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King Juan Carlos: Tainted hero of Spain's democracy

Published on Jun 2, 2014 5:31 PM

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.

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