The 21st Century

Spain has had its turmoils from within and without, and its economic struggles within the EU, but the post-Franco period has been relatively calm.

Juan Carlos I reigned over Spain from 1975 until 2014.

The Transition

On November 22, 1975, two days after dictator Francisco Franco died, Juan Carlos I took the throne, as arranged by Franco.

Franco, with Juan Carlos looking left.
Franco, with Juan Carlos looking left.

He immediately reinstated the first constitutional monarchy since 1931.


He appointed Adolpho Suarez to run the country, who was confirmed as leader in democratic elections.

Adolpho Suarez
Adolpho Suarez

Always agitating just below the surface were former Franco supporters, who staged a military coup in 1981. It was Juan Carlos I who intervened to suppress the coup. He endeared the nation who had suffered the Franco years and went on to reign until 2014.

The Decline

Such a long rule leads almost inevitably to decline.  In 2012, the King broke his hip while hunting elephant in Botswana.  This was not seen kindly (the hunting of elephants) by Spain or other countries around the world, including the organization he patronized, the World Wildlife Fund.  Once the whiff of scandal was in the air, it grew.  Juan Carlos’s son-in-law was accused and charged of corruption.  Juan Carlos, and Spain, needed an exit strategy.

The Abdication

Juan Carlos, grandson of Alphonso XIII, in advancing age and having had  five surgeries in the past two years including a hip replacement leaving him walking with difficulty, announced his decision to abdicate on June 2, 2014, saying he was stepping aside to allow for younger royal blood to rally the country that is still trying to shrug off a double-dip recession and a 26 percent jobless rate. He would attend the gorgeous Congress to formally transfer power to his son, Felipe.



Felip VI and Queen Consort Letizia

The palace acknowledged that the customary pomp had been eliminated ‘in keeping with the criteria of austerity that the times recommend.”


Felipe VI was educated at Lakefield College, yes, in Lakefield, Ontario (what, if any, mark did Ontario and Canada make on him?) and he holds a law degree from Madrid’s Autonomous University and obtained a Master’s in International Relations from Georgetown University in Washington. He is also, like his mother, an Olympic sailor.


Queen Letizia was, when they married, the CNN anchor who had reported live to Spain from 9/11.

They have two sweet daughters.


The family doesn’t live in the grand but formidable Palacio Real de Madrid.


They have a lovely private home on the grounds of the Palacio de la Zarzuela on the city’s outskirts.


While we were in Spain, Spanish-speaking fellow traveller Maria Luisa translated the enticing news in the daily newspapers and we were in Spain when King Felipe VI revoked the title of “Duchess of Palma de Mallorca” from his sister, the now criminally-charged Princess Cristina.

Recent media polls have shown that a majority of Spaniards now believe the monarchy is crucial in times of constitutional crisis. A heavy burden in a country whose constitution has been so battered, and restored so tenuously. Only time is its ally. Will the monarchy meet the challenges of democracy, economy and autonomy? What challenges will face Leonor, Princess of Asturia and heir apparent to the Spanish throne, when her father looks to her to lead the country?





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