“It is not an escape but a way for the monarchy to protect itself”

Splashed by business, former King Juan Carlos announced on Monday that he is leaving Spain. A painful epilogue for those who ruled over young democracy for almost forty years.

A painful end to the government. The former King of Spain, Juan Carlos, announced on Monday 3 August that he would leave his country, following an investigation into corruption. As he drowns in accusations, the 82-year-old former monarch is on his way to the Dominican Republic, according to the newspaperLa Vanguardiabut also ABC and El Mundo. Information is then denied by the country’s migration services. Other media say so in Portugal or in France and Italy. The mystery therefore remains unsolved.

The monarch justified his exile in a letter addressed to his son, Felipe VI, by his desire to “facilitate the exercise of [ses] functions ”. “Guided […] “By the conviction of providing the best service to the Spaniards, to their institutions and to you as King, I inform you of my considered decision to banish myself, during this period outside Spain,” wrote Juan Carlos’ lawyer, Javier Sanchez-Junco, clarified, however, that his client did not try to escape justice but remained at his disposal, for his part the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Tuesday that he respected this resignation and considered it “worthy of a robust democracy”.

This exile is “no surprise”, calculates by telephone, CaroleViñals, lecturer at the University of Lille and specialist in Spain after Franco. “This decision had been in motion for at least two months. It is not a leak but a way for the monarchy to protect itself,” the academic states. As the Spanish Supreme Court in June last year announced the launch of an investigation to determine the former king’s possible liability in a case of alleged corruption during the award of a high-speed train contract. of Saudi Arabia.

Scandals that splashed the monarchy

It is clear that Juan Carlos is suspected of having received a huge bribe from Riyadh during the award of the construction of a TGV between Mecca and Medina to a consortium of Spanish companies. just the latest in a long series of scandals that have splashed the monarchy. Thus, those who ruled Spain for thirty-eight years and ensured the country’s democratic transition, have seen their popularity collapse over the years.

“He enjoyed broad consensus for a long time, although his corruption was fairly well known. But several cases began to appear in the press after the 2008 economic crisis, such as his story in Switzerland and sentimental escapades. Have been affected: his son-in-law, the former this Olympic handball champion, Iñaki Urdangarína, was convicted of embezzlement, his daughter, infant Cristina, was stripped of her title as Duchess after a case of tax fraud … “, information Manuelle Peloille, Spanish speaker and professor at the University of Angers.

Above all, a business that was particularly marked by mentalities. In 2012, while the Spaniards were suffering from the Great Depression, they learned that their king had broken his hip … during a curious elephant hunt in Botswana. A luxury safari paid for by a Saudi friend and organized by the company Corinne U Sayn-Wittgenstein, a German businesswoman who secretly shared the monarch’s life. In the face of the scandal’s pressure, Juan Carlos finally abdicated in favor of his son, two years later.

“An elephant killer” for the younger generations

Hard blow for the ex-king, his former mistress will confirm in 2015 that the ex-king had received a commission during the attribution of the construction of TGV to a Spanish consortium.

Suspected of having served their interests by serving those in Spain, the ex-monarch now divides the generations. “For the Spaniards who witnessed the fall of the Franco dictatorship in 1975, Juan Carlos mainly embodies democratic transition and progress. But for the generation born in freedom and after the 1980s, he is mostly seen as a killer of elephants,” emphasizes CaroleViñals.

His own son Felipe VI tried to limit the monarchy’s discredit and distanced himself in March last year, removing an annual endowment of almost 200,000 euros. Finally, he also announced that he had renounced his father’s inheritance. Measures that have failed to silence criticism of royalty.

Exile, in the heart of family history

Juan Carlos’ departure now illustrates the fragility of a monarchy struggling to prove its exemplary nature. “In Spain, the royal figure is supposed to embody an image of stability compared to a government that is exposed to the vagaries of a volatile policy. But this was no longer the case for a long time with Juan Carlos,” the academic estimates. “But if royalty seems to be weakened, it remains firmly linked to democracy, through the 1978 constitution,” she adds. In other words, “the crown can be questioned, it always remains standing”.

Finally, if the outing of Juan Carlos does not have any concrete consequences for the institution, the gesture remains prominently symbolic. He himself was born in exile in Rome, and his father Jean de Bourbon spent most of his life in Portugal and his grandfather was also forced to leave Spain after the proclamation of the Second Republic in 1931. The rift of exile thus remains rooted in their family history, “she concludes.