Juan Carlos I reigned as king of Spain from November 1975 until his abdication in June 2014
Juan Carlos I reigned as king of Spain from November 1975 until his abdication in June 2014.
He was a popular monarch for most of his four-decade reign who played a critical role in the country’s transition to democracy.
He is the grandson of Alfonso XIII, the last king of Spain before the abolition of the monarchy in 1931 and the subsequent declaration of the Second Spanish Republic.
Juan Carlos was born in Rome, Italy, on January 5, 1938, during his family’s exile. He came to Spain in 1947 to continue his studies and entered the Zaragoza military academy.
He completed his tertiary education at the University of Madrid and went on to marry Princess Sofia of Greece and Denmark in Athens in 1962.
They went on to have two daughters and a son together: Elena, Cristina, and Felipe.
Juan Carlos first began periodically acting as Spain’s head of state in the summer of 1974. Fascist dictator Francisco Franco died in November the following year and Juan Carlos became king on 22 November 1975, two days after Franco’s death.
Juan Carlos was hailed for his role in Spain’s transition to democracy and reforms to dismantle the Francoist regime.
However the King and the monarchy’s reputation began to suffer after controversies surrounding his family arose.
In April 2012, Juan Carlos faced criticism for an elephant-hunting trip in Botswana during a time of financial crisis in Spain.
The public found out about the trip only after the King injured himself and a special aircraft was sent to bring him home.
Pictured left to right: Then-Princess Letizia , Prince Felipe, Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos pose for a photo in 2009
Spanish officials stated that the expenses of the trip were not paid by taxpayers or by the palace, but by Syrian businessman Mohamed Eyad Kayali.
Corruption scandals circling the royal family closed in when his daughter, Princess Cristina, was accused of tax fraud in 2014 and became the first Spanish royal to stand trial. She was later acquitted, but her husband was sentenced.
He abdicated in favour of his son, Prince Felipe, in 2014, and last year, Juan Carlos announced his decision to withdraw from public life, ending his remaining institutional functions and appearances from June 2019. Last August, he successfully underwent heart surgery in Madrid.
In June 2020, Spain’s supreme court prosecutor opened an investigation into Juan Carlos’ involvement in a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia that was granted to a group of Spanish companies in 2011.
King Felipe renounced his own inheritance and stripped his father of his palace allowance in March after reports the latter received $100 million from the late Saudi king and gave millions to a businesswoman.