Juan Carlos: The King of Contradictions – Labour Article
Juan Carlos may have helped save Spain from dictatorship, but he couldn’t spare his people from his own corruption. He is a cautionary tale of abuse of power and also a key figure in the birth and maintenance of Spanish democracy. Let’s look at the rise and fall of the King of Contradictions…
In 1975, the year Franco died, Juan Carlos was due to inherit Spain from him. One of his priorities was establishing a long-lasting monarchy. History was not on Juan Carlos’ side: King Constantine of Greece, who had been in a similar position to Juan Carlos, lost his throne in 1922. Spaniards needed a reason for an unelected head of state after being in a brutal dictatorship since 1939.
Juan Carlos gave them that reason.
On 23 February 1981, 200 paramilitary civil guards stormed the Spanish parliament, launching a military coup, and holding 350 deputies hostage. Spain, it seemed, was about to lose its chance at restoring democracy. Juan Carlos himself had no involvement with the planning of this coup, but it is likely its organisers assumed they would have his support.
They couldn’t have been more wrong.
Juan Carlos immediately went on national television and denounced the attempted coup. He gave the constitution the full support of the monarchy. And the coup failed. Juan Carlos had made himself an indispensable part of Spanish democracy. This, I believe, is what modern-day monarchy should be: protecting your citizens no matter what.
Much of Juan Carlos’ reign was full of good moments. In his role, he helped make the country more progressive, passing divorce and abortion laws in the early 80s. After years of being persecuted by Franco, he also granted Catalonia some of the autonomy it wanted and, quite frankly, deserved. This wasn’t enough to stop the current Catalonia crisis, but it was something. He also helped the Spanish economy by negotiating good trade deals and even stood up to Hugo Chávez on behalf of the Spanish PM in 2007.
Clearly, the man was popular. He did a lot for Spain. He shows why a country can benefit from having a monarchy as part of its democracy: they can make a difference.
So, what happened?
I think he was too popular, he felt untouchable. Him standing up to Chávez was a widely popular move but it was also a breach of royal protocol. I am a firm believer that power exaggerates and brings out the many elements of humans. Juan Carlos is charismatic, caring and capable. But, he’s also greedy.
His later years have been dogged by scandals and poor decisions. During the financial crisis, Juan Carlos preached to Spaniards about working hard to deal with their new life and then went elephant hunting in Botswana with his mistress. He has also reportedly had dodgy dealings with Saudi Arabia, receiving millions from them. This has prompted his son, the current King Felipe VI, to renounce his inheritance and take away Juan Carlos’ stipend.
This has all culminated in Juan Carlos’ exit from Spain. He is a man who came back from exile and restored monarchy and democracy to Spain. But, will leave it in a self-imposed exile and the strength of the monarchy severely weakened.
Juan Carlos’ life shows how a monarchy can benefit a state but also warns of what unchecked power and influence can do. I wonder if, and for how long, the Spanish monarchy will survive after this.
Written by Junior Labour Writer, Freya Jhugroo
Point of Information
A Delicate Spot for Felipe VI — A Conservative Response
This fall was long in the teeth. With over 5,000 lovers, that Botswana trip, the mysterious death of his younger brother, & corruption, he certainly has a lot of skeletons.
However, his is not just about Juan Carlos. There are greater questions on the legitimacy of the monarchy, and the unity of Spain.
Felipe VI has had to wash his hands of his father, but it is not that simple. Juan Carlos may have abdicated, but this has not removed his fingerprints from the institution. Felipe has had to try and stop the bleeding, cutting himself off from his inheritance, and ceasing his Father’s stipend. More & more in Spain are now asking: “Is Republicanism the way forward?”
Furthermore, Spain is a country of countries, and Madrid has a constant mission on its hands to keep the union. Freya mentions the Catalonia question. In my opinion, Juan Carlos’ weakening of the Spanish crown only furthers their case for independence. Under no uncertain terms, Catalonia views itself separate from Spain. Should there be a legally binding referendum, it would leap at the chance of an exit. In turn, this may create momentums for other separatist movements, the Basque region is an example.
Juan Carlos has left his son with a lot to do.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Alexander Dennis
Monarchy is Outdated and Juan Carlos Proves It – A Liberal Response
Juan Carlos’ reign, as Freya mentioned, is riddled with scandals. Out of all existing European monarchies, it is no wonder that Spain’s has the least support. The blame can be put almost entirely on the ex-King. The man is greedy. However, he is much more than that. He is also extremely foolish.
These scandals point to something deeper. Initially well-liked, Juan abused the naive sentiment that monarchy and democracy are truly compatible. He foolishly exploited this support to fuel his elitist lifestyle. Luckily, Juan paid the price for it. His successors may do as well.
Juan displayed how outdated the concept of monarchy is. From birth, Juan knew he was born superior to his fellow humans. He perhaps felt untouchable. However, ‘a modern-day monarch’, to use Freya’s term, does not tell their subjects this. This is where Juan failed.
Democracy is a good safeguard against unchecked privilege. Because of that, though, it is a monarch’s worst nightmare. Juan had to tango with democracy to preserve his reign. Admittedly, he was a terrible dancer. After all, his son had to be called to replace him.
Will Felipe VI be different? Time will tell. He is certainly not as foolish as his father. However, the people of Spain are on their guard. Any error could swiftly destroy the country’s weakened monarchy. Juan exposed its inherent flaws.
Abdicating is the only wise thing that Juan has done recently.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Frank Allen
Hello, I’m Freya. I am going into my third year at Exeter, studying International Relations and Spanish. My main areas of interest are the environment, societal injustices and foreign affairs.
Hello, I’m Alexander Dennis, and I am going into my third undergraduate year at the University of Exeter. I study Politics & International Relations, with a possible year abroad hanging in the balance. My particular interest in politics really started in early 2016: yes, it was ‘Brexit’. I was at once intrigued, and confused, by something so critical. From that baptism, I have become somewhat addicted to political discussion, intrigued by issues ranging from drugs policy to taxation. So I followed my nose: I applied for a degree in the subject.
Politics was a completely taboo subject for me as a young boy. Having lived almost all my life in Brunei and Qatar – two very strict, theocratic autocracies – I was cautious to keep my opinions well-guarded. The smallest negative remark about either country’s governance, for example, would’ve meant deportation for my family and I. Any non-approved political activity, no matter how naïve, had to be kept a secret. It was best not to question at all.