Spain’s former king Juan Carlos has once again found himself in the Spanish headlines, this time thanks to the arrangements for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. 

On Monday, a radio host broke the news that the monarch had been invited to the event, something that sent shockwaves through both the media and the royal household. 

Juan Carlos’s son, King Felipe VI, has been trying to distance the royal family from the emeritus king, after a series of very public scandals. Their presence together at the funeral on Monday will not only set back those efforts, but has also caused a media storm in Spain. 

The former king was widely respected in Spain thanks to his role in the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy, but he fell from grace in the early 2010s due to a scandal involving an expensive hunting trip at a time of austerity in the country, and the news that he was accompanied by a lover. 

El Rey Emerito Juan Carlos I Llega Al Puerto De Sanxenxo Donde Es Recibido Por Una Gran Cantidad De Gente
King Juan Carlos would attend to Elizabeth’s funeral in London. Image Cordon Press.

He abdicated in 2014 and later retired from public life. However, in 2020 pressure grew on him once more over a series of probes into his business dealings. He was investigated in the Spanish courts, while a Swiss prosecutor also opened a case involving figures with links to the self-styled emeritus king, albeit not directly investigating Juan Carlos. 

He was suspected of tax fraud and also was thought to have received a massive kickback in relation to a Spanish consortium’s project to build a high-speed rail link to Mecca. In the end the probes in Spain and Switzerland were shelved, for reasons ranging from a lack of evidence to the immunity he enjoyed as Spain’s head of state. 

In August 2020 the former monarch went into self-imposed exile in Abu Dhabi, where he has been living ever since. He has only returned to Spain once, earlier this year to attend a sailing competition in Galicia. Rather than being a low-key affair, the visit turned into a media circus. He refused to give any explanations over his business dealings and the allegations against him. 

His son, King Felipe VI has long been trying to distance the royal family from Juan Carlos, given the reputational damage he has caused to an institution that is disdained by many in Spain already – particularly in regions that have historically sought independence, such as the Basque Country and Catalonia. 

The Spanish government is also reported to have been pressuring the royal household behind the scenes to stop Juan Carlos from attending the event. 

According to reports in Spanish media outlets, Juan Carlos will be travelling on a commercial flight directly to London for the funeral, and will only be staying for 24 hours. 

It is not known whether he will be pictured with his son, King Felipe, at the event. The pair have not been seen in public together since early 2020, and the image is something that the royal household is no doubt trying to avoid. 

What is certain, according to Spanish daily El País, is that Juan Carlos will not be seated at the funeral next to his estranged wife, Queen Sofía. 

Juan Carlos is thought to have allowed the news to be leaked in order to force his son’s hand, as well as having informed the House of Windsor that he would be attending before he even told the Spanish royal household. 

Both Juan Carlos and Sofía are distant cousins of Queen Elizabeth II, given that all three are descendants of Queen Victoria. 

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