King Juan Carlos of Spain, who was crowned in 1975, has officially announced that he is going to step down from the throne in favour of the “next generation.”
The announcement, which took royal watchers by complete surprise, was made by the country's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Mon 2 Jun with the Monarch explaining his decision via a televised appearance. “Younger people with new energies are needed to undertake reforms that the present juncture demands of us,” he told the audience and expressed his gratitude to the Spanish people for their support.
King Juan Carlos was Spain’s first crowned head of state after the death of dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975. He was credited with steering Spain to democracy, and for saving the country from a coup attempt in 1981.
The 76 year-old King's only son, 46 year-old Prince Felipe, will become Spain's next monarch and rule as Felipe the Sixth of Spain, but the country's constitution will have to be amended to allow this unprecedented process to take place.
In a press conference, Rajoy said, "His majesty King Juan Carlos has just communicated to me his decision to abdicate. I hope that shortly, the Spanish courts can proceed to name the current Prince (Felipe) of Asturias as King."
The politician praised the king as a "tireless defender" of Spain's interests, and added, "I'm convinced this is the best moment for change."
The once hugely popular king has recemly had his reign plagued with controversy due to the questionable financial dealings of his daughter Princess Cristina, and her husband Inaki Urdangarin, who have been under investigation for corruption. The King was also criticised for going on a luxury safari whilst the country suffered from a massive economic slump, high unemployment levels and austerity measures.