After steadfastly refusing to resign, the king finally bowed to pressure and handed the corona to his son, Prince Felipe.
Juan Carlos is credited with moving Spain forward from General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship to a constitutional monarchy, eschewing absolute power or military rule. Now, health problems and scandals plague him. He has turned from an admired man who helped his country seamlessly transition governments to an out-of-touch oligarch.
The king enraged the public when he was seen on an extravagant hunting holiday in 2012. Then the king’s daughter Princess Cristina and her husband were found to be part of an embezzlement scheme in 2013. People were outraged, and the straw broke the camel’s back: the king must step down.
Abdication did not seem to be an option, but finally the king admitted: “A new generation must be at the forefront”. Felipe, the forty-five-year-old Prince of Asturias, will ascend the throne with his wife, Letizia. Felipe is well-known and respected among the Spanish people. He has assumed the king’s duties on many occasions in recent years due to Juan Carlos’ health problems.
The king’s departure after nearly four decades on the throne follows close behind two other prominent abdications: in April 2013, the Dutch Queen Beatrix stepped aside for her eldest son. It has been a tradition in the House of Orange to abdicate. Within months, King Albert II of the Belgians stepped down as well, but it was said to be connected with health issues and an illegitimate daughter looking for a DNA test.
The public now look to Felipe and Letizia as symbols of a modern monarchy and a more prosperous Spain. The marriage of the Prince and Princess has been famously happy, and with two adorable daughters, their stable and happy family life is enviable. The burden of kingship now rests with Felipe, but with his family behind him, their monarchy and nation may be saved.