Civil, or federal police, led by Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero, seized control of the lower house of the Spanish parliament. Almost at the same time, Lieutenant General Jaime Miláns del Bosch, a die-hard Francoist, sent tanks into the streets of Valencia. The rebels announced that they were acting in support of the King, but early the next morning he went on national TV and denounced them, declaring, “The crown, symbol of the permanence and unity of the fatherland, cannot tolerate actions or attitudes by those who aim to interrupt by force the democratic process.” Three days later, three million people marched through Spain’s cities in support of democracy and the King.

The following year, Spain elected 40-year-old Felipe González, the son of a livestock handler from Seville, as its first Socialist head of government since the Civil War. He would be re-elected twice, and over the next 14 years he and Juan Carlos would form what Charles Powell called “the most fruitful political partnership in 20th-century Spain.” By 1986 the country had joined both the European Economic Community and NATO. The González government gave the country free universal education, a social-security system, and new infrastructure. The economy took off, and terrorist attacks by the Basque-separatist group ETA were temporarily reduced. All this reflected well on Juan Carlos, who came to be seen as an enlightened monarch with a common touch.

Today, González is still one of the King’s most fervent admirers. “[King Juan Carlos] has decisively represented and protected Spanish interests for nearly four decades now,” he wrote in an e-mail statement. “I have frequently said, even having republican roots, I believe the role of the monarchy to be vital for Spain.”

In a surprising turnaround, it is now Queen Sofía whom the Spanish people seem to love. “Wherever she goes, people stand up and applaud for minutes on end,” said Charles Powell. It wasn’t always that way. Indeed, until Corinna became a household name, the consensus was that Sofía was cold, distant, too Germanic—like her mother, Queen Frederica, the granddaughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Prussia. “She hates bullfighting, she hates soccer, she hates flamenco,” complained one Madrid socialite.

People admire her for stoically enduring her husband’s affairs, some allegedly having lasted for years. For all intents and purposes, the King and Queen lead separate lives. Sofía is said to spend weeks at a time in London, visiting King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie, and she frequently flies to Paris to see her favorite cousin, Princess Tatiana Radziwill. Close friends said that the King grew tired of playing host to the former Greek royals for two months every summer in Majorca. Sofía’s spinster sister, Princess Irene, has lived at La Zarzuela since the death of their mother, in 1981. “He fled to get away from his in-laws,” said one male friend.

Few can find fault with the Queen’s tireless promotion of worthy causes, from fighting drug addiction at home to combating sex trafficking in Cambodia. She shows up at almost every opening of her namesake Reina Sofía art museum and, according to Charles Powell, “she has an ongoing seminar program. She will invite academics to serious debate, at Zarzuela, about the Arab Spring, for example. She loves classical music. The King is tone-deaf.” Powell added, “I think she’s incredibly brave and resilient, and very lonely, I would imagine.”

Many among the old aristocracy have never forgiven the Queen for not encouraging marriages between her children and theirs. One royal-family friend said, “She’s been very weak with the children. None of them married correctly. There’s a law in Spain called the Edict of Carlos III, which forbids the royal family from marrying outside of royal families. If they do, they lose their succession rights. For some reason, it seems to have been forgotten.”

The Infantas and Their Spouses

Infanta Elena was the first to marry, in 1995, to Jaime de Marichalar, a member of the minor nobility from Soria, who thereupon became the Duke of Lugo. Marichalar had studied economics, but his real interest was fashion. “He started dressing her up, to the point where she was competing with Caroline of Monaco as the most elegant princess in Europe,” said Boris Izaguirre. Jaime himself was quite the dandy with his slicked-back hair, fur coats, and stacks of bracelets. According to Antonio Camuñas, a Madrid corporate consultant who knows the royal family well, “The guy would ride his Segway down Avenida Serrano, where all the fancy shops are, with his bodyguards running after him, which people saw as extravagant.” Yet the couple seemed happy and produced a boy and girl, in 1998 and 2000, respectively. But things were never the same after Jaime suffered a stroke. In 2009 the couple ended their marriage, making Elena the first child of a reigning Spanish monarch to divorce. Marichalar lost his royal title. “He became a black sheep,” said Izaguirre. However, as scandal enveloped his former brother-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarín, Jaime came to be seen in a more favorable light.

Infanta Cristina and Urdangarín met at the 1996 Summer Olympics, in Atlanta, where he was competing as a member of the Spanish handball team. They married in 1997 and had four children over the next eight years. The son of a wealthy Basque businessman and a Belgian mother, Urdangarín grew up in Barcelona, where he and Cristina settled after their marriage. The Queen was said to be very fond of the young sportsman. “We all loved Iñaki,” said Antonio Camuñas, “because he seemed so perfect and very normal. Iñaki always made Infanta Cristina very happy. He’s a great father. He cooks. He takes care of all the help.”

Urdangarín retired from professional handball after the 2000 Summer Olympics, having earned a degree from Barcelona’s elite Escuela Superior de Administración y Dirección de Empresas (ESADE). That was where he met Diego Torres, an associate professor in the school’s department of policy and business. In 1999, Torres founded a consulting firm, the Institute of Applied Investigations, which Urdangarín joined in 2003, whereupon it was reconstituted as a nonprofit foundation and renamed the Nóos Institute (nous being the Greek word for “mind”). Urdangarín was president and Torres vice president, and they were joined on the five-member board by Cristina, her royal secretary, Carlos García Revenga, and Miguel Tejeiro, a relative of Torres’s wife, Ana María Tejeiro, who was employed as an executive, as was her brother, Marco Antonio Tejeiro. The foundation quickly established lucrative relationships with the provincial governments of the Balearic Islands and Valencia, which between 2004 and 2006 awarded Nóos no-bid contracts reportedly worth more than $7 million, to produce annual sports and tourism “summits.”

Provincial politicians may have been eager to do business with a member of the royal family, but the foundation’s overnight success apparently caused unease inside the palace. By late 2004, Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, acting on the King’s request to find a new job for his son-in-law, had secured what she thought was the perfect position: president of the new Spanish branch of the multinational Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which provides outreach programs for needy children and presents annual awards to prominent athletes. “They are like the Oscars for sports,” Sayn-Wittgenstein told me, explaining that Laureus is supported by the Richemont luxury-goods group and Mercedes-Benz. Urdangarín’s salary for the part-time job would have started at $66,000, but he could have earned up to $260,000 as additional corporate sponsors came aboard, according to e-mails leaked to the press. “I was surprised when Iñaki turned it down,” Sayn-Wittgenstein said.

‘The whole thing started going wrong in 2005,” said Boris Izaguirre. “Iñaki and Cristina bought a house in the best part of Barcelona, Pedralbes, for $8 million, and people started asking how they could afford it.” They left the Nóos board in 2006, along with Carlos García Revenga. That same year El Mundo ran its first investigative piece about dubious financial transactions at the foundation. In 2009 the couple moved to Washington, D.C., where Urdangarín worked for the international subsidiary of Telefónica, the Spanish telecommunications monopoly. They returned to Spain after the scandal broke, when—as a friend put it—“they were molested by a TV crew in the Whole Foods Market in Georgetown.”

According to Spain’s Anticorruption Bureau, Urdangarín and Torres were under investigation for suspected misappropriation of public funds, falsification of official documents, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud. Documents were leaked suggesting that Nóos grossly over-billed the Valencia and Balearic Islands governments and diverted the excess sums it collected to tax havens in Belize, Luxembourg, and Andorra. According to The New York Times, some of this public money was alleged to have gone to “a real estate firm jointly operated by Mr. Urdangarín and his wife.” This past February, Diego Torres, embittered by the royal family’s attempts to place most of the blame on him, testified that, even after leaving the board, Urdangarín continued to make the majority of decisions at Nóos. In the same hearings, Revenga, the foundation’s former treasurer, testified that his role and Cristina’s were largely symbolic. But some of the e-mails that Torres had released seemed to indicate that Revenga had helped organize business meetings for Nóos. And Torres announced that he had dozens more e-mails, which, he alleged, showed that the King tried to help Urdangarín land big contracts. Both Urdangarín and Torres have denied wrongdoing. In July, Urdangarín filed suit against Torres concerning the authenticity of the e-mails.

Infanta Cristina was due to appear in Judge Castro’s court in late April, but Pedro Horrach, the anti-corruption prosecutor, argued that there was insufficient evidence to link her directly to the alleged fraud at Nóos, and her appearance was postponed. In May a higher court suspended the subpoena. Judge Castro then announced that he would investigate whether Cristina had engaged in tax evasion or money-laundering.

This spring Urdangarín thought he had a job in Qatar as assistant coach to its new handball team, but it fell through amid speculation that the King had personally arranged it with the Emir of Qatar to get his son-in-law out of the country for a while. The Palace denied that, saying phone conversations between the two monarchs at the time had been about trade relations. “It’s too bad, because my cousin Cristina and Iñaki barely have an income, as he can’t get a job in Spain,” said Prince Pavlos of Greece. “They’re living in the middle of total chaos in Barcelona, hounded by journalists and photographers. And it isn’t even a proper case—just an investigation to create a case. I think if Iñaki has done something wrong he was misguided.”

In August, Infanta Cristina and the couple’s four children moved to Geneva, where her longtime employer, Caixa Foundation, transferred her to coordinate its social-welfare program with United Nations agencies based there. Urdangarín will make visits to Switzerland while remaining in Barcelona to sell their house and deal with his legal problems. According to knowledgeable sources, Urdangarín may be indicted in September, which will no doubt bring about another barrage of daunting headlines for the royal family.

The Crown Prince and His Wife

All eyes are now on 45-year-old Crown Prince Felipe and the woman he fell in love with while watching her recite the news on TV, his wife, Princess Letizia. His Royal Highness and Ms. Ortiz Rocasolano were married on May 22, 2004, in the biggest royal wedding since that of Prince Charles and Diana, in 1981. Letizia became the first commoner in Spanish history to be in line to be Queen, and the first in that position to have been divorced. The King, apparently, was not very happy with his son’s choice. According to a member of another European royal family, “Felipe went to his father to ask permission to marry Letizia with a letter renouncing his right to the throne in his pocket. And when his father suggested that he wait a year or so to make sure that she really was the right girl, he handed him the letter. Juan Carlos asked Sofía what they should do. She told him, ‘You have no choice. If you don’t acquiesce, it will be the end of the monarchy.’ ”

Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano was born in Oviedo, in northern Spain, on September 15, 1972, and raised in a liberal, secular, middle-class environment. Her father is a journalist. Her mother is a registered nurse and hospital-union organizer whose father was a taxi driver and whose mother is half Filipino. Letizia’s parents divorced in 1999.

When Letizia was 25, she married Alonso Guerrero, a professor and author. After earning a journalism degree from the Complutense University of Madrid and a master’s from the Institute for Audiovisual Journalism Studies, she went to work at a newspaper in Mexico. Upon returning to Spain, she rapidly rose to the position of anchorwoman at TVE, the state-owned network. She covered the 2000 presidential election from Washington, broadcast live from Ground Zero following 9/11, and reported from Iraq in the wake of the American invasion.

“Some aristocrats were outraged when Felipe married Letizia,” said a royal observer. “They make fun of her behind her back, but they won’t say it publicly, because they’re monarchists. Letizia knows it, and she can’t stand them. I think she’s in a difficult situation. She is a nervous person, worried, uptight, very tense and intense.”

The crown couple’s first child, Infanta Leonor, born in 2005, is second in line to the throne. Their second daughter, Infanta Sofía, followed in 2007. The family lives in a large house next door to La Zarzuela that was built for Felipe before his marriage. According to a royal insider, “Theirs is obviously not an easy relationship. She is desperately trying to prove that she is a person in her own right. For example, they rarely show up together. She will normally come later, and they will leave separately. Sometimes it’s a bit awkward. But the look on his face when she behaves like that is of deep affection. He is very protective of her.”

‘I personally believed that it would have been better if Prince Felipe had married a royal princess,” said Ramón Pérez-Maura, the assistant editor of ABC, the monarchist daily. “Having said that, and having seen Princess Letizia act over the last nine years, I think she’s done a fantastic job. She’s helped Prince Felipe meet groups of society he wasn’t familiar with, such as people in the media. And I like the fact that when they got married they started their honeymoon trip around Spain in a car, which nobody knew they were going to do. That was something that came out of her. And that’s brilliant.”

Pérez-Maura observed of Felipe, “He’s more like his mother than his father. He doesn’t have the warmth, the charm, that his father has. He never tries to be the center of attention, which the King, in his way, does.”

“Prince Felipe is perhaps the best-prepared man of his generation in Spain,” said Antonio Camuñas, citing an education that took him from boarding school in Canada, through the Autónoma University of Madrid, Spain’s three military academies, and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Carlos García-Calvo, *El Mundo’*s fashion and society editor, is equally high on Princess Letizia, although he thought it was a joke when a friend told him that Felipe was marrying an anchorwoman. “Well, he did what all the other crown princes in Europe are doing—marrying commoners. I now think he did the right thing. I think she’s great. She’s witty and very endearing.”

The controversial Letizia has made some enemies. A book by her cousin David Rocasolano made headlines in April with its claim that she had had a secret abortion before she met Felipe. (Her supporters vehemently disputed this account, viewing it as an act of treason.) According to another book published earlier this year, Urdangarín, a Hustler in the Court of the King, Letizia’s embattled brother-in-law blames his troubles on her. “She wanted to shine and leaked documents to the press to reveal Urdangarín’s bad moves,” wrote Eduardo Inda and Esteban Urreiztieta, who also alleged that Iñaki and Cristina “resented that they were treated differently at the palace in comparison” with Felipe and Letizia.

“The most important thing about Felipe and Letizia is that they are not linked in any way to any kind of corruption,” said Laurence Debray. “They were ambitious enough to stay away from it all. They cut off any relationship they had with Iñaki and Cristina. Felipe’s a good family man. He doesn’t have mistresses. He doesn’t go hunting. He’s very modern. The younger generation doesn’t care about Franco, or the Civil War, or the coup. For them, most of the royal family seems corrupt. They don’t work, and they have plenty of money. So Felipe is looking better every day, and so is Letizia.”

The Royal Road Ahead

For the King, the most damning rumor is that Queen Sofía would prefer to see Prince Felipe take the throne sooner rather than later. According to the Queen’s friend Covadonga O’Shea, a conservative writer, “She gets along very well with Letizia. And I think Letizia is very close to the Queen.” Others say the Princess can’t wait to be Queen. “She is expecting it every day,” said an editor in the know.

By this past January, support for the monarchy had fallen to a historic low of 54 percent. In February a Palace official was compelled to tell the press that Juan Carlos had no plans to abdicate, and that no plan existed to fast-track the succession of Felipe. The following month a new poll showed that an astounding 85.9 percent of Spaniards felt Prince Felipe was well prepared to assume the throne.

Even when Juan Carlos tried to do something right, it seemed to turn out wrong. In May the royal household announced that the King, “for austerity reasons,” was going to turn over to the government his $27 million, 136-foot yacht, Fortuna (each refueling of which reportedly costs more than $30,000). “The National Heritage board must now approve the transfer to the government,” announced a spokesman for that institution, “which could decide to keep it or sell it.” There was only one problem: the group of Majorca businesspeople—operating as the Tourism and Cultural Foundation of the Balearic Islands—who had given the King the boat 13 years ago to replace a previous yacht given to him by the late Saudi King Fahd, wanted it back. The matter has still not been resolved.

For the most part, Spain’s political and media establishments would prefer that the King stay, fearing a shock to the system were he to leave while the nation is in such dire straits. “We are very clear against abdication,” said Pedro Ramírez. “You ask for the resignation of the minister of health or foreign affairs if he has done something wrong. But you don’t ask for the abdication of the King, just because he has been out of the country on a weekend in Botswana with a blonde woman. El Mundo is saying the only two scenarios in which we would ask for abdication would be, first, if he has a serious health problem—mainly mental incapacity. And, second, if there were not circumstantial evidence but real proof of wrongdoing.”

Juan Carlos I

Juan Carlos Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón was born in the Anglo-American Hospital in Rome, Italy, on January 5, 1938. His grandfather, Alfonso XIII, had been king of Spain from 1902 to 1931, after which Spain became a republic. With the emergence of Francisco Franco's fascist dictatorship in 1939, the father of Juan Carlos, Don Juan de Borbón y Brattenberg, became a pretender to the Spanish throne and a hostile critic of Franco's regime, which endured until 1975.

Juan Carlos' early years were spent in exile in Rome, Lausanne, Switzerland, and Estoril, Portugal. He did not set foot on Spanish soil until Franco summoned him to "supervise" his education. After completing his high school education in 1955, Juan Carlos studied at Spain's military academy, naval college, and general air academy. Later in life his strong background and contacts in the armed forces would help save a fledgling constitutional monarchy from an attempted military coup. After military training Juan Carlos began his studies at Madrid University. In the 1960s, he augmented his education with training at a number of public administration agencies: the Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of the Interior, and Ministry of Commerce.

In 1961, the future king announced his engagement to Princess Sofia of Greece, and they were married the following year in Athens. Three children, one boy and two girls, were subsequently born to the royal couple. Princess Sofia's background was in many ways similar to that of her husband. She had spent part of her childhood in Egypt and in South Africa and had studied in Germany. She held a diploma in pediatrics, had a keen interest in archaeology and classical music, and became fluent in Greek, Spanish, English, German, and French.

In 1969 General Franco made an announcement important of Juan Carlos and to the nation's future. Franco declared that after his retirement or death Juan Carlos, and not Don Carlos (the father of Juan Carlos), would become king. When Franco fell ill in the summer of 1974, Juan Carlos became Spain's acting head of state. Franco died in November of 1975, and Juan Carlos was proclaimed king in a ceremony in the Cortes, the Spanish parliament. King Juan Carlos declared: "The Monarchy can and must be effective as a political system if it is able to maintain a just and true balance of powers, and if it is rooted in the real life of the Spanish people." Thus began the change to a constitutional monarchy.

Until the time of Franco's death, little was known about the political convictions of Juan Carlos. Yet, following his ascendancy he retained the loyalty of the military and Franco supporters while providing Spain with a peaceful transition to a political democracy. The new king asked Carlos Arias Navarro (Franco's prime minister) to remain in office, but eventually appointed Adolfo Suárez, a man often identified as a loyal follower of Franco but who turned out to be a cryptodemocrat, to be his prime minister. Political collaboration between Juan Carlos and Suárez led to the Law of Political Reform, passed by the Cortes in November 1976. This new law ended dictatorship and called for a new bicameral legislature, elected through universal suffrage. A month later the same law was submitted to the people in a referendum. It won approval by 94 percent of the voters.

In 1977, the king and Suárez began moving Spain closer to a true political democracy. Political parties (including the socialist and communist parties) were once again legalized the right to strike was recognized and the organization of free trade unions was permitted. Then, on June 15, 1977, more than 18 million people—79 percent of the electorate—went to the polls to elect a 350-member lower house, known as the Congress. The major winners were the center-right coalition, represented by the Democratic Center Union (UCD) with 34.8 percent of the vote, and the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) with 29.4 percent. A sub-committee of the newly elected Congress produced a constitution that provided Spain with a constitutional monarchy. Under the new constitution, approved by the Cortes in October 1978 and by a national referendum in December, legislative power was vested in a bicameral Cortes, while the king was "the head of state and symbol of its unity and permanence." The constitution vested executive authority in the prime minister, but the king sanctions and promulgates laws and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Furthermore, the king, after consulting with representatives of the political parties, nominates a candidate for prime minister, who must win a vote of confidence in the Congress of Deputies. On December 27, 1978, Juan Carlos, before the Cortes, sanctioned the new constitution.

Besides overseeing the transition from dictatorship to constitutional government, Juan Carlos personally intervened in matters of state and saved the new government from a right-wing military coup in 1981. On February 23, 1981, a group of military conspirators stormed the Cortes while it was voting on a new prime minister. Although the conspirators intended to set up an authoritarian monarchy under the protection of the armed forces, the plan failed because Juan Carlos refused to engage in the attempted coup. Throughout the night of February 23 the king worked to rally loyal military officers by telephone and at 1 a.m. on February 24 he addressed the nation pleading for calm and trust, assuring his people that the constitution would be honored. Within hours the coup was over. The king had saved the Spanish experiment with political democracy.

After the abortive coup of 1981, Juan Carlos' Spain witnessed several key political developments. First, in 1982 the electorate voted the Spanish Socialist Workers' party, headed by Felipe González, into power. Secondly, in the summer of 1985 the king made an official visit to France where he and President Mitterrand signed an historic accord pledging economic, political, and military cooperation between the two nations. Thirdly, on January 1, 1986, Spain entered the European Economic Community, a development that it hoped would aid the modernization of the Spanish economy and further stabilize the nation's political system. Fourthly, in March of 1986 Spanish voters went to the polls in a referendum and elected to remain in NATO, a position that the new socialist government favored because of the technological, economic, and political benefits to be gained from membership in the Atlantic alliance. Before the socialist victory in 1982 socialist leader González had opposed Spain's tie to NATO. Thus, Spain owes its re-entry into the European community and its return to democracy in large part to Juan Carlos' direction and moderation.

Spain's central government maintains authority in a complex relationship with 16 "autonomous" regions, including Catalonia, home of the Basque separatist movement. When Catalan activists attempted to turn the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games into a political embarrassment for the Madrid government and for Juan Carlos, the king defused the potential crisis and engendered warmer feelings between Barcelona and Madrid than had existed in years. At the opening ceremonies he said a few words in the Catalan language, attended many events, and watched as his son, Prince Felipe, carried the Spanish flag into the stadium.


Spain got rid of its royal family 90 years ago and then brought it back. Was that a mistake?

Spanish King Juan Carlos, right, and Queen Sofia, left, gesture after attending an Easter Mass at the Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Sunday, April 12, 2009. | AP Photo/Manu Mielniezuk

Richard Schweid is a freelance writer and book author based in Barcelona.

Anyone who was in Spain on Feb. 23, 1981, remembers where they were around 6 p.m. I was in a small Spanish village on the remote Mediterranean island of Formentera, where I was trying to write a novel while living in a two-room stone house. I was having an early-evening beer at Catalina’s, the only bar open in town, before going home.

The usual early evening crowd was there: men playing cards at a couple of tables, women chatting over cups of chamomile tea, a few foreign hippies with their beers as the day drew to a close. The bar’s radio was tuned to a station broadcasting from Valencia, and the usual programming of awful Spanish pop was suddenly interrupted by a firm, male voice. The voice announced that a military takeover to save the nation was underway, a curfew was being imposed, and people should go to their homes and await further orders. A heavy silence fell over the bar.

That afternoon, Spain’s Congress in Madrid had been meeting to elect a new prime minister when 200 Civil Guards armed with machine guns stormed in, firing into the ceiling and ordering legislators to get down on the floor. A camera for Spain’s state-owned, sole television network was in the balcony to cover the proceedings, and the footage it shot of the uniformed insurrectionists firing and the legislators diving for cover would be rebroadcast constantly over the next few days, becoming as familiar to Spaniards as footage of JFK’s assassination, or the Twin Towers falling, is to Americans.

The coup attempt came less than six years after Francisco Franco’s death ended a 36-year dictatorship, so it was easy for Spaniards to believe Franco’s military followers were coming back to power. In that tiny village bar, far from armed authority, people obeyed orders and headed home. On that evening in 1981, young and naive, I felt for the first time a bit of what it was like to have a dictator’s yoke on my neck, a glimmer of the four decades of Franco and the Church setting the narrow boundaries of how to live. The fear that it was beginning again was written on the faces around me as we all filed out the door at Catalina’s and headed to our homes.

A few hours later, at 1:15 a.m., I was listening to my small transistor radio when I heard the king of Spain, Juan Carlos I, broadcast a message on television and radio. He condemned the coup attempt and vowed to punish those responsible. It was clear the coup was effectively over. I breathed a sigh of relief, and went to bed, as did millions of others. The king’s adamant defense of Spain’s nascent democracy put an end to the putsch, and its instigators surrendered shortly thereafter, eventually serving prison time. That night, we all felt a tremendous sense of gratitude toward the king.

It turned out to be the high point of Juan Carlos’s 39-year reign — and it has been a long fall since.

These days Juan Carlos is the main character in a long-running scandal that has all the ingredients of a made-for-television drama, a full-bore telenovela. The 83-year-old Juan Carlos is no longer king and has fled Spain in disgrace, gone to live a life of exiled luxury in Abu Dhabi, leaving his family behind. Meanwhile, his former lover has publicly accused him of hiding many millions of euros in ill-gotten gains for which he did not pay any taxes.

The gravity of his fiscal crimes is sowing doubt in the minds of many Spaniards as to whether a good reason exists to continue maintaining a monarchy in the 21 st century.

Juan Carlos’s serious troubles began in 2012 when he went on a hunting trip to Botswana. A photo of the king proudly standing with his rifle in front of a dead trophy elephant was widely published, and harshly criticized at home at the time he was the honorary president of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Federation.

While the king was in Botswana killing an elephant on a private big-game hunt, Spain was still recovering from the global recession, with a 23 percent unemployment rate, rising to 50 percent among people under 30. The monarchy began to be widely questioned, and the first concerted calls arose for an investigation into the king’s finances. The clamor grew, and in 2014 he abdicated and his son Felipe VI became king.

In mid-2018, Corinna Larsen, an aristocratic German-born, Danish citizen came under pressure from Swiss authorities to explain the huge sums of money in bank accounts under her name. She was said to have been romantically linked to the king since shortly after being introduced to him by the Duke of Westminster in 2004. Spanish news reports have said that under questioning, she revealed her role in helping Juan Carlos hide part of a “gift” of nearly $100 million, given to him by the king of Saudi Arabia. It was a token of the Saudis’ appreciation for the Spanish king’s help in contracting a company to build a high-speed railway to Mecca, part of an $8 billion Saudi project. Investigators said that Larsen, who was no longer involved with the ex-king, described the money was a kickback. Whatever it was, Juan Carlos had not reported it to Spanish fiscal authorities.

An investigation of the Saudi “gift” was opened, and eventually expanded to include foundations connected to the ex-king, at least two of which appeared to be shell entities with little purpose other than to funnel money his way. In addition, between 2016 and 2018, Juan Carlos had provided some members of his extended family (although not Felipe VI’s immediate family) with “opaque” credit cards owned by a wealthy Mexican businessman, which were used to spend hundreds of thousands of euros.

King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain with daughters Princess Leonor, Princess of Asturias (L) and Princess Sofia (R) leave the Congress of Deputies during the King's official coronation ceremony on June 19, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. | Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Revelation followed revelation. The investigations are ongoing, and to date no charges have been filed, but in August 2020, the Royal Palace announced that Juan Carlos was leaving Spain to live elsewhere. He soon turned up in a friend’s luxurious mansion in Abu Dhabi where he is currently in residence.

He enjoys constitutional immunity from prosecution for anything he did while king, but any crimes committed since his 2014 abdication are actionable. Since leaving Spain for Abu Dhabi, the ex-king has made no public statements or appearances. Last month, he paid the Spanish treasury more than 4 million euros ($4.8 million) in back taxes, presumably in hopes of precluding criminal charges.

Felipe VI, his wife Queen Letizia, and Sofia, his mother the ex-queen, are about the only three people in the entire country who have had absolutely nothing to say about Juan Carlos’s latest misfortunes. Felipe projects an aura of uprightness in his reign, and in the spring of 2020 it was announced that he had voluntarily given up all rights as listed beneficiary on his father’s suspicious accounts. Other than that, the current king has had no public reaction to his father’s misdeeds. Both he and his mother maintain a dignified silence.

The ex-queen Sofia, 82, is a Greek princess who married Juan Carlos in 1962. They have three children: Felipe and two daughters, Cristina and Elena. In the face of her husband’s fall from grace, Sofia has carried on as always, exemplifying moral rectitude, staying active on behalf of a variety of charitable and cultural causes in Spain, and around the world.

In many ways, Juan Carlos was an accidental king, one who had Francisco Franco to thank for his reign. In April 1931, King Alfonso XIII was deposed by the Second Republic, the first democratically elected government in Spain’s history. The Republic declared the nation monarch-free and quickly became one of the most progressive European governments of the 20th century. But just five years later, in 1936, Franco led a military revolt against the Republic, and after three years and a million people dead, he succeeded in overthrowing the government with military help from Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany.

Franco was not inclined to share power, and ruled Spain without a king for 36 years until his death in 1975. But, he was also an ultra-conservative Spanish Catholic, and believed in a vision of the nation which harked back centuries to Spain’s days of monarchy and global power. In 1969, he named Juan Carlos, Alfonso XIII’s grandson, as his eventual successor.

Juan Carlos has an impeccable pedigree — he is a Borbón, a direct descendant of an aristocratic European family, which has intermittently ruled Spain since 1700. But Juan Carlos was never a staid monarch. A bon vivant, he has always been a yachtsman, and was a ferocious competitor in Spain’s most important sailing regattas. He also was given to more plebian pleasures. Urban legend in Madrid had it that the ex-king liked to take anonymous, unescorted rides through the streets on his motorcycle, sneaking out of the royal palace late at night. Tales were told of Madrileños waiting at a traffic light who saw the king wearing a helmet and black leather jacket astride his motorcycle in the next lane.

His motorcycle days are behind him. Juan Carlos has struggled with health problems for the past decade. He had successful, open-heart surgery in 2019, and multiple hip replacement surgeries stemming from an injury sustained when he fell during that ill-fated 2012 trip to Botswana. He walks with great difficulty, always with a cane and often needing an arm to lean on. He is still able to enjoy time aboard a yacht, but is no longer able to participate in regattas.

The Spanish constitution makes it clear that kings are not to have a voice in the political arena, but actions by members of the Spanish royal family frequently have political ramifications. The separatist, anti-monarchist parties in Catalonia, the Basque country, and Galicia reacted fiercely to the ex-king’s adios, as he headed to Abu Dhabi.

“The best service you can do for the people of Spain is to not run away from justice and to show your face with dignity,” tweeted Carolina Telechea, spokesperson for the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Catalan Republican Left), the strongest of the parties advocating Catalonian independence from Spain, and resolutely anti-monarchist.

The Socialist government’s coalition partner, the left-wing Podemos (We Can) party, joined the separatists in condemning the ex-king’s departure. “Juan Carlos de Borbón’s flight to a foreign country is an undignified attitude for a chief of state, and leaves the monarchy in a very compromised position,” tweeted Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos. “Out of respect for the citizens and Spanish democracy, Juan Carlos I should answer for his acts in Spain before the people.”

The governing Socialist party has been much more discreet, defending the institution of the monarchy and its role in Spanish society, while assuring the public that wrongdoing by any Spaniard, including an ex-king, will be prosecuted under the law. In the Congress, the Socialists joined the far-right Vox party, and the conservative Popular Party in blocking the creation of a commission to investigate Juan Carlos’s finances, declaring that to be the job of the legal system, not the legislature.

Do Spaniards consider the institution of the monarchy a living example of Spain’s ancient noble heritage, or little more than a relic from a time when aristocrats and the Roman Catholic Church ruled the nation for centuries, keeping its populace illiterate and oppressed? It depends on whom you ask. The right wing reveres the monarchy, while the left wing calls for an end to it, and the elimination of the royal household’s 8 million euro ($9.5 million) share of the Spanish annual budget. That is only a tenth of what is annually spent by Britain’s royal family, but an increasing number of Spaniards see it as too much.

For much of his reign, Juan Carlos I was well-regarded by most Spaniards. His excesses were generally tolerated prior to 2012 by subjects who still remembered with gratitude how he reacted to the attempted military coup in 1981. Recently, even that has come under question, with some observers advancing a theory that the king, specific politicians, and the military staged the whole affair in order to frighten Spaniards into accepting a carefully engineered, moderate, parliamentary monarchy. Because Spain has no effective public access laws, the government documents relating to the 1981 coup attempt are still unavailable to journalists or historians.

In any event, this time the ex-king is unlikely to be widely forgiven. It is one thing to have an attractive Danish lover, or sneak out of the palace to have a little late-night fun, but in a modern European country, it’s quite another to evade paying millions of euros in taxes to the nation he once ruled.

Juan Carlos apparently understands the gravity of his situation. He did not come home to spend the Christmas holidays with his family, and has not announced any plans to return to Spain.

The Spanish royal family’s bad press continues. The same week in late February when it was revealed Juan Carlos had paid 4 million euros in back taxes, it was reported that his two daughters had visited him in Abu Dhabi in January, both getting Covid-19 vaccinations while they were there.

This did not sit well at home. By the end of March, about 74,000 Spaniards had died from Covid-19, but the eagerly awaited vaccines have not been available here, even while people in the U.S. and UK receive theirs. Vaccination is a privilege currently unavailable to the millions of us in Spain anxiously awaiting our needlesticks, because vaccine is still scarce.

So as the normally gregarious Spaniards cower inside their homes, hoping to avoid infection before they can get vaccinated, the royal family is providing a real-life telenovela to take their minds off the plague. In some ways, however inadvertently, Juan Carlos is again saving Spain during a time of national crisis — this time, by keeping us entertained.

The Revolution That Was 1968

Two assassinations, a bloody war, violent protests, racial unrest, colorful hippies, a celebration of sex and rebellion, and John Lennon’s countercultural anthem, “Revolution”� had them all.

It was the year that shattered the fragile consensus that had shaped American society since the end of World War II. It was the year when assassinations ended the last hope of a nonviolent civil-rights movement and the creation of a new biracial political coalition. The year witnessed the coming of age of the baby-boom generation, the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, who rebelled against tradition and all forms of conformity. And it forged, for better or worse, the world in which we live today.

The 1960s began with hope and optimism, with policymakers and intellectuals celebrating the dawn of a new age of consensus. But the fragile harmony quickly began to fray. Young Americans took to the streets to protest President Lyndon Johnson’s decision to escalate the Vietnam war. African Americans had marched to end the southern system of Jim Crow. Women fought against gender stereotypes that confined them to the role of housewives. And hippies questioned the cultural assumptions that informed American life.

These political and cultural resentments simmering beneath the surface of American society exploded in 1968. Nearly every week produced news of another earth-shattering event.

During the third season of Star Trek, Nichelle Nichols as Uhura and William Shatner as Captain Kirk shared television’s first interracial kiss. (Credit: CBS/Getty Images)

The year was full of cultural expressions of change. NBC launched a new comedy, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, that upended TV conventions with its irreverent and satirical humor, providing viewers with a much-needed respite from the turmoil engulfing the nation. Movies such as The Graduate explored topics of sex and rebellion, and the original Star Trek featured an interracial kiss. “Where I come from,” declared Captain Kirk, “size, shape or color makes no difference.” It was the year that John Lennon sang “Revolution,” and Jefferson Airplane declared that “Now it’s time for you and me to have a revolution.” On Broadway, “The Boys in the Band” opened the closet door and explored the idea of same-sex attraction, while “Hair” celebrated the counterculture with its plea for “harmony and understanding.”

The year marked a milestone for the women’s liberation movement. On a sunny day in September women gathered on the Atlantic City boardwalk to protest the Miss America Beauty Contest. They threw items that symbolized oppression—girdles, curlers and bras—into a 𠇏reedom Trash Can.” Because the boardwalk was made of combustible wooden planks, the fire marshal refused to allow them to set the can on fire, but that didn’t prevent reporters from claiming the women had 𠇋urned” their bras. Two blocks away, African-American women, who had been unrepresented in the official contest, hosted a rival “Miss Black America” contest.

The spirit of rebellion even seeped into the Summer Olympics in Mexico City where American medal winners Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their gloved fists during the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” to show their support for black power.

Perhaps the most profound image of a year came on Christmas Eve, when the crew of Apollo 8 surfaced from behind the moon to see our blue planet as it emerged over the colorless lunar surface. Their iconic �rthrise” photo, which revealed a small and fragile planet, fed a growing environmental movement that called for preserving precious resources like clean air and water. “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark,” observed the astronomer Carl Sagan. “There is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”

A shot of Earthrise from the Apollo 8 mission. (Credit: NASA)

Nothing, however, exposed the raw nerve of discontent more than Vietnam. The year began with the United States still embroiled in a seemingly endless war. On January 31, 1968, communist troops launched an offensive during the lunar new year, called Tet. The assault killed 1,500 Americans and burst the illusion that the United States was winning the war. TV anchorman Walter Cronkite, echoing many Americans, declared the U.S. was “mired in stalemate.” At that moment, President Lyndon Johnson turned to an aide and said, “It’s all over.” If he had lost Cronkite, he had lost “Mr. Average Citizen.”

He was right. Support for LBJ’s Vietnam policy dropped to 26 percent and, with no end in sight, Johnson announced at the end of March that he would not seek reelection. Tet destroyed the Johnson presidency, but more importantly it called into question the Cold War belief that America had a mission to battle communism wherever it reared its ugly head. Over the next few decades, the two political parties would offer strikingly different approaches to the world. Many young people who protested the Vietnam War, like Bill Clinton, would seize control of the Democratic party—the party of JFK and LBJ that lurched the nation into war𠅊nd articulate a more restrained view of American power.

Republicans, meanwhile, became the new internationalists, insisting that the nation continue to flex its military muscle abroad. President Donald Trump has appropriated both messages, but more out of political expediency than conviction. He adopted an isolationist stance during the campaign, calling for an 𠇊merica First” approach to world affairs, but once in office he has threatened enemies with intervention and even nuclear annihilation.

Soldiers taking cover beside a fence as a fire rages among buildings in Saigon during the Tet Offensive. (Credit: Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

In the short run, the chief political beneficiary of the shift of opinion after Tet was Senator Eugene McCarthy, whose army of volunteers allowed him to score a psychological victory over LBJ in New Hampshire’s March primary. One of the 𠇌lean for Gene” volunteers who knocked on doors throughout the state was a Wellesley student named Hillary Clinton. Four days after the primary, however, Robert F. Kennedy, the brother of the slain president and now a senator from New York, entered the race for the Democratic nomination.

Many Democrats believed that Kennedy was the only politician in America who could pull together the fractured liberal coalition. “How do you seek to change a society that yields so painfully to change?” he asked his youthful supporters at campaign stops across the nation. Kennedy believed that convincing poor people of all colors to pursue their shared class interests offered the only solution to the deep racial hostility that was tearing the nation apart. “We have to convince the Negroes and poor whites that they have common interests,” Kennedy told a journalist. “If we can reconcile those two hostile groups, and then add the kids, you can really turn this country around.”

Kennedy was not the only voice calling for a class-based, biracial coalition that year. By 1968, Martin Luther King had abandoned his previous emphasis on dramatic confrontations and instead focused on community organizing to build a class-based, grassroots alliance among the poor. King, who spent most of the winter organizing a “poor people’s march on Washington,” argued that America’s racial problems could not be solved without addressing the issue of class. “We must recognize,” he said. “that we can’t solve our problems now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power.” King now considered himself a revolutionary, not a reformer.

In April, while in Memphis to support striking garbage workers, King reaffirmed his faith in the possibility of racial justice: “I may not get there with you. But we as a people will get to the promised land.” The following day, April 4, a bullet fired from the gun of a white ex-convict ripped through King’s neck, killing him instantly.

Robert F. Kennedy shaking hands with local residents as he visits riot-damaged communities in Washington, D.C. in April 1968 following a period of civil disorder triggered by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Credit: Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

With King dead, RFK became for many disaffected people, black and white, the only national leader who commanded respect and enthusiasm. But Kennedy suffered the same fate as King, gunned down by an assassin’s bullet that tore through his brain after he had won the crucial California primary.

The bullets that killed MLK and RFK snuffed out any hope of forging a new progressive coalition. For a generation, progressives have been left wondering: What if they had lived? Would Kennedy have gone on to secure the nomination and win in November? Would King’s “poor people’s march” have succeeded in sending a powerful signal about the possibility of forging a black-white alliance? We will never know the answer to those questions. Instead, their deaths were a potent reminder that bullets, not ballots, would shape the future of American politics. The assassinations demoralized young people who had protested the war, and guaranteed that the old guard would solidify their control over the party.

The old and new came together in Chicago for the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It proved a combustible mix. When the convention approved a plank supporting LBJ’s Vietnam policy, anti-war activists donned black arm bands and remained in their seats, singing “We Shall Overcome.” As dramatic as these events were, the real action was taking place outside the convention hall where the police assaulted a group of peaceful demonstrators. With no attempt to distinguish bystanders and peaceful protesters from lawbreakers, the police smashed people through plate-glass windows, fired tear-gas canisters indiscriminately and brutalized anyone who got in their way. “These are our children,” New York Times columnist Tom Wicker cried out as the violence swirled around him.

History of the Spanish Monarchy, Part 2

Last week, I decided to trace the history of the Spanish monarchy from the famed royal couple Ferdinand and Isabella (who co-founded modern Spain and sent Christopher Columbus on his way) to the present. When we left off, Spain had just liberated itself from Napoleon Bonaparte’s armies, adopted a democratic constitution, and freed their king from French imprisonment. King Ferdinand VII returned to his country greeted by cheering crowds as a wave of optimism swept the land. What could possibly go wrong?

How it all went wrong

So, let’s talk about that constitution. Adopted by the Spanish resistance in 1812, it was one of the most progressive and democratic documents of the time. However, it was far from universally accepted. There were many conservative forces in the country that opposed the new constitution, including King Ferdinand VII himself. It wasn’t long after his return that the king declared that the constitution was invalid because HE hadn’t signed it.

I mean, technically, that’s true, but he was a prisoner at the time, so…

In any case, Ferdinand VII decided to return Spain to an absolute monarchy where his word was law and “enemies of the state” were anyone he didn’t like. Naturally, fighting for years against Napoleon’s repression only to be rewarded by the repression of the very king you had fought for was a recipe for popular revolt and political instability. From 1820 to 1823, Ferdinand found himself a prisoner once again, this time of his own people, and had to be rescued by a French military expedition.

Of course, while Spain was suffering from instability and insurrection, its Latin American colonies decided that they wouldn’t get a better opportunity to win their independence, and one by one they broke free from Spanish rule. By the end of Ferdinand’s reign, only Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and some smaller islands remained under Spanish rule.

Then, on his deathbed, he managed to make things even worse just one more time before passing away. You will recall from last week that Ferdinand was descended from Philip V, a French prince who inherited the Spanish throne. One of the things that the prince had brought with him from France was the Salic Law, the rules of inheritance used by the French monarchs since the Middle Ages. One of its core tenets was that women could never inherit anything, ever. Ferdinand decided to ignore this, declaring what he called the “Pragmatic Sanction” and allowing his daughter, Isabella, to succeed him.

The problem was that Ferdinand’s brother, Don Carlos, Count of Molina, had spent his entire life believing that inheriting the Spanish throne was his God-given right, and refused to accept his three-year-old niece as his queen. Instead, he launched the first of what would be several “Carlist Wars” over the succession to the Spanish throne. For seven years, Spain was torn apart by civil war over rival claimants to the crown.

A century of instability

The young Isabella’s mother had to act quickly to get some sort of support for her daughter or else Don Carlos would walk all over Spain. Out of desperation more than anything, she declared her support for the very same pro-democratic forces her late husband had so brutally suppressed, offering to pardon them all. The ploy worked, and the princess was crowned Queen Isabella II.

Unfortunately for Spain, Isabella II’s reign was always wobbly and had a weak foundation. She was constantly forced to balance various scheming, back-stabbing factions and weather military coups. At last, she was overwhelmed by these forces in 1868, fleeing to Paris as revolutionaries seized Madrid.

Upon this victory the revolutionaries all unanimously cried, “We won! Um, now what?”

The factions that had overthrown Isabella were far from united, and bickered among each other about what sort of government to create. It wasn’t until 1870 that they settled on a new monarch: an Italian prince named Amedeo, Duke of Aosta. He accepted the invitation and was crowned King Amadeo I.

He fared even worse. The Carlists, upset that an Italian had been chosen over Don Carlos’s grandson, rose up in revolt again. Meanwhile, the political infighting between rival factions continued, one of Amadeo’s biggest supporters was assassinated, and worst of all, in 1873, the army went on strike.

Let me repeat that. The army. Went. On strike.

Amadeo knew full well that no regime lasts long without the military’s support, so he decided now would be as good of a time as any to make a gracious exit. This left the Spanish government in another bind they certainly didn’t want Isabella II back, nor did they want the Carlists to win, and with Amadeo declaring Spain “ungovernable” it was unlikely that they could find another European prince to elect. Then, somebody remembered that Spain didn’t have to be a monarchy if it didn’t want to be.

Thus was born the First Spanish Republic, a fresh, new experiment in Spanish politics. Unfortunately, said fresh, new experiment had to face down three simultaneous civil wars and even more political struggles and military coups. The short-lived republic managed to have five presidents in less than two years, before it was ultimately overthrown by the royalists.

Rather than bring Isabella II back, it was decided that her son, Alfonso XII, should take the throne. Wait, Alfonso XII? There was never a king of Spain named Alfonso before now! Well, just as his great-great-grand-uncle Ferdinand VI had done, Alfonso was counting the kings of the various kingdoms that existed in Spain before it was united. Or he was just making things up. I’m going with “he was making things up”.

Made-up numerals aside, Alfonso managed to defeat the Carlists and other rebels and to find a way to bring peace to Spain’s political factions. Namely, he had the elections rigged so the party that was in power always alternated with each election. This plan worked, Spain started rebuilding at last, and the economy started to flourish.

Alfonso XII’s reign was short-lived, though. In 1885, he contracted both tuberculosis and dysentery, as if one of those diseases wasn’t horrible enough by itself, and died soon after. However, during his very short reign he had managed to produce an heir that could inherit the Spanish throne, keep the dynasty in power, and maintain this new stability.

It’s just that this heir happened to be in his mother’s womb at the time.

Alfonso XIII is, as far as I can tell, one of only a tiny handful of monarchs whose reign began at birth. Naturally, his mother acted as regent for him as he grew up. Though, by the time he had come of age enough to rule on his own, Spain had lost the Spanish-American War, and with it, what was left of its empire. Oops.

In power, Alfonso managed to keep Spain out of World War I, but then made the mistake of befriending a military officer and nobleman named Miguel Primo de Rivera. The reason this was a mistake was that Primo de Rivera was a brutal dictator. In 1930, with uprisings in the streets, Alfonso XIII fired the dictator, but it was too late. His reign had been stained. Alfonso fled to Rome, and the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed.

The new Spanish Republic was a bit more successful than its predecessor in that it lasted a bit longer and didn’t immediately get overwhelmed with crisis after crisis. Then the 1936 elections brought to power a coalition known as the “Popular Front”, a political alliance joining more moderate liberals and progressives with socialists and communists. To Spain’s conservatives, this was the last straw, and civil war broke out.

The infamous Spanish Civil War shocked the world with its sheer brutality, as Nationalist rebels led by Francisco Franco and backed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy fought a loose alliance of pro-Republican liberals backed by Mexico, communists backed by the USSR, anarchists, and international volunteers from around the world. Collateral damage was horrific as cities were blasted to bits. Both sides are known to have committed atrocities, with about 38,000 killed in the communist “Red Terror” and about 200,000 killed in Franco’s “White Terror”. Yet the advantage was always Franco’s on the battlefield – the Nazis kept him well-supplied while his enemies fought each other as much as they fought him. By 1939, Franco’s power was secure.

The dictator and the king

Francisco Franco turned Spain into a fascist state modeled on Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany. All power vested in a dictator whose title translated into English means “leader”? Check. Thugs and secret police keeping the people too scared to speak out or resist? Check. Repression of minority groups, especially Jews? Check. The dictator’s will imposed by a unified, blindly loyal, ideologically zealous political party with a monopoly on power?

On the surface, Franco’s political party looked like the fascist parties it was modeled on, but its name gives away its true nature: The Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista. When you see a super-long name like that, you know that you have something formed from the fusion of many different groups. These different groups competed with each other for Franco’s favor, as Franco’s favor meant power. Franco liked to keep these groups so busy competing with each other that they couldn’t turn against him.

However, one of those factions that helped Franco gain power and stay in power was the Carlists. Yes, more than a century later, the Carlists still were influencing Spanish politics! Indeed, part of how Franco got them on his side was that he promised to install a descendant of old Don Carlos on the Spanish throne. Eventually. At some point.

This came to be a bit of a problem as Franco grew older and the need to put a successor in place grew stronger. Wait, what’s this? A Spanish prince, a grandson of Alfonso XIII, who is also acceptable to some of the Carlists as a legitimate heir? Not only that, but he’s a public and outspoken supporter of Franco’s regime? Why, it’s too good to be true!

In 1969, Franco declared Juan Carlos de Borbón his heir, giving him the title “Prince of Spain”, and having him appear side-by-side with him at important state functions. As Franco’s health worsened, the prince took over more and more of his official duties, and when Franco passed away in 1975, the prince was crowned King Juan Carlos I.

It’s always the quiet ones…

Then, upon taking the throne, Juan Carlos announced, “Surprise! I’ve actually been a secret supporter of democracy and opponent of Franco all along!” In the years that followed, Juan Carlos restored democracy, removed all of Franco’s oppressive restrictions on the Spanish people’s freedoms, and held free elections. In 1981, hard-line supporters of Franco’s old regime attempted to stage a military coup to stop this new king from destroying their late leader’s work, but Juan Carlos gave a televised speech condemning the coup, and with public support clearly backing the king, the coup plotters surrendered.

With that out of the way, Juan Carlos settled into his new role as constitutional monarch in the style of Queen Elizabeth II. He allowed the democratically-elected representatives of the people govern Spain while he accepted a role that was largely ceremonial. But he had one more political act to make.

On June 19, 2014, Juan Carlos abdicated his throne, passing the crown to his son, Felipe VI. In so doing, he made sure that this newly-restored monarchy and democracy would continue to function after he was gone, rather than waiting until he passed away and hoping on his deathbed that things work out. As king, Felipe has mostly kept his father’s policies of staying out of direct involvement in politics and letting democracy do its thing. The biggest move the new king has made so far is announce that he’s giving himself a 20% pay cut.

Juan Carlos and his wife, Sophia of Greece and Denmark, still are called “King” and “Queen”, so if you are in Spain and mention “the King” or “the Queen” it might be wise to specify which one you are talking about. King Felipe is married to Queen Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, a former news anchor. They have two daughters: Leonor, Princess of Austurias, the first in line to succeed her father, and Infanta Sofia. As of this writing, Princess Leonor is 10 years old and Princess Sofia is 8. With that, we have finally reached the end of our look at the history of the Spanish monarchy.

Oh, and before you ask, “Felipe” is Spanish for “Philip”, so he’s technically “Philip VI”, but apparently he prefers the Spanish name. Spain, your kings’ chosen royal names are always confusing.

When is democracy illegitimate?

Yesterdays attempted referendum for independence in Catalonia ended in violence on a level that was shocking to many, especially since it took place in a Western European country like Spain. The Spanish nation has been a democracy ever since King Juan Carlos I refused to take over after El Caudillo, as Ferdinand Franco, Spain’s fascist strong man, was known. King Juan Carlos I led Spain on a transition to constitutional democratic monarchy, something that endeared him to many Spaniards. Still Spain still bares scars from the Civil War 1936-1939 and the years of francoism. The Basques for instance have long struggled for independence, being culturally and linguistically different from the rest of Spain, a struggle that was made more severe being on the loosing side of the Civil War. The more radical Basques turned to terrorism in the form of ETA, Euskadi Ta Askatasuna – Basque Homeland and Liberty. Today the Basque nationalists have turned away from terrorism to a political struggle, mostly in the form of Herri Batasuna, a far left nationalist party. The development is quite similar to that in Northern Ireland where also the IRA, who are ideologically quite similar to ETA, the two terrorist organizations have cooperated in the past, has laid down arms and instead embarked on a peaceful political solution through Sinn Féin instead.

Catalonia as well as the Basque country has it’s own historical, cultural and linguistical identity, and given the part Barcelona played during the Civil War, that identity was held down during the Franco Era. That is why Madrid’s harsh response, not only proclaiming the referendum illegal, but also like Prime minister Mariano Rajoy publicly refusing that it even took place, and also sending in the paramilitary Guardia Civil that left over 800 people injured.

Of the abundant footage available online people injured where not violent rioters, but peaceful Catalans voting for independence. Reactions among leading politicians around Europe has been quite few, at least when it comes to the political repercussions other than the level of violence showed by Guardia Civil. However Ramón Luis Valcárel, the vice President of the European Parliament wrote on Twitter:

“-Today we have witnessed a nationalistic propaganda act, undemocratic a coup attempt against Spanish democracy, and so a coup against Europe.”

This concerns me. Greatly. True enough, the Catalans attempted referendum is against the Spanish constitution. But the violent crack down from Madrid casts shadows from the sordid past and rather strengthens the Catalan’s cause. If Madrid had just said, go ahead, the vote is unconstitutional and as such it will not be adhered to, that would have been fine. But now what we are witnessing is rather more disturbing. Valcarél is saying that voting is a coup against Europe. Really? Brussels had no problem in supporting the coup in Kiev back in 2014 when the albeit corrupt but still democratically elected Yanukovych was ousted which as we now know triggered the Russian invasion of Crimea, and the latter’s referendum to secede from Ukraine to Russia, which was not accepted by the West, and ultimately triggered the civil war in the Donbass with considerable Russian involvement. Expressing support for the coup in Kiev that has led Ukraine into utter deluge Brussels had no problems with. Neither so with Kosovo seceding from what was left of Yugoslavia either. Some might argue that those were under different circumstances, true enough, the Catalan referendum was not held under a situation of clouds of war at the horizon. But the response from Madrid and Brussels are troublesome nonetheless because this shows the double standards in today’s Europe. Machiavelli wrote Il Principe under a different era, during days of the dynastic Italian city states. However his theories still bares validity even to this day, albeit under different shapes and circumstances. Apparently Brussels sees it fit to adhere to the proverb: “-The end justifies the means.”as long as things come down to maintain political hegemony for Brussels and it’s political agenda. EU-commissioner Jean Claude Juncker as on repeated occasions denounced referendums among the citizens of Europe. Why? It is quite evident, it is unlikely that there is popular support for the ultimate goal of a United States of Europe, Spinelli’s life long dream. It is from the same perspective that we must see Valcárel’s tweet.

Much of the West is today stuck in a narrative of identity politics. Being skeptical towards European federalism is frequently portrayed as being equal of being a xenophobic chauvinistic nationalist. There is however a great difference in being lets say a liberal conservative patriot and being a rampant chauvinistic national socialist. Being against the ultimate goal of the United States of Europe governed from Brussels is equal of running Moscow’s errands. The EU is often portrayed as a project of peace, and sure enough the Coal and Steel Union certainly was so. The Common Market also brought former enemies closer. Still, when war broke out in August of 1914 between Britain and Germany it was to world’s two greatest trading partners that went to war against each other. Unfortunately people tend to only see that parts of history that speaks for their narrative and the most dogmatic pro-Europe demagogues, like we saw in the case of Valcárel’s comment on the Catalan referendum, tend to brand those opposing as equal to traitors against the greater cause, i.e. the idea of “Europe”. But lets be honest, it was liberal nationalism that ultimately paved the way for democracy as we know it today. What would 1848 been like without liberal nationalism? The EU is seen as the guarantor of liberty, freedom and democracy. But does Brussels stand for democracy when it’s non-elected leader demands that no popular referendums should be held that could interfere with the project? Spinelli’s idea of how the ultimate goal of a federal Europe was to be imposed upon the probably unwilling citizens of the various states that make up the European Union was to step by step create a federation that no one would really see coming, even less withdraw from. Bear in mind that Spinelli was a communist and as such probably had quite a different idea what constitutes a democracy compared to say a liberal or a conservative. Thus Brexit came as a shock to Brussels. Those that supported Brexit were by definition labelled as ignorant xenophobes that really did not know what was best their own good, whether this was the case or not.

So, the heavy handed response to the referendum of independence in Catalonia coupled with the comments made by leading European politicians, regardless if you support the Catalonian referendum or not, that is, lets be fair, unconstitutional, really concerns me for the future of Europe. I admit, I am not a keen supporter of the idea of a federal United States of Europe, but things are becoming rather disturbing when voting and the strife for democracy are being seen as illegitimate..

Watch the video: General Franco Announces Prince Juan Carlos As His Choice of Successor. Spanish Cortes. July 1969 (December 2021).