Juan Carlos Of Spain

"Juan Carlos" redirects here. For other uses, see Juan Carlos (disambiguation).

Juan Carlos I
King Juan Carlos I in 2009
King of Spain (more)
Reign 22 November 1975 – present
Enthronement 27 November 1975
Predecessor Alejandro Rodríguez de Valcárcel (interim Head of State)
Alfonso XIII (as King of Spain)
Heir apparent Felipe, Prince of Asturias
Prime Ministers
Spouse Sophia of Greece and Denmark
Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo
Infanta Cristina, Duchess of Palma de Mallorca
Felipe, Prince of Asturias
Full name
Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias
House House of Bourbon[1][2]
Father Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona
Mother Princess María de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies
Born (1938-01-05) 5 January 1938 (age 76)
Rome, Italy
Religion Roman Catholicism
Spanish Royal Family

HM The King
HM The Queen

HRH The Duchess of Badajoz

HRH The Duchess of Soria and Hernani
HE The Duke of Soria and Hernani

HRH The Dowager Duchess of Calabria

Juan Carlos I (Spanish pronunciation: [xwaŋˈkarlos], anglicised as John Charles I; Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias; born 5 January 1938) is the current King of Spain.

Spanish dictator Francisco Franco named Juan Carlos as the next head of state in 1969.[3] He became King on 22 November 1975, two days after Franco's death, the first reigning monarch since 1931. Soon after being crowned, Juan Carlos introduced reforms to dismantle the Francoist regime and begin the Spanish transition to democracy. This led to the approval of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 in a referendum, which established a constitutional monarchy. Juan Carlos also played a major role in stopping the 1981 coup attempt.

According to the Spanish Constitution, the monarch is the head-of-state and commander-in-chief of the Spanish Armed Forces[4][5] and also plays a role in promoting Ibero-American relations, the "nations of its historical community".[4][5] In this capacity, the King of Spain serves as the president of the Ibero-American States Organization, representing over 700,000,000 people in 24 member nations worldwide. In 2008 he was considered the most popular leader in all Ibero-America.[6]

Early life

Juan Carlos was born to Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona, and Princess María Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies in Rome, Italy, where his grandfather, King Alfonso XIII, and other members of the Spanish royal family had settled following the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931. He was baptized as Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias. His early life was dictated largely by the political concerns of his father and General Franco. He moved to Spain in 1948 to be educated there after his father persuaded Franco to allow it. He began his studies in San Sebastián and finished them in 1954 at the San Isidro Institute in Madrid. He then joined the army, doing his officer training from 1955 to 1957 at the Military Academy of Zaragoza.

Juan Carlos has two sisters: Infanta Pilar, Duchess of Badajoz (born 1936) and Infanta Margarita, Duchess of Soria (born 1939). He also had a younger brother, Alfonso.

Alfonso's death

In March 1956, Juan Carlos's younger brother Alfonso died in a gun accident at the family's home Villa Giralda in Estoril, Portugal. The Spanish Embassy in Portugal then issued the following official communiqué:[7]

Whilst His Highness Prince Alfonso was cleaning a revolver last evening with his brother, a shot was fired hitting his forehead and killing him in a few minutes. The accident took place at 20.30 hours, after the Infante's return from the Maundy Thursday religious service, during which he had received holy communion.

Rumors appeared in newspapers that the gun had actually been held by Juan Carlos at the moment the shot was fired. Josefina Carolo, dressmaker to Juan Carlos's mother, said that Juan Carlos pointed the pistol at Alfonso and pulled the trigger, unaware that the pistol was loaded. Bernardo Arnoso, a Portuguese friend of Juan Carlos, also said that Juan Carlos fired the pistol not knowing that it was loaded, and adding that the bullet ricocheted off a wall hitting Alfonso in the face. Helena Matheopoulos, a Greek author who spoke with Juan Carlos's sister Pilar, said that Alfonso had been out of the room and when he returned and pushed the door open, the door knocked Juan Carlos in the arm causing him to fire the pistol.[8][9]


In 1957, Juan Carlos spent a year in the naval school at Marin, Pontevedra, and another in the Air Force school in San Javier in Murcia. In 1960–1 he studied Law, International Political Economy and Public Finance at Complutense University.[10] He then went to live in the Palace of Zarzuela, and began carrying out official engagements.

Prince of Spain (1969–1975)

The dictatorial regime of Francisco Franco came to power during the Spanish Civil War, which pitted democrats, anarchists, socialists, and communists, supported in part by the Soviet Union and by international volunteers, against conservatives, monarchists, nationalists, and fascists, supported by both Hitler and Mussolini, with the latter group ultimately emerging successful with the support of neighbouring Portugal and the major European Axis powers of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Despite his alliance with monarchists, Franco was not eager to restore the deposed Spanish monarchy once in power, preferring to head a regime with himself as head of state for life. Though Franco's partisan supporters generally accepted this arrangement for the present, much debate quickly ensued over who would replace Franco upon his death. The far right factions demanded the return of a hardline absolute monarchy, and eventually Franco agreed that his successor would be a monarch. Franco had no intention of restoring the constitutional form of monarchy known during the 19th century or the republican form of government created by the Spanish Constitution of 1931.

The heir to the throne of Spain was Juan de Borbón (Count of Barcelona), the son of the late Alfonso XIII. However, General Franco viewed the heir with extreme suspicion, believing him to be a liberal who was opposed to his regime. Franco then considered giving the Spanish throne to Juan Carlos's cousin Alfonso, Duke of Anjou and Cádiz. Alfonso was known to be an ardent Francoist and would marry Franco's granddaughter, Doña María del Carmen Martínez-Bordiú y Franco in 1972.

Ultimately, Franco decided to skip a generation and name Juan de Borbón's son, Prince Juan Carlos, as his personal successor. Franco hoped the young prince could be groomed to take over the nation while still maintaining the ultraconservative nature of his regime. In 1969, Juan Carlos was officially designated heir-apparent and was given the new title of Prince of Spain (not the traditional Prince of Asturias). As a condition of being named heir-apparent, he was required to swear loyalty to Franco's Movimiento Nacional, which he did with little outward hesitation.

Prince Juan Carlos met and consulted Franco many times while heir apparent and often took part in official and ceremonial state functions standing alongside the dictator, much to the anger of hardline republicans and more moderate liberals, who hoped that Franco's death would bring in an era of reform. During 1969–1975, Juan Carlos publicly supported Franco's regime. Although Franco's health worsened during those years, whenever he did appear in public, from state dinners to military parades, it was in Juan Carlos's company as he continued to praise Franco and his government for the economic growth and positive changes in Spain. However, as the years progressed, Juan Carlos began meeting secretly with political opposition leaders and exiles, who were fighting to bring liberal reform to the country. He also had secret conversations with his father over the telephone. Franco, for his part, remained largely oblivious to the prince's actions and denied allegations from his ministers and advisors that Juan Carlos was in any way disloyal to his vision of the regime.

During periods of Franco's temporary incapacity in 1974 and 1975 Juan Carlos was acting head of state. Near death, on 30 October 1975, Franco gave full control to Juan Carlos. On 22 November, following Franco's death, the Cortes Generales proclaimed Juan Carlos King of Spain. In his coronation speech of 22 November 1975, the monarch himself spoke of three factors: the historical tradition, national laws, and the will of the people, and in so doing referred to a process dating back to the Civil War of 1936-39.[11] 27 November, Juan Carlos was anointed king in a ceremony called Holy Spirit Mass, which was the equivalent of a coronation, at the Jerónimos Church in Madrid. He opted not to call [12] himself Juan III or Carlos V, but Juan Carlos I.

Restoration of the monarchy

Juan Carlos quickly instituted reforms, to the great displeasure of Falangist and conservative (monarchist) elements, especially in the military, who had expected him to maintain the authoritarian state. He appointed Adolfo Suárez, a former leader of the Movimiento Nacional, as Prime Minister of Spain.

On 20 May 1977, the leader of the only recently legalized Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) Felipe González, accompanied by Javier Solana, visited Juan Carlos in the Zarzuela Palace. The event represented a key endorsement of the monarchy from Spain's political left, who had been historically republican. Left-wing support for the monarchy grew when the Communist Party of Spain was legalized shortly thereafter, a move Juan Carlos had pressed for, despite enormous right-wing military opposition at that time, during the Cold War.

On 15 June 1977, Spain held its first post-Franco democratic elections. In 1978, the government promulgated a new Constitution that acknowledged Juan Carlos as rightful heir of the Spanish dynasty and King; specifically, Title II, Section 57 asserted Juan Carlos' right to the throne of Spain by dynastic succession in the Borbón tradition, as "the legitimate heir of the historic dynasty" rather than as the designated successor of Franco.[4][13] The Constitution was passed by the democratically elected Constituent Cortes, ratified by the people in a referendum (6 December) and then signed into law by the King before a solemn meeting of the Cortes.

Further legitimacy was restored to Juan Carlos' position on 14 May 1977, when his father, Don Juan (whom many monarchists had recognized as the legitimate, exiled King of Spain during the Franco era), formally renounced his claim to the Throne and recognized his son as the sole head of the Spanish Royal House, transferring to him the historical heritage of the Spanish monarchy, thus making Juan Carlos both the de facto and the de jure (rightful) king in the eyes of the traditional monarchists. Juan Carlos, who had already been King since Franco's death, gave an acceptance address after his father's resignation speech and thanked him by confirming the title of Count of Barcelona that Don Juan had assumed in exile. It was a sovereign title associated to the crown.

An attempted military coup, known as 23-F, occurred on 23 February 1981, when the Cortes were seized by members of the Guardia Civil in the parliamentary chamber. During the coup, the king, dressed as Captain-General of the Spanish armed forces, gave a public television broadcast calling for unambiguous support for the legitimate democratic government. The broadcast is believed to be a major factor in foiling the coup. Certainly, in the hours before his speech, he personally called many senior military figures to tell them that he was opposed to the coup and that they must defend the democratic government while on his orders his staff refused to put through leaders of the coup through to him on the phone. The coup leaders had promised many of their potential supporters that they were acting in the King's name and with his approval but were able to demonstrate neither and the broadcast - coming just after midnight on the night of the coup - definitively showed the King's opposition to the coup makers.

When Juan Carlos became king, Communist leader Santiago Carrillo nicknamed him Juan Carlos the Brief, predicting that the monarchy would soon be swept away with the other remnants of the Franco era. After the collapse of the attempted coup mentioned above, however, in an emotional statement, Carrillo told television viewers: "God save the king." The Communist leader also remarked: "Today, we are all monarchists." If public support for the monarchy among democrats and leftists before 1981 had been limited, following the king's handling of the coup, it became significantly greater. According to a poll in the newspaper El Mundo in November 2005, 77.5% of Spaniards thought Juan Carlos was "good or very good", 15.4% "not so good", and only 7.1% "bad or very bad". Even so, the issue of the monarchy re-emerged on 28 September 2007 as photos of the king were burnt in public in Catalonia by small groups of protesters wanting the restoration of the Republic.[14]

In July 2000, Juan Carlos was the target of an enraged protester when Juan María Fernández y Krohn,[15] who had previously tried to take the life of Pope John Paul II, began shouting "Murderer! Murderer!" at the king and then approached him in a very threatening manner.

Role in contemporary Spanish politics

The election of socialist leader Felipe González to the Spanish prime ministership in 1982 marked the effective end of the King's active involvement in Spanish politics. González would govern for over a decade, and his administration helped consolidate the democratic gains and thus maintained the stability of the nation. While the king is generally reckoned as having a merely ceremonial role in politics, he commands great moral authority as an essential symbol of the country's unity.

Under the constitution, the King has immunity from prosecution in matters relating to his official duties. This is so because every act of the King as such (and not as a citizen) needs to be undersigned by a government official, thus making the undersigner responsible instead of the king. The honour of the Royal Family is specially protected from offences by the Spanish Penal Code. Under this protection, Basque independentist Arnaldo Otegi[16] and cartoonists from El Jueves were tried and punished.

The King gives an annual speech to the nation on Christmas Eve. He is the commander-in-chief of the Spanish armed forces.

When the media asked Juan Carlos in 2005 if he would endorse the bill legalising gay marriage that was then being debated in the Cortes Generales, he answered "Soy el Rey de España y no el de Bélgica" ("I am the King of Spain, not of Belgium") – a reference to King Baudouin I of Belgium, who had refused to sign the Belgian law legalising abortion.[17] The King gave his Royal Assent to Law 13/2005 on 1 July 2005; the law legalising gay marriage was gazetted in the Boletín Oficial del Estado on 2 July, and came into effect on 3 July.[18]

In November 2007, at the Ibero-American Summit in Santiago de Chile, during a heated exchange, Juan Carlos interrupted Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and asked him, "¿Por qué no te callas?" ("Why don't you shut up?" using the familiar "tu" form of "you" to underline the disdain). Chávez had been interrupting the Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, while the latter was defending his predecessor and political opponent, José María Aznar, after Chávez had referred to Aznar as a fascist and "less human than snakes". The King shortly afterwards left the hall when President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua accused Spain of intervention in his country's elections and complained about some Spanish energy companies working in Nicaragua.[19] This was an unprecedented diplomatic incident and a rare display of public anger by the King.[20]

In April 2012, Juan Carlos faced criticism for making an elephant-hunting trip in Botswana.[21][22][23] Cayo Lara Moya of the United Left party said the king's trip "demonstrated a lack of ethics and respect toward many people in this country who are suffering a lot"[23] while Tomas Gomez of the Socialist party said Juan Carlos should choose between "public responsibilities or an abdication".[24] In April 2012, Spain's unemployment was at 23 percent and nearly 50 percent for young workers.[25] El País estimated the total cost of a hunting trip at 44,000 euros (USD 57,850), about twice the average annual salary in Spain.[25] A petition called for the king to resign from his position as honorary president of the Spanish branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature.[24] The WWF itself responded by asking for an interview with the King to resolve the situation.[26] In July 2012, WWF-Spain held a meeting in Madrid and decided with 226 votes to 13 to remove the king from the honorary presidency.[27][28] In September 2012, Juan Carlos met with Bill Clinton in the official inauguration of the Clinton Global Initiative.

Family and private life

Juan Carlos was married in Athens at the Church of Saint Dennis on 14 May 1962, to HRH Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark, daughter of King Paul of Greece. She was Greek Orthodox but converted to Roman Catholicism in order to become Spain's queen. Also in 1962, a Roman Catholic wedding was performed in the Pauline Chapel the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

They have two daughters and one son.

In 1972, Juan Carlos, a keen sailor, competed in the Dragon class event at the Olympic Games, finishing 15th. In their summer holidays, the whole family meets in Marivent Palace (Palma de Mallorca) and the Fortuna yacht, where they take part in sailing competitions. The king has manned the Bribón series of yachts. In winter, the family often go skiing in Baqueira-Beret and Candanchú (Pyrenees), where the king has occasionally returned with a broken leg.

Juan Carlos also enjoys bear hunting. In October 2004, he angered environmental activists by killing nine bears (one of which was a pregnant female) in central Romania.[29] In August 2006, it is alleged that Juan Carlos shot a drunken tame bear (Mitrofan the Bear) during a private hunting trip to Russia. The Office of the Spanish Monarchy denies this claim, which was made by the Russian regional authorities.[30]

Juan Carlos and Sofía are fluent in several languages, speaking Spanish, English, and French. The King also speaks fluent Portuguese and Italian, but unlike the Queen, he does not speak German nor her native Greek, a fact he regrets.

Juan Carlos is also an amateur radio operator and holds the call sign EA0JC. His fondness of incognito motorbike riding has raised urban legends of people finding him on lonely roads. For example, one story says that a biker out of petrol stranded on a hot sunny day was assisted by a fellow motorcyclist, who returned with a small container of petrol. The good Samaritan, on removing his helmet, turned out to be Juan Carlos.

Juan Carlos is member of the World Scout Foundation.[31] He is also a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.

His net worth is only valued at $5 million, but the Royal Family have a net worth over $1.7 billion (December 2011).[32][33]

In April 2012, the Spanish paper El Mundo Deportivo broke the news of King Juan Carlos's expensive elephant hunting holiday to Botswana.[34] Although Spanish officials stated that the expenses of the trip were not paid by taxpayers or by the palace, but by Mohamed Eyad Kayali, a businessman of Syrian origin, Juan Carlos was criticized by the press. He later apologised for the hunting trip.[34] The Spanish branch of the WWF subsequently voted to abolish the role of Honorary President, held by the King.[35]


A benign tumour was removed from King Juan Carlos’ lung in an operation carried out in the "Hospital Clínic" of Barcelona on Saturday 8 May 2010. The 72-year-old Monarch was expected to be allowed home in three or four days, and able to renew full physical activity in a fortnight. The operation came as a result of the King’s latest annual check-up, and doctors said the procedure went well and Juan Carlos would not need any further follow-up treatment. At a press convention, the operating team said that the 17-19mm tumour which had been removed under a general anaesthetic from the right lung contained no malignant cells. ‘This is good news’, said doctor Laureano Molins, who directed the operation.

In April 2012, the King underwent surgery at the San Jose Hospital, Madrid, following a fall on a private elephant-hunting trip to Botswana. He suffered a triple fracture of the hip.[36] He underwent a hip operation on September 24, 2013 at Madrid's Quiron hospital.[37]

Budget of the royal house

In the wake of the Urdangarin affair (the husband of his daughter is accused of corruption), the King decided in 2011 to detail the yearly royal budget of 8.3 millions euros for the first time.[38][39] However, some spending such as the electricity bill are not included in the budget since they are paid by the State.[38]

Titles, styles, honours and arms

  • 5 January 1938 – 21 July 1969: His Royal Highness The Infante Juan Carlos of Spain
  • 15 January 1941 – 22 November 1975: His Royal Highness The Prince of Asturias
  • 21 July 1969 – 22 November 1975: His Royal Highness The Prince of Spain
  • 22 November 1975 – present: His Majesty The King

The King's style and title in full: His Majesty Juan Carlos the First, By the Grace of God, the King of Spain, King of Castile, of León, of Aragon, of the Two Sicilies, of Jerusalem, of Navarre, of Granada, of Seville, of Toledo, of Valencia, of Galicia, of Sardinia, of Córdoba, of Corsica, of Murcia, of Jaén, of the Algarves, of Algeciras, of the Canary Islands, of the East and West Indies, of the Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea; Archduke of Austria; Duke of Burgundy, of Brabant, of Milan, of Athens and Neopatria; Count of Habsburg, of Flanders, of Tyrol, of Roussillon, and of Barcelona; Lord of Biscay and of Molina de Aragón; Captain General and Supreme Commander of the Royal Armed Forces; Sovereign Grand Master of the Order of the Golden Fleece and of the orders awarded by the Spanish state. The current Spanish constitution refers to the monarchy as "the Crown of Spain" and the constitutional title of the monarch is simply Rey/Reina de España: that is, "king/queen of Spain". The constitution allows for the use of other historic titles pertaining to the Spanish monarchy, without specifying them. A decree promulgated 6 November 1987 at the Council of Ministers regulates the titles further, and on that basis the monarch of Spain has a right to use ("may use") those other titles. The long titulary that contains the list of over 20 kingdoms, etc., is not in state use, nor is it used in Spanish diplomacy. It has never been in use in that form, as "Spain" was never a part of the list in pre-1837 era when the long list was officially used.

This feudal style was last used officially in 1836, in the titulary of Isabella II before she became constitutional Queen.

Juan Carlos's titles include that of King of Jerusalem, as successor to the royal family of Naples.

Titles in official use

The titles associated with the Spanish Crown are these:[40]


King Juan Carlos is a direct descendant of many famous European rulers from several countries. He is a descendant of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom through his grandmother, Victoria Eugenie; of Louis XIV of France through the House of Bourbon; of the Emperor Charles V, who was a member of the Habsburg dynasty of the Holy Roman Empire. The Capetian dynasty, to which he also belongs, is the oldest in Europe. Some of his distant ancestors include Joan, Duchess of Burgundy and queen consort of Philip VI of France. He is a descendant of Marie Leszczyńska, daughter of King Stanisław Leszczyński of Poland, and Queen Consort of France through an unbroken line of Bourbon princesses who married within the Bourbon house. He's also a descendant of the first kings during the Reconquista, as descendant of the kings of Castile and León, and through him the Visigothic kings. The King is a direct descendent of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. He is a direct descendant through the male line of Robert of Hesbaye (770–807).

Patrilineal descent

See also

Spain portal



Further reading

  • Paul Preston, Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy, W W Norton & Co Inc, June 2004. ISBN 0-393-05804-2.
  • Ronald Hilton, SPAIN: King Juan Carlos.

External links

  • (Spanish) Biography of Juan Carlos I at CIDOB Foundation
  • Official website of the Spanish Royal Family
  • Juan Carlos I Family Tree
  • Spanish king tells Chavez to 'shut up'
  • Voices of the Transition – A Political History of Spain, 1975–1982
  • Earth Times article
  • Spain supports the monarchy
  • Royals
  • King against Chavez
Juan Carlos I of Spain
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 5 January 1938
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Alfonso XIII
King of Spain
Heir apparent:
Felipe, Prince of Asturias
Political offices
Preceded by
Francisco Franco
as Head of State
Head of State of Spain
as King of Spain

Heir apparent:
Felipe, Prince of Asturias
Lines of succession
Preceded by
Alphonse de Bourbon y Vargas
Legitimist line of succession to the French throne
Succeeded by
The Prince of Asturias
Academic offices
Preceded by
Thomas Klestil
Speaker of the College of Europe Opening Ceremony
Succeeded by
Klaus Hänsch

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