Brussels – Picking the high point of Juan Carlos I’s reign is easy. In 1981, just a few years after Spain had restored democracy and monarchy in the wake of Gen. Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, the king used his authority as commander-in-chief of the armed forces to crush an attempted coup d’etat. The democratic transition process got a fresh boost, as did public support for “juancarlismo,” in which the monarch served as the constitutional glue keeping a historically divided country together.
Sadly, there are several contenders for the low point. His secret safari trip to Botswana in 2012, as Spaniards struggled with a deep recession and record unemployment, ended with a broken hip and a stream of embarrassing revelations about his private life. In 2014, pressure from a landmark corruption probe into the business activities of his son-in-law led to his abdication in favor of his son, Felipe VI.