King Juan Carlos

Date Of Birth:
5 January 1938
Place Of Birth:
Rome, Italy
Best Known As:
King of Spain, 1975-2014

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 was king of Spain from 1975 until 2014, when he announced that he would abdicate the throne. 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. He became one of Europe's most popular monarchs, known especially for his physical vigor and his love of sports including skiing, karate, and motorcycle racing. (He even competed in sailing at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.) His health failed in later years: he had lung surgery in 2010 and in 2012 had a hip replaced after he broke it while on safari in Africa. After the latter incident he was widely criticized in Spain for taking an expensive vacation while most of his country was suffering through an economic crisis. On June 2, 2014, he announced his intention to give up the throne in favor of his son, who became King Felipe VI in a formal ceremony on 19 June 2014.

Extra Credit:

In his abdication statement, as translated by CNN, the king said it was “time to hand over to a new generation — younger, with a lot of energy — that can, with determination, take on and carry out the changes that the current situation demands”… 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 became the heir 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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