MADRID (AFP) - King Juan Carlos, who abdicated on Monday aged 76, led Spain to democracy after decades of dictatorship and foiled a military coup, winning widespread respect that later crumbled away in the face of royal scandals.
Juan Carlos played a determining role in Spanish modern history when he stepped up as the first crowned head of state in 44 years after the death of General Francisco Franco. He took the throne within days of Franco's death in November 1975, having been named successor by the dictator himself, who passed over Juan Carlos' father, Juan de Borbon.
"My father always said... that his ambition was to become the king of all the Spanish and I am very proud to have made the dream of my father an undeniable reality," Juan Carlos said in his only authorised biography, published in 1993.
As Franco's appointed successor, Juan Carlos had reportedly been pelted with fruit when travelling around Spain during the dictatorship, but once crowned, his easy-going manner endeared him to many Spaniards.
A file photo taken on October 31, 1975 shows Prince Juan Carlos of Spain playing with his son Don Felipe driving a cart, in the gardens of Zarzuela Palace in Madrid. -- PHOTO: AFP
A photo taken on June 10, 1971 shows Prince Juan Carlos of Bourbon (L) and Spanish Head of State General Francisco Franco (R) attending the Victory Parade in Madrid. -- PHOTO: AFP
This handout file photo released by the Spanish Royal House on September 15, 2012 shows Spanish Crown Prince Felipe (R), his wife Princess Letizia (L) and their daughters Sofia (2nd L) and Leonor (2ndR) posing at their official residence in Madrid on August 1, 2012. -- PHOTO: AFP
A file photo taken on May 22, 2004 shows Spanish Crown Prince Felipe of Spain (C-R) his wife Princess of Asturias Letizia Ortiz and King Juan Carlos of Spain (third row, 4th L) and Queen Sofia (third row, 4th right), posing for a family photo at the Royal Palace in Madrid. -- PHOTO: AFP
A file photo taken on Nov 22, 1975, shows Juan Carlos of Bourbon taking the oath in front of the Spanish Parliament, the Cortes, and the Kingdom's Council in Madrid, next to his wife, Queen Sofia. King Juan Carlos, who abdicated on Monday aged 76, led Spain to democracy after decades of dictatorship and foiled a military coup, winning widespread respect that later crumbled away in the face of royal scandals. -- PHOTO: AFP
A photo taken on July 22, 1969, shows then Spanish Head of State, General Francisco Franco (right) beside his successor, Prince Juan Carlos, during a Cortes Session in Madrid. -- PHOTO: AFP
A file photo taken on May 22, 2004, shows (from left) King Juan Carlos of Spain, Princess of Asturias Letizia Ortiz, her husband, Spanish Crown Prince Felipe of Bourbon and his mother Queen Sofia of Spain saluting the crowd from the balcony of the Oriental Palace in Madrid after the wedding of Prince Felipe of Spain and Letizia Ortiz. -- PHOTO: AFP
Spain's King Juan Carlos signs his abdication at the Zarzuela Palace, on June 2, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS