Juan Carlos I of Spain

From Academic Kids

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His Majesty King Juan Carlos I

His Majesty King Juan Carlos I (Juan Carlos Alfonso Vctor Mara de Borbn y Borbn-Dos Sicilias) (born January 5, 1938 in Rome, Italy), is the reigning King of Spain, after his grandfather Alfonso XIII. Two days after the death of dictator Francisco Franco on November 20 1975 Juan Carlos was designated King according to the law of succession promulgated by Franco. He successfully oversaw the transition of Spain to a democratic constitutional monarchy. Juan Carlos also claims the title of King of Jerusalem, as the successor to the royal family of Naples. He is also a direct descendant of Queen Victoria through his grandmother, and Louis XIV of France through his family name, Bourbon. The Bourbons ruled France until the French Revolution.


Early life

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He moved to Spain in 1948 to be educated there after his father, Juan de Borbn, persuaded Franco to allow this. He began his studies in San Sebastin and finished them in 1954 at the San Isidro Institute in Madrid. He then joined the army, doing his officer training, 1955-57, in Zaragoza. In 1956, his younger brother, the Infante Alfonso died of a gunshot wound in Estoril, Portugal, with Juan Carlos as the only witness. The official explanation is that it was an accident which occurred while cleaning a gun. Alfonso suffered from haemophilia, and did not survive. It is uncertain whether Alfonso or Juan Carlos pulled the trigger. From 1957 he spent a year in the naval school at Pontevedra and another in the Air Force school in San Javier in Murcia. In 1961 he graduated from the Complutense University. He then went to live in the Palace of Zarzuela, and began carrying out official engagements.

Franco's heir, 1969-1975

By designating Juan Carlos instead of his father as successor to the Head of State in 1969, Franco groomed Juan Carlos to take over while maintaining his regime, giving him the title of Prince of Spain. Franco had played with giving the throne to his cousin, Alfonso de Borbn Dampierre. Juan started to use his second name Carlos to assert his pretensions to the heritage of the Carlist branch of his family. During periods of Franco's temporary incapacity in 1974 and 1975 Juan Carlos was acting Head of State. Near death, on October 30, 1975, Franco gave control to Juan Carlos. On November 22 the Cortes Generales made Juan Carlos King of Spain.

Restoration of the monarchy

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Their Majesties King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia with Laura and George W. Bush

After Franco's death Juan Carlos quickly instituted democratic reforms, to the great displeasure of conservative elements, especially in the military, who had expected him to maintain the authoritarian state. He appointed Adolfo Surez, a former leader of the Movimiento Nacional, as President of Spain. On May 20, 1977 future President and leader of the only recently legalised Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) Felipe Gonzlez, accompanied by Javier Solana, visited Juan Carlos in the Zarzuela Palace, followed on June 15, 1977 by the first post-Franco democratic elections. In 1978, a new Constitution was promulgated that acknowledges Juan Carlos as rightful heir of the dynasty and King. He relinquished absolute power and became a reigning but non-governing monarch. An attempted coup on February 23, 1981, in which the Cortes was seized by gunmen in the parliamentary chamber was thwarted by the unprecedented public television broadcast by the King, calling for unambiguous support for the legitimate democratic government. In the hours before his speech he had personally called many senior military figures to tell them that he was opposed to the coup, and that they must defend the democratic government.

When Juan Carlos became king, Communist leader Santiago Carrillo nicknamed him Juan Carlos the Brief, predicting that the monarchy would be swept away with the other remnants of the Franco era. After the collapse of the coup, in an emotional statement, Carrillo told television viewers "God save the King." If public support for the monarchy among democrats and left wingers prior to 1981 was conditional, following the King's handling of the coup it became unconditional, with a former senior leader of the Second Republic saying "we are all monarchists now". In 1977, his father formally renounced his pretensions to the throne. Juan Carlos thanked him by confirming the title of Count of Barcelona that Juan had assumed in exile.

Role in contemporary Spanish politics

King Juan Carlos, depicted on the Spanish €2 coin
King Juan Carlos, depicted on the Spanish €2 coin

The King exercises little real power over the country's politics, but is regarded 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. He gives an annual speech to the nation on Christmas Eve. He is the commander-in-chief of the Spanish armed forces, and his birthday is a military holiday.

In 1979, King Juan Carlos instituted the Ruta de Quetzal as a way to promote cultural exchange between students from Spain and Latin America. In 1987, he became the first King of Spain to visit the former Spanish possession of Puerto Rico.

Family and private life

Juan Carlos was married in Athens on May 14, 1962, to Princess Sophia of Greece, daughter of King Paul. They had two daughters, Elena and Cristina, and a younger son, the heir apparent, Felipe. In 1972, Juan Carlos, a keen sailor, competed in the Dragon class event at the Olympic Games, though he did not win any medals.


Because Juan Carlos is the great-great grandson of England's Queen Victoria, he is distantly related to the monarchs of England, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. His wife, Queen Sophia, is also a descendant of Victoria and, therefore, is his distant cousin.

See also

External links

Preceded by:
Alfonso XIII
King of Spain
Succeeded by:
The Prince of Asturias
Preceded by:
Francisco Franco
Spanish heads of state
Succeeded by:
Current incumbent

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