2 Oct, 2023 @ 13:00
2 mins read

Disgraced former monarch Juan Carlos I leaves Spain after making fourth visit to Galician municipality Sanxenxo

Emeritus king Juan Carlos I
© Elena Fernandez/ZUMA Press Wire)

SPAIN’S disgraced former monarch Juan Carlos I left the Galician municipality of Sanxenxo on Monday morning, concluding his fourth visit to his home country since he went into self-imposed exile in Abu Dhabi back in 2020. 

After spending a week in the home of his friend Pedro Campos, Juan Carlos, 85, was quizzed by reporters as he left bound for the United Arab Emirates. 

When asked how his most recent stay in Pontevedra province had been, he replied: “Very good, fantastic,” according to news agency Europa Press. 

And when questioned as to whether he would like to return to Spain to live permanently, he added: “Of course.”

During this most recent stay, Juan Carlos met with his sister, Margarita, and one of his daughters, the infanta Elena.

Juan Carlos’s son, King Felipe VI, has for several years now been trying to distance the current royal family from his father. The pair did not meet during this visit. 

The former king abdicated in 2014 after he was engulfed by a series of scandals, principally the news emerging that he had broken his hip while on an expensive hunting trip in Botswana at a time when Spaniards were suffering from an economic downturn, and revelations that he had been having an extra-marital affair with a Danish businesswoman named Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.

Emeritus king Juan Carlos I
© Elena Fernandez/ZUMA Press Wire)

In August 2020 he left Spain bound for Abu Dhabi after further revelations emerged about his finances, including accusations of tax fraud and receiving kickbacks. 

Court probes were eventually dropped both in Spain and Switzerland, however, due to a lack of evidence and the statute of limitations. The immunity he enjoyed as monarch was also a factor. 

In recent years there have been a series of podcasts and documentaries that revealed further allegations about his behaviour, including more financial improprieties and other extra-marital affairs.

Juan Carlos’s visits to Spain have caused much unease not just for the royal family but also the Socialist Party-led government of Pedro Sanchez, who said around the time of his first visit to Sanxenxo that the former king owed the Spanish people ‘explanations’ for the accusations of impropriety. 

Juan Carlos was then asked by a reporter whether he had any such answers to offer. 

“Explanations, what for?” he responded.

Algunas De Las Mujeres Con Las Que Se Relaciona A Juan Carlos I
King Juan Carlos and Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. Laureus Award 2006, Barcelona | usage worldwide

The response angered many Spaniards and commentators, given the accusations of financial impropriety that were being levelled against him. His other trips have been less of a media circus than the first, but still caused embarrassment for the Spanish royal family.

In July of this year, close friends of Juan Carlos told Spanish news media that he was planning to make Spain his home once more should the conservative Popular Party’s Alberto Nuñez Feijoo become prime minister in the wake of the July 23 general election.

Feijoo won the election but failed last week to take power at an investiture debate, meaning that Pedro Sanchez is likely to become prime minister once more. It is yet to be seen whether a repeat leftist government would quash Juan Carlos’s plans to return to Spain.  

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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