Juan Carlos I

Juan Carlos I
b. 1938, Rome
   King of Spain
   Juan Carlos de Borbón is the grandson of the last reigning monarch, Alfonso XIII, who left Spain on the declaration of the Republic in 1931, and abdicated in 1941 in favour of his son, Don Juan, Count of Barcelona. Don Juan was known to favour a restoration of the monarchy in its constitutional, pre-Civil War form, which meant that his relations with Franco were at best cool and often became strained. By an agreement reached in 1948 between Don Juan and Franco, Juan Carlos was sent to be educated in Spain, while his father continued to live in exile in Portugal. Don Juan would have preferred his son, on completing his secondary education, to go to a university elsewhere in Europe, but Franco wished him to have a military education. Juan Carlos accordingly spent four years at the Military Academy in Zaragoza, and graduated in 1959 with commissions in each of the three services. In 1962, he married Princess Sophia, daughter of King Paul and Queen Frederika of Greece. The 1947 Succession Law had defined Spain as a monarchy governed by a regent, and had envisaged an eventual restoration of the monarchy on Franco's demise, with the future Head of State having very considerable powers. It had also given Franco the right to nominate his successor, though by the time he was seventy in 1962 he had still not done so. It became obvious to the public, however, throughout the 1960s that Franco was grooming Juan Carlos to assume the role, which earned the prince considerable unpopularity on some of his travels around Spain when, on occasion, he and Sophia were pelted with overripe fruit. Eventually, in July 1969, Franco publicly nominated Juan Carlos as his successor, significantly withholding the title Prince of Asturias, traditionally held by the heir to the throne, and conferring instead the new title of Prince of Spain. This was to reinforce the point he had made both in article 11 of the Succession Law and in many public speeches, that the institution which succeeded him would not be a restoration of the previous constitutional monarchy, but a new one created by him (an instauración rather than a restauración). The succession arrangements were not calculated to raise expectations of greater democratization after Franco, particularly when the appointment of the hard-line Carrero Blanco as Head of Government suggested that Franco's intention was that Juan Carlos would continue to be controlled by a military strongman when he acceded to the throne. Although Juan Carlos was not widely credited with much political acumen in the last years of the regime, and though the assassination of Carrero Blanco in 1973 removed any hope of the survival of Francoism after Franco, the clear judgement and strength of character which Juan Carlos revealed after his accession suggest that he would not have allowed himself to be manipulated by a military hardliner. In any case, the Organic Law of the State (1967) had not only reinforced the succession provisions of the 1947 legislation, but had conferred wide executive functions on the Head of State, which in the event Juan Carlos was to use creatively to bring about reform. His choice of Torcuato Fernández-Miranda as President of the Cortes made possible the appointment as Prime Minister of Adolfo Suárez, who was the key agent in the transition to democracy.
   Though crucial during the period 1975–8, most of these powers were considerably watered down by the constitution of 1978, leaving the Spanish Head of State with even more limited functions, in certain respects, than the British monarch. Official documents are not issued in the King's name alone, but have to be countersigned by the Prime Minister or other relevant member of the cabinet. The role of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, however, became much more than purely ceremo-nial when on the night of the attempted coup of 23 February 1981 (see also Tejerazo, El), Juan Carlos appeared on television in uniform and confirmed his commitment to the constitution, having previously telephoned all the regional commanders and reminded them of their oath of allegiance.
   The King's resolute defence of democracy is probably the most significant reason for the popularity which he and the royal family continue to enjoy. Over and above this, however, their lifestyle and general demeanour in public have enabled them to avoid alienating public opinion in a country where anti-monarchism, though nearly always a minority view, was nevertheless held, at various times in the past, with vehement conviction. Even before his accession, Juan Carlos decided not to move to the grandiose Oriente Palace, which is only used for large state occasions, but to stay in the more modest Zarzuela, the house he and Sophia had occupied since their marriage. The royal family pay taxes like other citizens, and the informality cultivated on public appearances, especially by Juan Carlos, together with his sense of humour, have ensured a high degree of personal loyalty and affection from the populace at large, whatever the long-term prospects for the institution of monarchy as such.
   See also: history; monarchy; politics
   Further reading
   - Heywood, P. (1995) The Government and Politics of Spain, London: Macmillan (see pp. 83–8 for a lucid brief account of the role of monarchy in Spain).
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin (chapter 7 is an excellent historical contextualization of Juan Carlos" accession, and of how he is perceived by the public).
   - Newton, M.T with Donaghy, P.J. (1997) Institutions of Modern Spain: A Political and Economic Guide (chapter 3 is the best account available of the evolution of the monarchy before and after the constitution).
   EAMONN RODGERS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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