King Juan Carlos of Spain has given a rare television interview on the eve of his 75th birthday.
In the interview, King Juan Carlos expressed his “hurt” at the number of young Spaniards forced to emigrate by economic difficulties.
The interview comes after a difficult year for the Spanish royal family.
King Juan Carlos has had to apologize for going elephant hunting in Botswana at the height of the financial crisis, while his son-in-law has been at the centre of a corruption investigation.
“One of the things that is most concerning and is in the mind of many Spaniards is the lack of jobs that leads millions of families to be unable to live with dignity and forces young people to leave Spain to look for work,” he said, adding that the situation “pained him”.
“It hurts me a lot,” he told Spanish national television station TVE.
The interview was a pitch to the Spanish people at a time when the popularity of the royal family is in decline.
King Juan Carlos of Spain has given a rare television interview on the eve of his 75th birthday
The mere fact that the King gave an interview shows that there is some concern in royal circles about the future of Spain’s royal family.
Republicanism is still a potent force in Spain, less than 40 years after the end of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
In the interview the king reminded his audience how he had smoothed the transition to democracy and how far, during his 37-year rule, the country had come.
“I would like to be remembered as the king who has united Spaniards, that with him democracy and the monarchy have been recovered,” he said, adding that “liberty” was a word for which he hoped he would be remembered.
There were no questions in the interview about the corruption scandal in which his son-in-law, a former handball international, now the Duke Of Palma, was mired. He has been accused of misusing funds donated to a foundation he administered, allegations he denies.
Nor was the King asked about the public apology he made after criticism of his trip to Africa while his country’s economic crisis was at its height.
A leading Spanish newspaper, El Pais, wrote in an editorial on Thursday that “the royal palace has launched in recent months a studious marketing operation to improve the image of the king”.
Just two weeks ago, King Juan Carlos had appealed to Spaniards to have confidence in themselves and their country in his annual Christmas speech.
“We cannot ignore that there is pessimism, and that its effects are felt in the social climate we are living in,” he said, after a year of mass street demonstrations and two general strikes.
Of all the measures to combat the crisis, he said “the main stimulus that will get us out of this crisis is called confidence”.
Inaki Urdangarin, the Duke of Palma and the Spain’s King Juan Carlos’ son in law, has arrived at court in Mallorca to face a corruption probe.
Inaki Urdangarin is being investigated over claims he misused public funds given to a foundation he ran.
The duke has denied any wrongdoing in the case, which has been a rare embarrassment for the popular Spanish royal family.
“I come to clarify the truth and defend my honor,” the Duke of Palma said as he arrived.
“I have carried out my responsibilities and taken decisions in the right way and with complete transparency,” he said, according to Spain’s El Pais newspaper.
Scores of anti-monarchy protesters demonstrated noisily nearby as the duke arrived.
Some waved signs reading “Inaki owes us money” and “Monarchy Corruption”, the AFP news agency reports.
Inaki Urdangarin, the Duke of Palma and the Spain's King Juan Carlos’ son in law, has arrived at court in Mallorca to face a corruption probe
Inaki Urdangarin, who has not been formally charged, was suspended from official royal engagements in December last year.
Exact details of the accusations against the Duke of Palma have not been made public but he is reportedly accused of misdirecting part of some 6 million Euros ($8 million) sent to his not-for-profit Noos Institute by regional governments to organize sporting events.
It is alleged that some of the money ended up in companies that the Duke of Palma ran.
The events in question happened between 2004 and 2006, when the duke stepped down as head of the institute.
Inaki Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player, is married to King Juan Carlos’ second child, Princess Cristina.
On Thursday the duke’s family released a statement defending his innocence and attacking what they called a “campaign of harassment” against him, AFP reports.
In response to the scandal, the Spanish royal family announced in December that it will make its accounts publicly available.
In a new book by Spanish author Pilar Eyre is claimed that Princess Diana was just one of the many young ladies King Juan Carlos of Spain pursued in a romantic career in which he is said to have bedded more than 1,500 women.
The explosive claims are made in one of the six volumes about the Spanish royal family written by Pilar Eyre.
Imperious and suave, Juan Carlos looks every inch the old-style monarch with the autocratic manners to go with it. He loves hunting bears, skiing and boating and bedding the opposite sex.
In one picture, King Juan Carlos of Spain sits with the small Prince William, while a radiant Princess Diana, a protective arm round toddler Prince Harry, leans in to share a pleasantry with the good-looking monarch. At the other end of the couch, Prince Charles seems scarcely part of the same holiday party in 1986. He is staring glumly straight ahead like the proverbial gooseberry.
Apparently, it is an open secret in his circles that he is such a keen womanizer that the only woman he does not spend much time with is his wife, Greek-born Queen Sofia.
According to Pilar Eyre, King Juan Carlos, now 74, and Queen Sofia have not shared a bed for 35 years.
In fact, the new book, “The Solitude of the Queen”, says, following an operation on a benign lung tumor at a Barcelona hospital in 2010, the woman who spent most of the time consoling King Juan Carlos during his convalescence was a 25-year-old German interpreter called Corinne.
But can it really be true that our very own Princess Diana was one of Juan Carlos’s most significant conquests? And that it was the relationship between her and the then 48-year-old king, in the prime of his romantic life, that finally put paid to any chance of reviving his marriage?
It is certainly the case that Princess Diana, together with Prince Charles and their young children, holidayed in Majorca with the Spanish royal family several times during the 80’s.
Prince Charles never felt at ease on the sunshine island and much preferred visiting the Duke of Wellington’s estate near Granada on the mainland where the shooting was good.
In one picture, King Juan Carlos of Spain sits with the small Prince William, while a radiant Princess Diana, a protective arm round toddler Prince Harry, leans in to share a pleasantry with the good-looking monarch
But Diana, who loved lounging about on yachts in stylish bathing suits, was right at home on the shores of the Mediterranean where she could show off her figure. And King Juan Carlos, who appreciated displays of female beauty, seems to have acted on an impulse to get closer to her.
After her first trip to Majorca in 1986, Pilar Eyre alleges Diana told her bodyguard Ken Wharfe that Juan Carlos fancied her. Apparently, the king made all sorts of excuses to get tactile with her and used to love bending down with her and inviting her to stroke his old German shepherd dog, Archie.
Another royal biographer, Lady Colin Campbell, has long insisted that Princess Diana and King Juan Carlos embarked on an affair while on a cruise with their spouses in August 1986, and that they took up with each other again the following summer.
“Diana did it to make Charles jealous, but it didn’t work,” says Lady Colin. “Charles couldn’t have cared less.”
According to Pilar Eyre, rumors of the affair intensified later over the curious case of some photos of Diana in a state of undress. These were touted around the world’s publications, only to be taken off the market when someone in Spain paid $45,000 for them. That someone is rumored to have been Juan Carlos, who wanted to protect the Princess’s reputation.
But why rake all this up now? Diana is long since dead, while Juan Carlos, though he retains an eye for a pretty woman, has made it quite plain that he would never divorce his wife, with whom he has three children and eight grandchildren.
Pilar Eyre says she has revealed it for Queen Sofia’s sake.
“In a macho country like Spain, the king’s womanizing image makes him very popular,” Pilar Eyre says.
“Even the women don’t reproach him. On the contrary, they love him because he has such a seductive manner with them. But they don’t feel the same about poor Queen Sofia.
“She is seen as a cold, aloof foreigner. I wanted to show what she has had to put up with.”
Pilar Eyre says she tried hard to find out whether the Queen might also have had lovers in her time, but could come up with nothing.
Though as a young woman she had caught the eye of the Duke of Kent – first cousin to Queen Elizabeth – the Duke then fell in love with the Englishwoman he married, Kathleen Worsley.
Sofia dutifully entered into an arranged marriage in 1962, having met the highly eligible Juan Carlos on a cruise specially convened to introduce Europe’s young royals to each other.
By 1968, they had two daughters and Crown Prince Felipe. But though Sofia had fallen deeply in love with her husband, Pilar Eyre says Juan Carlos was still playing the field.
And by 1975, when he finally came to the Spanish throne after the death of the dictator General Franco, the new Queen was nursing a great sadness. For by then the royal couple was more or less estranged as a result of the king’s persistent womanizing.
According to the book, one of Sofia’s greatest humiliations happened a couple of months after Juan Carlos became king. All of a sudden he sent for a new barber and underwent such a transformation Sofia was convinced he was sprucing himself up for a lover.
A few days later the king packed his suitcase and said he was going hunting near Toledo.
“It’s an all-male outing; you’d be bored,” the king told his wife. Unwisely, Queen Sofia decided to surprise him by arriving at the estate in the middle of the night with their children, the eldest of whom was 12.
Queen Sofia burst through the door, brushed past the servants and, taking the stairs two at a time, discovered her husband in flagrante with an unknown woman. But even being caught by his entire family did not encourage the king to mend his ways.
Pilar Eyre says that throughout her reign, Queen Sofia has consequently been forced to content herself with a life of duty in Madrid, leavened by shopping trips with her daughters and occasional visits to England to visit her brother Constantine, the ex-King of Greece, who has lived in London since he was booted off the throne in 1973.
Lately Queen Sofia has taken solace in religion. She goes to Roman Catholic Mass every Sunday in the palace and attends Madrid’s Greek Orthodox church as well. Her devotions seem to annoy Juan Carlos even more.
King Juan Carlos raised his voice to his mother-in-law, Queen Federica of Greece, when he heard her telling her daughter how the Virgin Mary had appeared before her in a vision in a church near Madrid.
“There was an intense light and peace!” said Federica, at which point the king shouted: “Shut up, you! Don’t fill her head with this nonsense, she will believe it all.”
The tragedy is that despite his behavior, Queen Sofia appears to be as captivated by her husband as she was when they married 40 years ago.
At a recent family funeral Queen Sofia was seen holding tight to him and sobbing on his shoulder as if they were still the closest of companions.
Whether the book will rehabilitate Sofia in the eyes of the Spaniards or merely add to the prestige of Juan Carlos remains to be seen.