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King Juan Carlos


Born: 5 January 1938
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Best known as: King of Spain, 1975-present

Name at birth: Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor María de Borbón y Borbón

A member of a royal line that stretches back to Louis XIV of France, Juan Carlos I has been king of Spain since 1975. Juan Carlos was born in in Rome, where his family was in exile after his grandfather, King Alfonso XIII, was forced to leave Spain when the Republic was declared in 1931. At age 10 Juan Carlos began attending school in Spain with the blessing of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Juan Carlos went to military colleges, becoming an accomplished sailor and pilot, while developing a close relationship with Franco. After Franco's death in 1975, Juan Carlos was proclaimed king and was expected to continue Franco's dictatorial, military-friendly policies. Instead he surprised the nation by supporting a transition to a modern parliamentary democracy, with himself continuing in the role of monarch and head of state. He strengthened his position in 1981, when he put down an attempted military coup by appearing on TV and ordering troops back to their bases. Since then he has remained one of Europe's most popular monarchs. He is known especially for his physical vigor and his love of sports including skiing, karate, and motorcycle racing. He also competed in sailing at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

Extra credit: Juan Carlos married Princess Sofia, the eldest daughter of King Paul I and Queen Federica of Greece, on 14 May 1962. They have three children: Elena (born 1963), Cristina (b. 1965) and Felipe (b. 1968). As the only male, Felipe is the heir apparent to the throne... Juan Carlos is a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria of Great Britain, through his grandmother Victoria Eugenie, wife of Alfonso XIII... According to the biography on his official site, Juan Carlos "completed his education from 1960 to 1961 at the Complutense University, Madrid, where he studied constitutional and international law, economics and taxation"... The king said "Why don't you shut up?" to President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela during a summit meeting in Chile in 2007. The put-down played well in Spain and was turned into a popular cell phone ring tone.

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