Spain’s 76-year-old King Juan Carlos will abdicate in favour of his son, Prince Felipe, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced Monday.
“His Majesty King Juan Carlos has just informed me of his desire to renounce the throne and begin the process of succession,” Rajoy said.
The king’s abdication brings an end to a 39-year reign that ushered in democracy but ended in a string of scandals.
As of yet, there is no date for the handover of power as the Spanish government will now have to draft a law allowing for the abdication to happen.
Juan Carlos ascended the throne upon the death of dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975. Franco had wanted Juan Carlos to carry on his regime and rule as an absolute monarch, but the young king surprised many by quickly, and peacefully, transitioning his country to democracy.
He became especially popular in 1981 after helping put down an attempted military coup by officers loyal to the old regime that would have overthrown the new democratic order.
His reign became tarnished in recent years, however, after a series of scandals. His son-in-law has faced a corruption probe after being suspected of misusing millions of euros in public funds that were given to a charitable foundation he ran.
The king was also photographed elephant hunting in Africa at the height of Spain’s economic downturn. The story made him appear dangerously out-of-touch while millions of Spaniards were out-of-work.
Upon his abdication, the throne will pass to the youthful Crown Prince Felipe, who has remained relatively untarnished by Spain’s royal scandals. His will become King Felipe VI.
Juan Carlos was Spain’s first monarch since his grandfather, Alfonso XIII, was overthrown in 1931. The end of monarchy marked the beginning of the turbulent Second Republic which culminated in the Spanish Civil War. The Civil War ended with the Republic being overthrown and an arch-conservative dictatorship being set up under General Franco.
Elements of Franco’s regime pressured him to restore the monarchy, with the dictator eventually yielding and nominating Juan Carlos as his heir.
Spanish conservatives will be hoping that the new king will stabilise the country’s monarchy.
AFP contributed to this report