King Juan Carlos of Spain is to abdicate in favour of his son, Crown Prince Felipe. The Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, made the announcement on Monday: “His Majesty King Juan Carlos has just communicated to me his decision to abdicate […] I hope that shortly, the Spanish courts can proceed to name the current Prince of Asturias as King.”
After nearly 40 years on the throne the king will be the first Spanish King to pass the crown on to his offspring since 1885. The 76-year-old’s health has been deteriorating in recent years and he has undergone a series of hip operations, it is speculated that these health issues are some of the personal reasons that have triggered his choice to abdicate.
King Juan Carlos was once one of the world’s most popular monarchs; taking the throne just two days after the death of Franco in 1975, King Juan Carlos won the respect of Spaniards by steering the country from dictatorship to democracy, including foiling a coup attempt in 1981. However a recent reversal in public opinion was revealed in a poll by El Mundo last year, which found that nearly two-thirds of Spaniards thought the king should abdicate.
His fall in popularity was triggered by Spain’s financial crisis. A particularly low point came when it was revealed that he had taken a luxurious trip to Botswana to hunt elephants, just weeks after telling a reporter that he was so distraught about the growing ranks of the unemployed that he was having trouble sleeping. While the king’s approval rating dropped steadily, the attitude towards his son Felipe remained stable at around 66% (according to El Mundo), leading many to suggest that the monarchy would be better off if the king abdicated. The hope is that Felipe can redeem the monarchy’s reputation and restore the public’s faith in their leader.