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Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón: 1938—: King of Spain Biography

Attempted To Bridge Gap In Politics, Faced Challenges To Prosperous Reign

Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón: 1938—: King of Spain.

Spain's King Juan Carlos I has ushered his country through an unusual political evolution: handpicked by military dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco to succeed him, the new monarch quickly moved to restore Spain to a democratic constitutional government in the late 1970s. In doing so he gave up much of his own power, and within a decade had brought the Iberian Peninsula nation into the pan-European political community. "The transfer of power in Spain was a model," observed UNESCO Courier writer Ramón Luis Acuña, "a source of inspiration for guiding democratic changes not only in a number of Latin American countries but also, and despite a very different political situation, in the Eastern bloc countries, including Russia."

The future king was born Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón in Rome, Italy, on January 5, 1938. His grandfather had fled Spain after the country was proclaimed a republic in 1931, an act that served to oust a Borbón dynasty whose rule in Spain dated back to 1700. The family had long, complex ties to the royal houses of Europe: the Borbón line was originally a French one, there was princely German blood as well, and Juan Carlos' grandmother was the granddaughter of England's Queen Victoria. Juan Carlos' father, Don Juan de Borbón y Battenberg, became regent-in-exile in 1941 after the grandfather, King Alfonso XIII, abdicated in Don Juan's favor that year. By then, Spain had become a military dictatorship under Franco. The exiled royal family moved to Lausanne, Switzerland, during World War II, but after the war's end settled in Estoril, Portugal. In 1947 Franco announced that he planned to choose his posthumous successor from the Borbón line. Franco then informed Juan Carlos' father—a bitter foe of the Generalissimo—that in order for his son to be considered, Juan Carlos would have to return to Spain for his schooling.

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