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Juan Carlos I

(b. 1938)


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(b. 5 Jan. 1938).

King of Spain 1975–  Born in Rome, he was the grandson of King Alfonso XIII, who had left Spain without abdicating on 14 April 1931. In 1947, Franco defined Spain as a monarchy without determining the monarch. At Franco's instigation, he went to Spain in 1948 to finish his studies and receive military training. While he disagreed with Franco, he was concerned to reconcile Spaniards still divided by the Spanish Civil War. In 1961 Franco officially designated him to occupy the throne after his death. As King, he was committed to national reconciliation, the country's regional diversity, and a complete democratization. He chose a Prime Minister, Suárez, who would carry out his programme, so that direct, universal elections could be held by 1977. He supported Spain's constitutional definition as a country of autonomous regions, and promoted a special autonomy status for Catalonia. A military coup of 1981, in which the rebels seized the parliament, came to nought, not least because of the King's determination. As the democracy became more firmly entrenched under González during the 1980s, he took a less active role in politics, focusing on his ceremonial and representative functions instead. More than any other person, he ensured a peaceful transition from the divisive, authoritarian Franco years to a stable, Western democracy.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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