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Juan Carlos I

The King of Spain (from 1975 to date) who after 25 years reigning the country, has managed to bring about the peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy, survive an intended coup d'etat and solidify a Parliamentary Monarchy of democratic character.


Juan Carlos Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón, Juan Carlos I, was born in Rome on January 5, 1938. Second son of Don Juan de Borbón y Battenberg -Count of Barcelona, in turn son and rightful heir to the Dynasty of Alfonso XIII- y Doña María de las Mercedes de Borbón y Orleans.

When Juan Carlos I was born, Spain was submerged in Civil War which culminated in the victory of general Francisco Franco Bahamonde and the beginning of a dictatorship which greatly distanced the country from possible recuperation of the monarchy. In 1948 Don Juan de Borbón reached an agreement with general Franco so that his son Juan Carlos could study in Madrid, the future king entering Spain that year for the first time in his life to begin his studies.

Completed his studies Franco and Don Juan had a second meeting in which they agreed that Juan Carlos begin his military preparation in the Armed forces of land sea and air. The third meeting between the father of the future king and the Spanish Head of State took place in 1960 in which they planned his university studies.

May 14 of 1962, Juan Carlos de Borbón married Sofía Schleswig Holstein Sondenburg, daughter of Peter I of Greece and  Federica of Hanover in the San Dionisio Cathedral in Athens. The marriage has produced three children: princesses Elena and Cristina and the prince and heir to the throne, Felipe.

In July 1969 Franco appointed Juan Carlos I as successor to the Head of State and the Courts ratified the appointment and they proclaimed him Prince of Spain. From then, until the death of Franco, he temporarily assumed the functions of Head of State.

November 20, 1975 Francisco Franco died. After his death Don Juan Carlos was promoted to Captain of the Armed forces and two days later, proclaimed King before the courts and congress.

The presidency of the government continued to be in the hands of Carlos Arias Navarro during the first months of his reign. But in 1976 the king, showing his democratic orientation, named Adolfo Suarez as president, seeing the difficulty in Arias leading a project of pacific transition.

That is how the new president, Suarez, and the king were charged with the difficult job of the transition from dictatorship to democracy; important steps that were facilitated also by the Political reform laws, the victory in elections of 1977 of the U.C.D. - a coalition lead by Suarez - and later definitively with the approval by the Spanish people of a new Constitution on December 6, 1978.

In January 1981 the president submitted his demission and when the Courts met on February 23 to designate Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo as the successor of Suarez, Lieutenant Cornell of the Civil Guard, Antonio Tejero, lead an attempted coup d'etat. The quick and decisive intervention of the King and the absence of support by large sectors of the military forces caused the attempt to fail.

In 1982, with absolute majority, the political party P.S.O.E. would take charge of the government, Felipe Gonzalez being named president of Spain and leader of the party. After governing 4 legislative periods and after a great political discredit caused by numerous cases of corruption, the Socialist Party (P.S.O.E.) was defeated by the Popular Party (P.P.) in March of 1996, which formed their government with the support of the nationalist parties for the first time.

José María Aznar, leader of the P.P., became the fourth president of Spanish democracy. The general elections of March 2000 again gave the victory to José María Aznar, although this time with absolute majority. One of the saddest general elections celebrated in the history of Spain, just three days after a terrorist attack caused 200 deaths and more than 1400 injured in Madrid, voters gave the victory to PSOE and left PP without the governmental power they had held since 1996. The Spaniards decided to change government, and against all predictions, voters gave their support to the government formed by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero,  who obtained 42,64% of votes and 164 seats (escaños).

The foreign politics during the reign of King Juan Carlos I is characterized by the recuperation of the international prestige of Spain through the inclusion in the most representative multinational organizations such as the European Council in Strasburg (1977) and NATO (1982) or the inclusion of Spain in the European Union in 1986.

Also worth mention is the important role of Spain, from the decade of the 80's, in relations with Latin America, protagonist particularly reflected in the Iberian-American Council, becoming one of the most important countries in the area of international relations. 

Juan Carlos has faithfully carried out the role attributed to him by the constitution, intervening through consultations with parliamentary leaders in the designation of a candidate to the presidency after each election. His function as State representative has brought him to travel abroad extensively, supporting foreign policy dictated by the different governments. Pointing out in this aspect his symbolic leadership in the Iberian-American Council of Nations, as well as the support to the integration of Spain in Western Organizations such as NATO and the European Union, which have occurred during his reign. He also often travels to visit the various regions of which the Spanish nation is composed: in this aspect, the openness he demonstrates towards the cultural and linguistic plurality, the political and administrative decentralization, and the idiosyncrasies of the different regions has helped to maintain the continuity of the fragile equilibrium between unity and diversity deigned by the Constitution of 1978.