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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid