King Juan Carlos wanted to marry his mistress, German Princess Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. But she soon became a liability that helped end his 39-year reign.
Ana Romero, former royal correspondent for El Mundo newspaper, is out with a new book about the years-long controversy that has engulfed the Spanish Royal Family and threatened the Crown.
Romero described how journalists in Spain have for years protected the Royal Family, especially during the years of economic growth and high popularity.
But the corruption allegations engulfing King Juan Carlos’ daughter and son-in-law, increased public scrutiny of leaders, and the public’s knowledge of Princess Corinna tarnished their reputation.
King Juan Carlos at Spanish Armada headquarters. © Casa de S.M. el Rey
The book reveals that years ago King Juan Carlos had Princess Corinna live in a chalet on royal grounds near his Zarzuela Palace in secret. He was also mixing business with pleasure, using Corinna to help with international contacts.
The King has had other mistresses, the book explains, but they were discrete Spanish women. Corinna was different and more dangerous, Romero said, leading Spanish authorities and intelligence services to consider her a threat to the country’s stability.
The King’s fall during a hunting trip to Botswana in 2012 was a pivotal event. People started wondering why he took such a lavish trip during an economic crisis, and why he was with a German princess and not Queen Sofia.
Queen Sofia waves at the Madrid Open. © Casa de S.M. el Rey
King Juan Carlos tried to recover his popularity and resisted abdicating, worried about then-Prince Felipe’s ability to take over and then-Princess Letizia’s fitness to be Queen. He never fully warmed up to his daughter-in-law.
The Royal Household pointed out his role as Spain’s hard-working booster, sometimes securing contracts for Spanish companies. But critics wondered about what the King got out of it, and pointed at gifts from Arab rulers.
The public mood plus continued health problems and gossip made it impossible for King Juan Carlos to recover the public’s esteem. Not even a royal apology worked.
More than a year after the abdication, King Felipe and Queen Letizia have helped return high approval ratings for the Crown, according to a new survey.
King Felipe with Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the Royal Palace in Madrid.
King Felipe has expanded on his father’s budget-cutting and transparency initiatives. Queen Letizia, not of royal blood, has worked to make the Crown more inclusive.
Queen Letizia joins her husband and President Mattarella. © Casa de S.M. el Rey
Queen Sofia, who is said to keep a distant relationship with her husband, keeps a public agenda in Spain, plus family all over Europe.
The former Greek princess achieved her goal of helping consolidate the restored Spanish Monarchy and secure it for her son.
King Juan Carlos has also stayed on the Royal agenda, but on a diminished capacity. He enjoys travel around the world and Spain, often seen at restaurants.
History will remember him as the man who inherited a dictatorship in the 1970’s and helped craft a progressive Constitutional Monarchy.
He wanted to be the best and longest-serving Bourbon to rule Spain. Romero says he almost got there on both counts.
Other good books about the Spanish Monarchy include, but are not limited to, Paul Preston’s “Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy,” Pilar Eyre’s “The Loneliness of the Queen” and Pilar Urbano’s “The Queen Up Close,” both about Queen Sofia.