King Juan Carlos of Spain to abdicate

King Juan Carlos, who guided country from dictatorship to democracy, will be replaced by Prince Filipe

 King Juan Carlos of Spain
(Image credit:

King Juan Carlos of Spain, the man credited with steering his country towards democracy after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, is to abdicate.

The announcement was made by Spain's prime minister Mariano Rajoy.

"His Majesty King Juan Carlos has just informed me of his desire to renounce the throne and begin the process of succession," Mr Rajoy said. "I'm convinced this is the best moment for change."

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The 76-year-old king will be replaced by his son, Felipe.

According to the BBC, Juan Carlos was long seen as "one of the world's most popular monarchs".

Juan Carlos became king on November 22, 1975, two days after the death of Franco, who had named him as his successor.

Over the subsequent months, the king quickly dismantled the institutions of Francoism – a move which made him a constitutional monarch under a newly democratic system. In 1981, Juan Carlos stood firm against a military coup, which, according to The Times, "won him international respect – and the adoration of his people".

Rajoy said that Juan Carlos had been a "tireless defender of our interests".

The king's popularity "dipped" in recent years, The Guardian says, after his reputation was diminished by a spate of scandals. In 2012, during the height of the financial crisis, Juan Carlos took a lavish elephant-hunting trip to Botswana. And in February this year his youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, became the first member of the royal family to appear in court as a suspect in a criminal case. Her husband is currently under investigation for embezzlement.

A poll in January found that two thirds of Spanish people believed that abdication was the best option for the king. It also found that the same percentage had a "good" opinion of Prince Felipe.

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