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Spain's Crown Prince Felipe to Ascend to Throne

Spanish flags are displayed at Madrid's Town Hall, June 18, 2014.
Spain enters a new era Thursday when Crown Prince Felipe will be sworn in as the new king, taking over for his father, Juan Carlos.

Thursday's handover will be simple and low-key. Spanish officials say the royal family is mindful that in a country struggling with a recession and 25% unemployment, an extravagant ceremony would be out of place.

The 76-year-old Juan Carlos formally abdicated the throne Wednesday after nearly 40 years.

Forcing him to give up power are health problems and scandal, including an elephant hunting trip to Africa in 2012 while Spain was at the height of its economic crisis.

Juan Carlos rose to power in 1975 when longtime military dictator Francisco Franco restored the Spanish monarchy just before his death.

But instead of continuing Franco's repressive rule, Juan Carlos moved Spain toward democracy and almost single-handedly put down a military coup attempt in 1981.