The Last Macho Rise and Fall of Spain's Former King Juan Carlos

After the end of the Franco era, King Juan Carlos I helped his country become wealthy and democratic. Today he is exiled, with his legacy clouded by possible connections to tax fraud. What happened?
Juan Carlos I estranged himself from his family. His wife Sofía did not join him in exile.

Juan Carlos I estranged himself from his family. His wife Sofía did not join him in exile.

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Europa Press / Getty Images

DER SPIEGEL 37/2020
Juan Carlos married Sofía, a third cousin, in 1962, right in the middle of the Franco dictatorship. He was crowned in 1975 shortly after Franco's death. Several years of economic upswing and growing prosperity in Spain followed, during which Juan Carlos led a life of excess, including a fateful hunting trip to Botswana in 2006.

Juan Carlos married Sofía, a third cousin, in 1962, right in the middle of the Franco dictatorship. He was crowned in 1975 shortly after Franco's death. Several years of economic upswing and growing prosperity in Spain followed, during which Juan Carlos led a life of excess, including a fateful hunting trip to Botswana in 2006.

Rumors of affairs were a constant companion to Juan Carlos throughout his life. His former mistress Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn even came along on some official trips (2006). Nevertheless, he sought to project the image of an intact family life (1972).

Rumors of affairs were a constant companion to Juan Carlos throughout his life. His former mistress Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn even came along on some official trips (2006). Nevertheless, he sought to project the image of an intact family life (1972).

Franco kept Spain isolated under his iron-fisted rule for almost four decades. Juan Carlos led the country out of this dark era (1973), but it is now up to his son Felipe, the new king, to guide Spain through its current crisis (2018).

Franco kept Spain isolated under his iron-fisted rule for almost four decades. Juan Carlos led the country out of this dark era (1973), but it is now up to his son Felipe, the new king, to guide Spain through its current crisis (2018).

Helene Zuber, DER SPIEGEL's Spain correspondent, has been reporting on the Spanish royal family for decades. Here, she is shaking hands with Juan Carlos in Berlin in 2007 as then-German President Horst Köhler stands by.

Helene Zuber, DER SPIEGEL's Spain correspondent, has been reporting on the Spanish royal family for decades. Here, she is shaking hands with Juan Carlos in Berlin in 2007 as then-German President Horst Köhler stands by.

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