(CNN Spanish) — No kingdom and under public scrutiny. Thus ended King Emeritus Juan Carlos of Spain. An avalanche of scandals and controversial decisions ended with a reign worthy of a fairy tale but without a happy ending, at least for him.
Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón was born in Rome on January 5, 1938. He is the great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria of England and, therefore, a distant cousin of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Felipe de Edinburgh. It was in 1948 when Francisco Franco and Prince Juan de Borbón agreed to send him to Spain to be educated there, when he was already beginning to be considered the possible heir to the throne.
He received a complete military training, both in the Spanish Army and in the Navy and the Air Force, being the first Spanish officer to obtain the rank of lieutenant of the three institutions.
The fairy tale began to be written in Athens on May 14, 1962, when he married Princess Sofia of Greece. There were two majestic ceremonies: the first in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Dionysius and the second — in an Orthodox Christian rite — in the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral of the Virgin Mary. Decades later, that love story would become one of alleged cheating and infidelity.
In November 1975 he was crowned King of Spain, just two days after Franco’s death, thus restoring the Spanish monarchy. Two years later, the monarch enacted a series of political reforms that led to Spain’s first democratic election after the Civil War, which won him many followers.
This week, after almost 2 years without setting foot in Spain, King Emeritus Juan Carlos I travels to the Galician town of Sanxenxo. This was confirmed by the Royal House through a statement shared at the request of the emeritus, who reported that he will be in Spain until May 23.
the castle falls apart
In front of the cameras everything seemed to be going from strength to strength. But in the corridors of the Palacio de la Zarzuela, the pink story was —in reality— controversial.
An event that attracted world attention happened in 2007 during the Ibero-American Summit held in Santiago de Chile. There, King Juan Carlos told the then president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, “why don’t you shut up?” visibly annoyed since Chávez had interrupted the speech of the President of the Spanish Government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, on several occasions.
This did not stop there. In 2012, on a trip to Botswana, he suffered a fall in which he broke his hip, for which he had to undergo surgery. Months later, it became known what had happened on that trip after several Spanish media broadcast an image that showed him next to a dead elephant, which he had shot. Faced with severe criticism, he had to stop being honorary president of the World Wildlife Fund, a position he had held since 1968.
The strongest blow came when it was learned that the Spanish and Swiss authorities are investigating the finances of the king emeritus, on suspicion of hidden accounts in a Swiss bank. According to prosecutors from that country, Juan Carlos I would have received US$100 million from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2008, allegedly related to a contract awarded to a Spanish consortium for the construction of a high-speed rail line in Saudi Arabia, inaugurated in 2008, a Spanish government official with knowledge of the case told CNN.
According to this same official and according to documents in Switzerland, not consulted directly by CNN, Juan Carlos I would have given Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein the amount of US$65 million. She claims, first, to have had a romantic relationship with the king emeritus and second, that said money was a gift. The Swiss authorities suspect the commission of crimes linked to aggravated money laundering and commission payments. She has already testified twice before Swiss authorities, but no charges have been brought against her, her lawyer Robin Rathmell told CNN. Nor against the king emeritus, as Juan Carlos’s lawyer, Javier Sánches-Junco, assured. According to the Spanish authorities, the investigation was focused on the fast train project and later the name of Juan Carlos I appeared in the case.
To CNN’s request for comment, the lawyers representing Juan Carlos respond precisely that their client is not charged in either of the two countries and that if he is required by the Spanish authorities, he will be at the order.
On August 3, the emeritus king traveled to the United Arab Emirates and through a letter informs his son Felipe VI, that he had made the decision to leave Spain, “due to the public repercussion generated by past events in his private life ”.
The emeritus king had been there ever since, until this week’s visit. However, it is expected that this will not be the only visit he makes to Spain. As indicated in the statement shared by the Royal House, this visit “is part of the desire of His Majesty King Juan Carlos to travel frequently to Spain to visit family and friends, and organize his personal life and his place of residence in private spheres. In addition, Campos added in his interview on Spanish Television that they expect him back in a month “for the world championship that will take place from June 10 to 18.”