Juan Carlos is the former king of Spain, and his full name is really long. Here it is: Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor María de Borbón y Borbón. Carlos ruled from 1975 to 2014, ascending to the throne two days after the death of the previous King, Francisco Franco. Carlos was born in Rome in 1938, and he didn’t arrive in Spain until 1947 to get an education. In 1955, Carlos started his military education. He went to a few different schools, including the General Military Academy at Zaragoza, the Naval Military School Naval Military School at Marín in Pontevedra, the General Academy of the Air at San Javier in Murcia, and the University of Madrid.
Let’s jump into some facts!
Juan Carlos I Facts
1. Juan Carlos I made Spain a Democracy
Carlos played an important part in turning Spain into a Democracy. In 1947, Franco, the previous king, got rid of the second republic of Spain and re-instated the Monarchy. Juan Carlos kept the Monarchy in place, but also bolstered the democratic process. The people would vote to choose who would fill government positions.
2. There was some family drama
The royal family’s situation, and Carlos’s rise to the throne, were a little bit complicated. Francisco Franco, the King before Carlos, was actually Carlos’s grandfather. The throne would have gone to Carlos’s father, also named Juan Carlos, but better known as Don Juan, but Juan gave up his rights to the throne. Then the throne should have gone to Don Juan’s eldest son, but he was killed in a car accident. Then the throne should have gone to Don Juan’s second eldest son, but he gave up his rights to the throne in 1933 because of some medical issues he thought would prevent him from doing his duty as King. And so, the throne went to the third son, an interesting fact about Juan Carlos, who was the third son.
3. Carlos married a Greek Princess
As members of royalty tend to do, Juan Carlos married the princess of another land. No doubt, it was to establish or strengthen relations with Greece. Juan Carlos married Princess Sophia of Greece, and together they had two daughters and a son named Felipe. Felipe would go on to inherit the Spanish crown.
4. He was far more liberal than he was initially thought to be.
Juan Carlos pulled the ol’ bait and switch. He presented himself as a very conservative man who was supportive of his grandfather Franco’s political stance. An interesting fact about Juan Carlos is that this conservative act is what got Carlos the throne in the first place. Franco had to pass a law declaring Carlos would be the heir to the throne. Franco turned down other possible candidates since they were too liberal, in his opinion.
However, as soon as Juan Carlos took his spot as the king of Spain, he showed his true colors as a liberal. One of Carlos’s first acts was to appoint Adolfo Suarez as the Prime Minister. Suarez was a reformist who would further push for a liberal agenda. Carlos also encouraged the formation of political parties in Spain and supported a movement to free political prisoners. Needless to say, this was not what Franco envisioned, but since Franco was dead, he couldn’t really do anything about it.
5. Juan Carlos’s defense of Democracy allowed for liberal advancements in Spain.
Just because Franco couldn’t do anything about Juan Carlos’s policies, didn’t mean Franco’s followers couldn’t try to take Carlos’s power away. The Spanish military attempted to start a revolution and throw Carlos out of power. If Carlos wanted to keep his Democracy, he was going to have to fight for it, and fight for it, he did. Carlos was able to stop the revolt by taking swift and brutal action against those who stood against him.
This decision made things awkward between Juan Carlos and the military, but it allowed the new Spanish Democracy to survive. This eventually lead to the establishment of a Socialist government in 1982, as well as the implementation of a liberal divorce law in 1981, and a law granting some abortion rights in 1983.
6. He was the first Spanish King to visit the United States
Apparently, before Juan Carlos, no other Spanish king had traveled to the United States. In 1976, Carlos became the first Spanish King to make the journey to meet the United States President, an interesting Juan Carlos fact. Later he returned to the United States to meet with President Clinton. He also visited China three times, and went to France to sign a document saying the two nations would work together in political and military matters. Juan Carlos made a surprise visit to Spanish troops in Afghanistan, as well, to help boost morale.
7. Carlos went Elephant hunting
Juan Carlos was a generally well-liked King, with very few black spots on his record once he got past that revolution attempt. He was investigated for corruption in royal finances. However, a hobby of his caused more public upset. He hunted elephants and bears. In 2004, it was reported that the King killed nine bears, including one that was pregnant. There was also a rumor that in 2006 Juan Carlos shot a tame, drunk bear during a private hunting trip to Russia. The Spanish monarchy said the rumors weren’t true.
In 2012, Carlos went on an elephant hunting trip to Botswana. This was a very fancy trip, and the King ended up spending a lot of money, while his citizens were in the middle of difficult economic times. That wasn’t a very popular move, on his part. Not only were environmentalists mad about this trip, everyone else was, too.
8. Juan Carlos competed in the Olympics
In 1972, before Carlos took the throne, he competed in the Olympics. An interesting fact about Juan Carlos is that he was an avid sailor, and there just so happened to be a sailing event in the 1972 Olympics. The future King raced in Dragon class boats, and came in 15th place. So, he didn’t win any medals, but he still competed.
During summer holidays, Juan Carlos and his family would go to Marivent Palace to compete in yacht sailing competitions. After Carlos gave up the throne, he took up the hobby of sailing classic boats.
Juan Carlos ended his reign in 2014, when he gave his throne up to his son Felipe. He is still alive today, at the age of 82, sailing his boats and skiing with his family. Carlos did a lot to establish Democracy in Spain, and create a more Liberal country, and now he can rest.
I hope that this article on Juan Carlos I facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Historical People Facts Page!