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 Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines 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.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid