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Juan Carlos I
Wikipedia pict.jpg
King of Spain (more)
Reign 22 November 1975 – present
(&000000000000004100000041 years, &0000000000000273000000273 days)
Anointment 27 November 1975
Heir apparent Felipe, Prince of Asturias
Prime Ministers Carlos Arias-Navarro
Fernando de Santiago y Díaz
Adolfo Suárez
Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo
Felipe González
José María Aznar
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
Consort 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
House House of Bourbon
Father Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona
Mother Princess María de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies
Born 5 January 1938 (1938-01-05) (age 79)
Rome, Italy
Signature Juan Carlos I of Spain Signature.svg.png
Religion Roman Catholic Church

Juan Carlos I (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈxwaŋ ˈkarlos], baptized as Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias; born 5 January 1938, Rome, Italy) is the reigning King of Spain.

On 22 November 1975, two days after the death of General Francisco Franco, Juan Carlos was designated king according to the law of succession promulgated by Franco. The Spanish throne had been vacant for 38 years in 1969 when Franco named Juan Carlos as the next head of state. The Spanish Constitution of 1978, voted in referendum, acknowledges him expressly as King of Spain. The Spanish Constitution, Title II: the Crown, Article 56, Subsection 1, affirms the role of the Spanish monarch as the personification and embodiment of the Spanish nation, a symbol of Spain's enduring unity and permanence; and as such, the monarch is the head-of-state and commander-in-chief of the Spanish Armed Forces in a system known in Spanish as "monarquía parlamentaria" (parliamentary monarchy).

King Juan Carlos successfully oversaw the transition of Spain from dictatorship to parliamentary democracy.

Juan Carlos married Sophia of Greece and Denmark in 1962. The couple have three children and eight grandchildren.

Polls from 2000 show that he is widely approved of by Spaniards. According to the Spanish Constitution, the monarch is also instrumental in promoting Ibero-American relations, the "nations of its historical community". 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.

Early lifeEdit

Juan Carlos of Spain was born to the Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona, and the 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. His early life was dictated largely by the political concerns of his father and General Franco.

Juan Carlos has two sisters and one brother: Infanta Pilar, Duchess of Badajoz (born 1936), and Infanta Margarita, 2nd Duchess of Hernani (born 1939) and his younger brother Alfonso.

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 issued an official communiqué:

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.

Very quickly, however, 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.


He moved to Spain in 1948 to be educated there after his father persuaded Franco to allow this. He began his studies in San Sebastián and finished them in 1954 at the San Isidro Institute in Madrid.

From 1960–1961 he studied Law, International Political Economy and Public Finance at Complutense University. He then went to live in the Palace of Zarzuela, and began carrying out official engagements.


Juan Carlos is fluent in several languages. He speaks Spanish, English, and French. The king also speaks fluent Italian and Catalan. Unlike the queen, Juan Carlos does not speak any German, nor her native language, Greek, a fact he regrets.


He then joined the army, doing his officer training from 1955 to 1957 at the Military Academy of Zaragoza.

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.

Personal lifeEdit


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. 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 a son:


In 1972, Juan Carlos, a keen sailor, competed in the Dragon class event at the Olympic Games, though he did not win any medals. 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, they usually go skiing in Baqueira-Beret and Candanchú (Pyrenees), where the king has occasionally ended with a broken leg.

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

Juan Carlos is 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. Even to the extent 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 was apparently, Juan Carlos.

Juan Carlos is member of the World Scout Foundation.


A benign tumor 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 tumor which had been removed under a general anesthetic from the right lung contained no malignant cells. ‘This is good news’, said doctor Laureano Molins, who had directed the operation.

Royal lifeEdit

Prince of Spain, 1969–1975Edit

The dictatorial regime of Francisco Franco had come to power during the Spanish Civil War, which had pitted democrats, anarchists, socialists, and communists, supported in part by the Soviet Union and by international volunteers, against conservatives, monarchists, nationalists, and fascists, with the latter group ultimately emerging successful with the support of neighboring 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, a Carlist by some accounts, 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. In 1961, Franco offered the crown to Archduke Otto of Austria, but he declined on account of the Habsburg dynasty's long absence from the Spanish throne, and recommended Juan Carlos. 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. In response, Juan Carlos started to use his second name Carlos to assert his claim to the heritage of the Carlist branch of his family.

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 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 had 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 had 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 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 and on 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.

Restoration of the monarchyEdit

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, a new Constitution was promulgated 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. 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 had been 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. Believed to be a major factor in foiling the coup was the public television broadcast by the king, calling for unambiguous support for the legitimate democratic government. Certainly, 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 had to defend the democratic government.


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.

In July 2000, Juan Carlos was the target of an enraged protester when Juan María Fernández y Krohn, 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 politicsEdit

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. Offences against the honour of the Royal Family are specially protected by the Spanish Penal Code. Under this protection, Basque independentist Arnaldo Otegi 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 refused to sign the Belgian law legalising abortion. 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.

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" you form 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. This was an unprecedented diplomatic incident and a rare display of public anger by the King.

Popularity in Portugal and the Iberian Union questionEdit

A 2006 poll taken in Portugal showed that 28% of the Portuguese were in favor of an Iberian Union and wanted to become Spanish, with Juan Carlos I as their King (which could also be a sign of discontent with local politicians), and followed attentively the lives of the Spanish Royal Family; while a similar poll taken in Spain stated that 45.7% of the Spanish would also favor an Iberian Union, a number that rises to 50.8% in the age group between 18 and 24. A new poll from 2011 presents a rise in the Portuguese supporters of such a union from 45.6% to 46.1% and in the Spanish supporters from 31% to 39.8%.


In early 2014, speculation appeared in the Spanish media about the king's future. A briefing by the king's chief of staff had denied that the 'abdication option' was being considered.[1]On 2 June 2014, the King announced that he would abdicate the throne in favor of his eldest son, Felipe, Prince of Asturias. Royal officials described the king's choice as a personal decision which he had been contemplating since his 76th birthday at the start of the year. He has signed the abdication instrument and now must await for a constitutional amendment to be passed by parliament before his abdication takes effect.

Titles, styles and honorsEdit


See List of titles and honours of Juan Carlos I of Spain

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". However, 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 appertaining to the Crown. Contrary to some belief, the long titulary that contains the list of over 20 kingdoms, etc., is not in state use, nor is it used in Spanish diplomacy. In fact, 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 of Spain 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 useEdit

  • King of Spain, of Castile, of León, of Aragon, of the Two Sicilies (Naples and Sicily), of Jerusalem, of Navarre, of Granada, of Toledo, of Valencia, of Galicia, of Majorca, of Seville, of Sardinia, of Córdoba, of Corsica, of Murcia, of Menorca, of Jaén, of Algeciras, of Gibraltar, of the Canary Islands, of the East and West Indies and of the Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea
  • Archduke of Austria
  • Duke of Burgundy, of Brabant, of Milan, and of Neopatra (New Patras);
  • Count of Habsburg, of Flanders, of Tyrol, of Roussillon and of Barcelona
  • Lord of Biscay and of Molina


Foreign honorsEdit

Other honoursEdit

The king has been the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, including from University of Santo Tomas, Philippines; Harvard University; Southern Methodist University (where, in 2001, he formally opened the Meadows Museum, housing the largest collection of Spanish art outside Spain), and Georgetown University. Juan Carlos also has received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from New York University, the University of Cambridge and the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands (25 October 2001).

In 1997, NYU opened the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center (to promote research and teaching on Spain and the Spanish-speaking world) in the historic Judson Hall and adjacent buildings on Washington Square in New York City. He is also a member of the Sons of the American Revolution organization. In 1996, he received the Jean Monnet award of the Jean Monnet Foundation for Europe for his work on integrating Spain into the European Community. Juan Carlos I Park, the main municipal park of Madrid, was named after the king. The Spanish Antarctic Base on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named for King Juan Carlos I of Spain. The multi-purpose warship Juan Carlos I of the Spanish navy is named for King Juan Carlos I. Juan Carlos also was awarded the Charlemagne Prize in 1982.

External linksEdit

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