Spain’s disgraced ex-king leaves public life
Since his son, Felipe, took the crown, Juan Carlos de Borbón has endured humiliation and ill health and was denied an invitation to yesterday’s Armed Forces Day in Seville.
Last week the 81-year-old wrote to his son that it was time to “start a new chapter in my life and complete my retirement from public life”.
His family was kept in exile by fascist dictator Francisco Franco and when he was 18, Juan Carlos “accidentally” shot dead his younger brother, Alfonso, at the family’s home in Portugal.
Juan Carlos launched Spain’s democratic transition after the dictator’s death in 1975 and was proclaimed king two days afterwards. He is widely credited with safeguarding the transition to democracy, helping to put down a coup in 1981 by appealing to military chiefs for support and making a key television address.
But the royal scandals reawakened Spain’s republican sympathies, leading to calls from the left-wing Podemos party for a referendum on the monarchy.
Juan Carlos’s disastrous elephant hunting expedition in Botswana in 2012 led to his abdication in 2014.
He took the safari with a German princess, Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, his former mistress, while Spain was suffering under austerity measures.
An embezzlement scandal involving Cristina, his daughter, and son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin, who is now in prison, further reduced his popularity, which led to a reduction in his public engagements.
He is still, however, a regular customer at top restaurants.
Late last year a photo showed him at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince accused of ordering the murder of the exiled journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. A newspaper called it “the photo of shame”.
Then secretly recorded conversations Corinna had with a former police chief were made public.
She said Juan Carlos received commissions on commercial contracts in the Arab World and had used her name to hide real-estate assets and Swiss bank accounts.
The princess claimed that Spain’s intelligence chief said he could not guarantee the safety of her family if she spoke out about her six-year affair with Juan Carlos.
His former mistress alleged that Spanish security agents ransacked her Monaco apartment to remove documents linked to Juan Carlos. She claimed they left a book about Princess Diana with the message: “Between Nice and Monaco there are a lot of tunnels”, in reference to Diana’s death in a Parisian underpass.
Juan Carlos de Borbón and his wife, Sofia, bid farewell to parliament. Picture credit: YouTube