King Juan Carlos I of Spain shocked his nation this month by announcing that he would abdicate the throne, citing his age and that of his son, Prince Felipe of Asturias, as a major motivator in making the decision. According to a report in Spain’s El Mundo, watching his neighbor Prince Charles grow old as heir also had an impact.
“He sees, above all, that his son is in his best moment and does not want to see him like Charles of England, who in November will turn no less than 66 years old,” said a palace source close to the King to El Mundo.
According to sources, the King told chief of the royal household Rafael Spottorno that he wanted to spare Prince Felipe the fate of Prince Charles. Queen Elizabeth II, at 88 years old, appears fit for all royal duties and has not given any indication that she is interested in abdicating the throne. King Juan Carlos I had previously also shown no inclination to abdicate, though unlike Queen Elizabeth he has had a number of health problems in recent months and had to have hip surgery in late 2013.
The report also notes that the King was concerned with the reputation of the royal family. Most news involving the Spanish Bourbons in the past few years involved a major corruption scandal at the hands of Iñaki Urdangarín, Duke of Palma de Mallorca. The King’s son-in-law has been accused of using his status as a member of the royal family to enrich himself with money that should have gone to royal charities. The King himself had attracted headlines with a friendship tabloids considered suspicious with Princess Corinna Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.
“The King is not naive, he never has been, and he knows the credibility of this House is very damaged,” one palace source told El Mundo. “The Crown is damaged, politics is at its lowest, and, despite this, the Prince is here, raising his hand– this had to be done now,” the source concluded.
Prince Felipe of Asturias will become King Felipe IV upon taking over the throne in a ceremony scheduled for June 18. He holds a law degree from the Autonomous University of Madrid and a master’s degree in international relations from Georgetown University. The Prince’s approval ratings are significantly higher than King Juan Carlos’, something the Crown hopes will elevate the family’s popularity as power is handed down.