Spanish King Juan Carlos, 76, has decided to abdicate in favour of his son, Prince Felipe. His decision lowers the curtain on a 39-year reign that ushered in democracy but ended in a string of scandals.
Here's a list of key abdications in the world over the past century:
King Albert II of Belgium, 79, stepped down on July 21, 2013 after a 20-year reign, becoming the first Belgian king to voluntarily abdicate. He passed the throne to his oldest son Philippe.
The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, 61, abdicated on June 25, 2013 in favour of his 33-year-old son Sheikh Tamim, the first such recent transfer of power in an Arab country.
Dutch Queen Beatrix, 75, abdicated on April 30, 2013 in favour of her son Willem-Alexander, after a 33-year reign. The Netherlands has a history of abdications: Beatrix took over the throne on April 30, 1980, when her mother Queen Juliana abdicated on her 71st birthday. Juliana herself took the throne in September 1948, after her mother, Queen Wilhelmina, abdicated.
King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, 50, announced in 2005 that he would pass responsibility to Crown Prince Khesar Namgyal in 2008. Deeply revered by his people, King Jigme had ruled his country since ascending the throne in 1972.
King Norodom Sihanouk, 81, abdicated on October 7, 2004 after being treated in Beijing for cancer. Sihanouk, who came to the throne for the first time in 1941, had already abdicated in 1955, in favour of his father, before becoming constitutional monarch again in 1993. The constitutional council chose one of his sons, Prince Norodom Sihamoni, as his successor.
Prince Hans-Adam II handed over management of the principality's affairs to his eldest son, Hereditary Prince Alois, 36, on August 15, 2004. Since then, Alois has performed the duties of head of state, in preparation of his official succession to the throne.
Grand Duke Jean abdicated on October 7, 2000 after a 36-year-reign, and his elder son, Prince Henri, took his place. Jean had himself succeeded his mother, the Grand Duchess Charlotte, after her abdication in 1964.
King Farouk I abdicated in July 1952 during the revolution led by Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser, 16 years after his accession to the throne. His son, Fuad II, succeeded him, but was forced to join his family in exile after the proclamation of the republic less than a year later in June 1953.
King Leopold III, on the throne since 1934 but controversial because of some of his actions during World War II, was forced to abdicate on July 16, 1951 in favour of his son Baudouin I in order to avoid the possibility of major civil unrest after his return to the throne following six years in exile.
Michael I was forced to abdicate by the communists in December 1947, before going into exile several months later.
Victor-Emmanuel III, the king of Italy since 1900, abdicated on May 9, 1946 because of his collaboration with the fascist regime of dictator Benito Mussolini. His son, Umberto II, nicknamed the "May King", went into exile in June of the same year, the day after a referendum setting up the republic.
Edward VIII was forced to abdicate after only several months in power on December 12, 1936, in order to marry divorced American Wallis Simpson, thus avoiding a major constitutional crisis. His younger brother Albert took over the throne under the name of George VI in May 1937. He was father of the current Queen Elizabeth II.