News / Europe

Juan Carlos' Legacy Shrouded by Recent Family Scandals

  • Spain's King Juan Carlos smiles in one of his latest audiences at the Zarzuela Palace outside Madrid, May 27, 2014.
  • In this photo released by the Royal Palace, Spain's King Juan Carlos signs a document in the Zarzuela Palace opening the way for his abdication, June 2, 2014.
  • Spain's King Juan Carlos, his son Crown Prince Felipe and granddaughter Infanta Leonor pose at Zarzuela Palace in Madrid, July 26, 2012.
  • Spain's King Juan Carlos kisses the ring of Pope Benedict next to Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at Madrid's Barajas airport, August 18, 2011.
  • Spanish King Juan Carlos drinks wine out of a large traditional glass of Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate area during a visit in Deidesheim, Germany, July 17, 1997.
  • Spain's Princess Elena waves to the crowds as she is escorted by her father King Juan Carlos to the altar of Seville's cathedral on March 18, 1995.
  • King Juan Carlos of Spain is thrown into a swimming pool after winning the King's Cup Yacht Race in Palma de Mallorca, August 8, 1993.
  • Former Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco salutes beside his wife Carmen Polo, the then Prince Juan Carlos of Spain and his wife Princess Sofia as they listen to the national anthem during a ceremony at El Pardo Palace, Oct. 4, 1975.
Reuters
King Juan Carlos, who announced plans to abdicate on Monday, helped guide Spain to democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, but his 40-year reign was clouded at its end by a graft scandal and accusations he was out of touch with the economic suffering of his people.
 
The reign of Juan Carlos, 76, is best known for a television broadcast he made in the early hours of February 24, 1981 condemning a revolt by right-wing military officers aggrieved by democratic reforms. Television footage of the leader of the rebels firing his revolver in parliament to cow deputies had been shown across the world.
 
“The crown, symbol of the permanence and unity of the motherland, cannot tolerate any actions or attitudes by persons who intend to interrupt the democratic process by force,” he said to a nation on tenterhooks the night of the coup attempt.
 
Despite suspicions among some on the left that he had originally encouraged the attempted putsch, Juan Carlos went on to earn the respect of notable, long-standing republicans.
 
“If the king had not been there on February 23 the military coup would have triumphed - of that I have no doubt,” veteran Communist Party leader Santiago Carrillo, who spent about 40 years in exile during Franco's reign, told Reuters in 2001.
 
Unlike British royalty

As a monarch, Juan Carlos and his wife, Queen Sophia, came across as warm and approachable, in contrast to more distant British royals. The king is a passionate sailor and also enjoyed bear hunting, skiing and motorbiking.
 
But Spanish media traditionally treated the royal family with a deference that would be the envy of British counterparts, eschewing more controversial aspects of his life.
 
A graft scandal had eroded the king's popularity in recent years. His daughter Princess Cristina and her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, are under investigation over alleged embezzlement of 6 million euros in public funds through his charity.
 
He himself faced accusations of being out of touch when caught on a lavish privately-funded elephant-hunting trip while Spaniards at home were suffering deep and sustained economic recession and high unemployment.
 
His unexpected decision to abdicate in favor of his son Prince Felipe was announced by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. He said the king, whose health is failing and who has had five operations in two years, was stepping down on personal grounds.
 
Sources at the royal palace cited political reasons.
 
Chosen by Franco

Some critics had initially seen the king as a puppet chosen by Franco, who had ruled Spain for decades after winning a long civil war in 1939. Franco had declared himself head of state but was also de facto regent since the royal family was in exile.
 
Juan Carlos was crowned two days after Franco's death, on Nov. 22, 1975. Franco officially designated Juan Carlos as his successor in 1969, but had groomed him since 1948, when the future king first set foot in Spain at the age of 10.
 
Right-wing diehards had expected the king to continue with Franco's authoritarian style and felt betrayed when he paved the way for Spain to adopt a democratic constitution in 1978.

He cemented his popularity with gestures such as hugging Spanish captain Iker Castillas after his side won the European football championship in 2008, or when he famously put down Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at a 2007 summit.
 
The king's irritated outburst of “Why don't you shut up!” during a typically long-winded Chavez speech instantly became the most popular ring tone in Spain.
 
His humble apology for the elephant-hunting incident, when he shuffled out of his hospital room after hip surgery and muttered “I'm very sorry. I made a mistake and it won't happen again” helped mend his reputation with many Spaniards.
 
Family in exile

Juan Carlos's early years were marked by tragedy, family exile and a tug-of-war between his father and Franco.
 
Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor Maria Borbon y Borbon-Dos Sicilias was born Jan. 5, 1938, on the eve of World War Two in Rome, where the Spanish royals lived after fleeing Spain when it became a republic in 1931.
 
Journalists and historians have said the hands-off approach to the family after its return was needed to safeguard a young and fragile democracy, although critics have said this amounted to censorship.
 
“We've had democracy for 30 years now,” said Senator Inaki Aanasagasti in 2010, a leading critic of the monarchy. “The media have been too benevolent towards the king in a democratic state.”
 
Very few Spaniards, for example, know about a fatal shooting accident when the king was 18. His younger brother Alfonso died in 1956 aged 15 in the family home in Portugal. A statement cleared by Franco said Alfonso was killed while cleaning a gun with his brother.
 
However, historian Paul Preston, in his 2003 biography on the King, says it is a widely accepted fact today that Juan Carlos' finger was “on the trigger” when the gun was fired.
 
Juan Carlos's youth was also marred by a rocky relationship with his father after he agreed to be Franco's successor and king, although Don Juan was heir to the throne and did not renounce his dynastic rights until May 1977.
 
Attended military academies

The king was educated in Switzerland, Portugal and later in armed forces academies in Spain and was often seen wearing military uniform.
 
He married Princess Sophia of Greece, the eldest daughter of King Paul I and Queen Federica, in 1962.
 
The king and queen have three children and eight grandchildren. His only son and youngest child, Felipe, married Letizia Ortiz, a television news presenter, in May 2004.

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More