HE came expecting ‘hugs’ but what happened behind closed doors at Zarzuela Palace between King Juan Carlos and his son King Felipe VI remains private.
It was the first time father and son – the old monarch and the King he abdicated for – have met face to face since Juan Carlos went into self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates in August 2020.
The 84-year-old was on a weekend visit to Spain to attend a sailing regatta in Galicia before a whistlestop visit to his former palace for a private meeting with King Felipe.
Asked by journalists if he was going ‘to provide explanations’ to his son, he replied “explanations for what!” followed by a laugh.
Then asked what he was expecting from the meeting, Juan Carlos, meekly replied: “Hugs”.
It is likely he got his wish as while the new King has sought to publically distance himself from his father following scandal after scandal in a bid to turn the page and forge new confidence in Spain’s monarchy, privately the two have always been close.
On Monday morning Juan Carlos arrived at Zarzuela from Sanxenxo in Galicia where he had stayed with friends during the regatta and taken time to watch his grandson play a game of handball.
Spain’s Royal Palace released a statement on Monday evening confirming that Juan Carlos has spent some 11 hours at the palace, firstly spending ‘a long time in conversation’ with King Felipe in which family and ‘institutional’ matters were discussed.
A family lunch followed in which Queen Sofia, the long suffering spouse of Juan Carlos was present, although there is likely to have been no close contact after the Royal Palace confirmed she had recently tested positive for Covid and was seated apart from the group wearing a mask.
No photos of the day were released with the insistance that it had been ‘a private meeting held outside the offical agenda’.
Spanish press have reported that subject matter of the private conversation between Felipe and Juan Carlos included an explanation of the consequences of Juan Carlos’ actions on Spanish society.
King Felipe would have used the meeting to point out the importance of protecting the crown above all else and that inevitably means Juan Carlos’ continued exile, according to a report in El Mundo.
By evening, Juan Carlos had boarded a private jet and was on his way back to Abu Dhabi.
The four day visit, while attracting small crowds who came out to cheer the ex-King in Galicia, also stirred up controversy as well as criticism from Spain’s government.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has said that Juan Carlos owes the people of Spain “an explanation” about his financial affairs, a position reiterated by the government on Monday.
“He lost an opportunity, the opportunity Spaniards awaited, to give explanations and ask for forgiveness,” said Isabel Rodriguez, a government spokesperson, in an interview with RNE radio on Monday.
The return to his homeland for the first time since he moved to the UAE in August 2020 comes after a judicial investigation into the secret fortune of Juan Carlos was shelved on technical grounds, despite finding that the former king had evaded more than €50 million in tax by failing to declare offshore accounts.
Earlier this year prosecutors shelved three separate investigations into his financial affairs, citing insufficient evidence, the statute of limitations, and the monarch’s constitutional immunity.
In March 2020, Felipe stripped Juan Carlos of his annual stipend and renounced his own personal inheritance from his father in a bid to distance himself from the scandal.
However Juan Carlos is still facing legal action. He is currently being sued in the London High Court by his former mistress, the Danish businesswoman Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, who claims he used Spain’s spy agency to target and harass her and her children after their five-year relationship ended.
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