Spanish king to abdicate in favour of his son

King Juan Carlos (centre) has plans to abdicate after a 39-year reign. (AFP)

King Juan Carlos (centre) has plans to abdicate after a 39-year reign. (AFP)

Spanish King Juan Carlos will abdicate in favour of his son Prince Felipe, the nation announced on Monday, ending a 39-year reign that ushered in democracy but was later battered by royal scandals

The 76-year-old monarch, crowned in November 1975 after the death of General Francisco Franco, is stepping down. He has been dogged by health woes his popularity has been deeply eroded by scandals around him and his family.

“His Majesty King Juan Carlos has just informed me of his desire to renounce the throne and begin the process of succession,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in an impromptu announcement to the media.

He hands over the throne to 46-year-old Felipe de Borbon, a former Olympic yachtsman, who has been relatively unscathed by the scandals involving the rest of the family.

Frequently smiling but more reserved than his father, Felipe had long suffered from comparisons with the easy-going Carlos, who played a historic role in Spain’s post-dictatorship transition.

Family scandal
But Carlos’s image took a blow after he took a luxury elephant-hunting safari trip to Botswana in April 2012 as his subjects struggled in a recession, with one in four people unemployed.

Further damaging the royal family’s standing, a judge opened a corruption investigation in 2010, which centred on former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin, the husband of the king’s youngest daughter, Cristina, who has also been accused of involvement.

At the same time, Felipe’s approval rating has risen.

Felipe wed former television presenter Letizia Ortiz in a glittering ceremony in Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral in 2004 after several previous romantic dalliances, including one with a Norwegian lingerie model.

Ortiz, a 41-year-old divorcee, was the first commoner to come in line for the Spanish throne. – AFP

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