So who is Juan Carlos I of Spain?

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We take a closer look at who Juan Carlos I of Spain is and how his life influenced history.

For all of you keen historians who happen to be interested in royal history, particularly the Spanish royal family, you are likely to find the following document extremely insightful. Why? Because we’re going to be dealing with one of the most influential figures in history, especially when we’re talking about the history of SpainJuan Carlos I of Spain.

If nowadays a member of the Royal family seen wearing an unusual piece of clothing is considered newsworthy. Compare how we view royals to how we would have viewed royals centuries or even decades ago, and it’s easy to see why royal history is such an interesting topic of discussion.

Juan Carlos I of Spain was instrumental in transforming his nation from a dictatorship to a constitutional monarchy after his family spent much of their time in exile.

But who was the real one? Juan Carlos I of Spain, and how did he change a nation? Read on to find out more.

Who is Juan Carlos I of Spain?

Juan Carlos in January 2013 | Picture: Wikipedia

Juan Carlos I of Spain is a member of the Spanish royal family, which ruled the country from 1975 until his abdication in 2014.

After spending his early years in Italy, he made his way to Spain in 1947 before becoming king and taking office in 1975 Franco. Many expected the new king to continue Francos heir, but instead he began introducing reforms to help Spain rise to a democratic state.

In 2008, he was voted the most popular leader in all of Iberoamerica, largely because he was so instrumental in Spain’s transition to democracy and for undoing much of the work of the Franco government over the past few decades.

Unfortunately, controversy soon reared its ugly head and the popularity of Juan Carlos I and his family began to suffer, crowned by an elephant-hunting trip he undertook when his country was in the midst of one of the biggest financial crises in decades.

He would abdicate in 2014 for personal reasons to be replaced by his son Philip VI. The ex-king has been in exile since 2020 over allegedly improper links to Saudi Arabian business deals.

Although his last years were marked by various controversies, you cannot overlook the fact that Spain is now a democratic country, largely thanks to his hard work and new policies while he ruled the country.

early years

So who is Juan Carlos I of Spain?
Juan Carlos and Alfonso with their father Juan between them (1950) | Picture: Wikipedia

Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor Maria was born in 1938 on 5th January. Interestingly, he was actually born in Rome, Italy.

The grandson of the last king Alfonso XIII, who had been King of Spain from 1902 to 1931, spent his early years in Italy after Spain became a republic. His early life was marked by political tensions between his father and General FrancoHe then took charge of Spain Alfonso XIII and invoked numerous fascist policies.

He moved to Spain in 1948 at the age of 10 to study after his father persuaded him Franco to let him into the country to study. He finished his education in Madrid in 1954 before joining the army from 1955 to 1957 to complete his officer training. He studied at the Zaragoza Military Academy.

He was a bright young man, although it was clear that education was not his forte as he struggled with dyslexia.

In 1956, tragedy struck his household as his younger brother Alfonso sadly died in a shootout after the two brothers, aged 14 and 18, played with a revolver Juan Carlos brought from military school. It is believed that the two were playing and the revolver went off without either brother realizing it was loaded at the time. The younger brother was shot in the head and sadly died.

Juan Carlos’ The father is said to have initially accused him of deliberately shooting his younger brother and only 2 days later sent him back to the military academy.

In 1962 he married Princess Sofia of Greece. They had 3 children.

So who is Juan Carlos I of Spain?
Juan Carlos, Sofia and their three children in 1975 | Image: Wikimedia

become king

1969, Franco announced that after his retirement or his death Juan Carlos I would become King of Spain instead Don Carlos (Juan’s father). 1974, Franco sick and Juan Carlos appeared as deputy head of state of Spain.

1975, Franco died, and Juan Carlos I became king of Spain. Amazingly, he was very popular with both Franco’s supporters and the Spanish military. He was a fair ruler and clearly wanted what was best for his country and people.

A few years later, Spain had become a democratic country despite an attempted coup in the early 1980s.

Hunting trip and abdication

In 2012, the king went on an elephant hunting trip to Botswana. He was injured and a special plane was chartered to pick him up. The estimated cost of this one trip was €44,000. That was about twice the average annual salary in Spain.

Spain was in the midst of an economic crisis and the fact that the king was leaving the country to go hunting for €44,000 angered Spanish locals who were struggling to make ends meet. Up to this point he had proved very popular and escaped media scrutiny. It was decided that he would be removed from power.

In 2014, following the trip and the fact that his daughter was involved in an embezzlement scandal, the king was ousted and abdicated the throne.

In 2020, evidence emerged suggesting the former king may have been involved in shady business practices with Saudi Arabians. He was investigated for corruption. Although he was cleared of any wrongdoing in 2021, Juan Carlos I left Spain and continues to live in exile. Although the last few years of his rule were marked by controversy, he ultimately did a lot of good for Spain and is still considered very popular with many Spaniards.

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