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Thursday 18 September 2014

Spanish king 'didn't want son to be another Prince Charles'

Fiona Govan Madrid and Matthew Holehouse London

Published 09/06/2014 | 02:30

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Spain's Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia arrive for a reception marking Spain's Armed Forces Day at the Royal palace in Madrid June 8, 2014. Spain's King Juan Carlos said on June 2 he would abdicate in favour of his son Prince Felipe, aiming to revive the scandal-hit monarchy at a time of economic hardship and growing discontent with the wider political elite. REUTERS/Andrea Comas (SPAIN - Tags: ROYALS POLITICS MILITARY)
Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia at the Royal Palace in Madrid yesterday

King Juan Carlos told courtiers that he wanted to abdicate in favour of his son because he did not want his heir to "grow old waiting for the throne like Prince Charles", it has been disclosed.

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The 76-year-old monarch, who announced last Monday that it was time for "a younger generation to step into the front line", is said to have been influenced in his decision to abdicate by the situation of the Prince of Wales who, at 65, is the oldest heir to the British throne for 300 years.

King Juan Carlos privately told those close to him that he felt it was right to pass the throne on while his heir was still a young man, it was reported yesterday.

"I do not want my son to wither waiting like Prince Charles," he reportedly told Rafael Spottorno, chief of the royal household, according to a report in Spain's daily 'El Mundo' newspaper.

King Juan Carlos had been considering the decision since his 75th birthday in January 2013, his chief of staff admitted, and that he had discussed it at length with those in his inner circle.

"He saw, above all, that his son was in his prime and didn't want to see him like Prince Charles who will be 66 years old in November," the newspaper quoted Mr Spottorno as saying.

Zarzuela Palace refused to confirm or deny the statement yesterday morning.

A Clarence House spokesman "declined to comment" on the reports.

"There is a lot being written every day as regards the abdication and we are not prepared to comment on every article," a spokesman said.

John Prescott, the former Labour deputy prime minister, yesterday called for the Queen to "gracefully step aside" and allow the Prince of Wales to deliver next year's address to Parliament.

"Why not let Charles take more of the burden off her shoulders? In 2015, she could hand over the State Opening of Parliament to her son," Mr Prescott said.

Democracy

King Juan Carlos, who was widely credited for his leading role in Spain's smooth transition to democracy on the death of the fascist dictator Gen Francisco Franco, saw his popularity plummet in recent years after a series of royal scandals tainted the crown.

Explaining his decision to abdicate, the king said a generational change would open "a new chapter of hope" for a country hit by a deep economic crisis, and insisted that his son had "the maturity, the readiness and the sense of responsibility needed to take on with full guarantees the leadership of the state".

Crown Prince Felipe (46) has frequently stepped in for his ailing father on diplomatic trips and at official events and is regarded as relatively untouched by the family scandals. However, since the abdication was announced, Spain has seen a wave of protests calling for a referendum on the future of the monarchy. Thousands gathered to hold street demonstrations to express their republican fervour.

The ceremony to crown King Felipe VI will take place on June 19. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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