Video: King of Spain abdicates after nearly 40 years

posted at 8:41 am on June 2, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

For younger readers, this may not seem like a very big deal — just another anachronistic constitutional monarchy changing names at the top, perhaps only interesting to tabloid readers. For those with longer memories or a greater sense of history, though, the abdication of King Juan Carlos in favor of his son marks the end of an era in European politics. Juan Carlos emerged from the shadow of fascist dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco to become a stalwart hero of constitutional democracy, and led his nation not just to their first free elections in almost 40 years but then stared down another coup attempt shortly afterward:

Born in Rome in 1938, Juan Carlos didn’t set foot in Spain until he was 10. In Franco’s Spain, he carried out military training and became the first Spanish officer to hold the rank of lieutenant in all three branches of the military.

In 1969, he was invested as Crown Prince and the designated successor to Franco.

On November 22, 1975 — two days after Franco’s death — Juan Carlos was crowned King of Spain, restoring the monarchy after a 44-year interregnum.

In 1977, he enacted political reforms that led to Spain’s first democratic election since 1936. …

Many consider the King’s finest hour to be his decisive stand to halt a right-wing military coup in 1981, when he went on television to say that the monarchy would not tolerate attempts to interrupt democracy by force.

Heroes who live long enough eventually see themselves being made into the goat, and Juan Carlos was no exception. He secretly went off on an expensive safari trip while Spain was mired in an economic crisis in 2012, and the vacation only came to light when Juan Carlos broke his hip and had to return for medical treatment. His younger daughter has also been caught up in scandal, facing charges of fraud and money laundering. The oldest son, Felipe, has a sterling reputation among Spaniards, and is widely expected to be a popular monarch.

Overall, though, Spain has much for which to be grateful. When Franco died, most observers thought little of his hand-picked royal successor. In its first season, Saturday Night Live had a running gag for its “Weekend Update” segment where Chevy Chase would breathlessly announce that “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still valiantly holding on in his effort to remain dead!” Here’s another version of the gag:

Whatever his other flaws may be, Juan Carlos did a great service to Spain and western Europe by holding free elections and then stopping the return of dictatorship at the height of the Cold War. The constitutional monarchy may be an anachronism now, but during Juan Carlos’ reign, it turned out to be relevant and necessary at least one last time.

CNN discusses the transition in the clip below:

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So the question is, will Obama abdicate his Unconstitutional Monarchy on schedule 1/20/17?

Frankly, I hate historical revisionism. Juan Carlos deserves respect from everyone who loves Republican government. Franco groomed him and set him up as his successor. Juan Carlos could have stepped in and continued the dictatorship. Instead he immediately brought back a Republic. Not many men in history have turned down absolute power when offered..

ConstantineXI on June 2, 2014 at 8:48 AM

I was going to college in Madrid at the end of Franco’s reign. I remember the incredible optimism as Jian Carlos took the helm.

My, oh my! How quickly time passes.

NavyMustang on June 2, 2014 at 8:49 AM

King Perro Come will outlast him.

Bishop on June 2, 2014 at 8:54 AM

Historical question – who here thinks that if the Republicans Communists had won the Spanish Civil War, that Spain would have had a constitutional republic in 1976? Anyone?

Steve Eggleston on June 2, 2014 at 8:54 AM

Many consider the King’s finest hour to be his decisive stand to halt a right-wing military coup in 1981,

I remember that. Historic. Overall, a good guy.

rbj on June 2, 2014 at 8:55 AM

This post reads as if JC somehow courageously departed from Franco’s path, when in fact Spain’s political evolution proceeded much as the Generalissimo had foreseen.

Franco’s aim was to suppress politics in Spain for the duration of his own life, in order to finally neutralize the anti-civilizational communist poison, and then hope for the best under a ‘legitimate’ system after he was gone.

Looks like he got it just about right.

bildung on June 2, 2014 at 9:06 AM

Franco and Pinochet, two dictators that did more good to the free world that most modern “democracies”.

Rix on June 2, 2014 at 9:06 AM

Juan Carlos could have stepped in and continued the dictatorship. Instead he immediately brought back a Republic. Not many men in history have turned down absolute power when offered..

ConstantineXI on June 2, 2014 at 8:48 AM

Very true… and exactly why I admire George Washington. Many people don’t realize that after his two terms, many people urged him to assume a monarch-type role. He turned it down to return to his home. I believe very few people in politics would do that today.

dominigan on June 2, 2014 at 9:09 AM

Earth shattering.

Akzed on June 2, 2014 at 9:14 AM

The King rose to the occasion many times, most recently when he asked the blowhard Hugo Chavez, “Why don’t you shut up?”

Ted Torgerson on June 2, 2014 at 9:23 AM

The King presided over a revolution in Spanish politics, economics and culture. His leadership led Spain into the rank of developed and free countries in Europe. I am sorry to see him go. History will judge him the most important Spanish monarch since Ferdnand and Isabella.

Esaus Message on June 2, 2014 at 9:24 AM

Whoa not close to Charles V or Felipe II, who ruled the world.

Ted Torgerson on June 2, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead!

Galtian on June 2, 2014 at 9:32 AM

Once he was the king of Spain. Maybe now he’ll go drive a Zamboni.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ylaLG-DdT7E

Logus on June 2, 2014 at 9:42 AM

The oldest son, Felipe, has a sterling reputation among Spaniards, and is widely expected to be a popular monarch.

I don’t know about that, but his wife is a hottie. Hubba hubba

rcpjr on June 2, 2014 at 9:47 AM

Good man. Spain got lucky with him.

1981

kcewa on June 2, 2014 at 9:56 AM

oh well. So much for bullfights.

WryTrvllr on June 2, 2014 at 9:57 AM

kcewa:

I remember 1981. Juan Carlos stopped the nonsense cold. For those of you that weren’t alive or don’t remember, he went on TV with his Army General uniform and said in no uncertain terms that any military units that were with the coup organizers were against HIM. Many fence sitters immediately went with the King. Remember, the Parliament was being held hostage at the time. Once it was obvious all of the Military had sided with the King, it was over in a matter of hours. Two days later, over 2 million people of all political parties marched in Madrid in support of democracy with plenty of signs saying “Viva El Rey!”.

conservative hispanic on June 2, 2014 at 10:04 AM

Once, I, was the King of Spain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylaLG-DdT7E

NancyWhisky on June 2, 2014 at 10:31 AM

Now for emperor obama…

Schadenfreude on June 2, 2014 at 10:53 AM

One of His Majesty’s greatest hits:

¿Por qué no te callas?

steebo77 on June 2, 2014 at 11:09 AM

Wow, this reminds me of when I thought Chevy Chase was funny.

itsspideyman on June 2, 2014 at 11:32 AM

Born in Rome in 1938, Juan Carlos didn’t set foot in Spain until he was 10.

…how far is that…from Kenya?

KOOLAID2 on June 2, 2014 at 11:33 AM

I remember that. I hope Spain hangs onto their commitment to democracy. The numbers are dwindling. Without us the smaller countries will have a harder time.

crankyoldlady on June 2, 2014 at 12:00 PM

The biggest defender of Spanish democracy was its king.

Think about that.

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 2, 2014 at 12:21 PM

We love the Constitutional Monarchy in Spain, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Holland and numerous other countries. There is a human being above the politicians.

leader4hru on June 2, 2014 at 1:05 PM

Not that it was still enforced, but in 1992 King Carlos formally repealed the Spanish Inquisition which forced Jews to convert or be expelled on the 500th Anniversary.

hadsil on June 2, 2014 at 2:01 PM

hadsil on June 2, 2014 at 2:01 PM

At least he didn’t re-open the doors to the Moors.

Another Drew on June 2, 2014 at 3:37 PM

The King rose to the occasion many times, most recently when he asked the blowhard Hugo Chavez, “Why don’t you shut up?”

Ted Torgerson on June 2, 2014 at 9:23 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUZxlXkbaxM

¿Por qué no te callas?”

I remember playing that video over and over cause I loved it so much.

That was the best.

Elisa on June 3, 2014 at 11:15 PM

So the question is, will Obama abdicate his Unconstitutional Monarchy on schedule 1/20/17?

Frankly, I hate historical revisionism. Juan Carlos deserves respect from everyone who loves Republican government. Franco groomed him and set him up as his successor. Juan Carlos could have stepped in and continued the dictatorship. Instead he immediately brought back a Republic. Not many men in history have turned down absolute power when offered..

ConstantineXI on June 2, 2014 at 8:48 AM

The King presided over a revolution in Spanish politics, economics and culture. His leadership led Spain into the rank of developed and free countries in Europe. I am sorry to see him go. History will judge him the most important Spanish monarch since Ferdnand and Isabella.

Esaus Message on June 2, 2014 at 9:24 AM

I agree.

I’ve been away from my computer for a couple days, but I wanted to comment because my parents are both Spanish and I spent 3 summers there growing up.

King Juan Carlos was is a unique and rare leader. Spain, and all who love freedom, owe him alot.

God bless him and his family.

Elisa on June 3, 2014 at 11:19 PM