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Swearing the oath: Juan Carlos alongside Queen Sofía and their three children, Felipe (the current king), Elena and Cristina.
22 November 1975: Juan Carlos I is made King of Spain
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22 November 1975: Juan Carlos I is made King of Spain

Two days after Franco's death, the prince he had named as his successor was sworn in as king and a major new phase began in Spanish history

Debbie Bartlett

Friday, 22 November 2019, 14:18

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On 22 November 1975, two days after the death of dictator General Francisco Franco, Prince Juan Carlos was sworn in as King of Spain. Franco had ruled with an iron hand for 36 years, after winning the 1936 to 1939 civil war, so this was a turning point in the country's history and transition towards democracy.

Normally, Juan Carlos would not have acceded to the throne because his father, Don Juan de Borbón, was still alive. However, in 1969 Franco had announced that he had designated the young prince as his successor. In the same year, Juan Carlos had sworn "in the name of God and on the holy gospels to uphold the laws of the Francoist state and remain loyal to the principles of the Movimiento Nacional". He repeated this oath at his investiture, but in his first speech as king he also referred to a new stage in Spain's history and the need to make radical improvements.

One of the new king's top priorities was to earn international support for his campaign for democracy. His investiture was attended by representatives of some of the major democracies, including President Giscard d'Estaing of France and the UK's Duke of Edinburgh, and the monarch made a point of handling many of Spain's foreign relations in person.

The king's personal popularity at home and abroad continued to increase and was sealed by the way he responded to an attempted military coup on 23 February 1981. However, years later he started to come under criticism for alleged extramarital relationships and incidents such as a private trip to Botswana to hunt elephants, without the government's knowledge, while acting as the head of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund. It came to light when he broke a hip and had to be flown home at taxpayers' expense. The outcry was so great that he was forced to make a public apology.

Perhaps the final straw, though, was the scandal involving his son-in-law Iñaki Urdangarin, who was found guilty of embezzlement through a company he had set up as a non-profit-making foundation. The king's daughter, the Infanta Cristina, was found not guilty of tax fraud.

King Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of his son Prince Felipe in 2014, after 39 years on the throne.

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