Monday 27 January 2020

How former king of Spain and his friend turned Irish village into internet sensation

Spanish media seized on a YouTube video showing Juan Carlos with female friend, writes Jane Last

Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos I of Spain Picture: Getty
Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos I of Spain Picture: Getty

Jane Last

The former King of Spain, his female friend, a Spanish banker, a video uploaded to YouTube and a Co Westmeath village.

Unlikely components of any story - but it is for these reasons that the village of Clonmellon, located between Kells in Co Meath and Mullingar in Co Westmeath, has found itself at the centre of a major story in Spain.

The country's former King Juan Carlos (79) - who abdicated from the throne in 2014 - was a surprise visitor to Clonmellon at the end of July. He happily posed with locals for pictures at the re-opening of a local community centre.

Juan Carlos - father to King Felipe - was invited to the Co Westmeath village by Spanish businessman and former banker Allen de Jesús Sanginés-Krause. Mr Krause has been resident in Clonmellon for some time and refurbished nearby Killua Castle in 2006.

He bought the former St John the Baptist Church in Clonmellon and refurbished it. It is now a community arts centre and was officially unveiled on July 22 at an event Juan Carlos attended.

However, interest in the visit piqued in his native Spain when video footage uploaded to YouTube from the event showed a woman standing close to him, whom Spanish press have identified as his former mistress.

King Juan Carlos of Spain (centre) with Marta Gaya to the left. Photo: Marian Tighe video.
King Juan Carlos of Spain (centre) with Marta Gaya to the left. Photo: Marian Tighe video.

Media outlets in Spain have identified this woman as Marta Gaya (68) - a woman linked to Juan Carlos for more than two decades.

She was standing some distance away from the former monarch at the same event. The controversy has also propelled Clonmellon mum-of-two Marian Tighe into the headlines, as she was the person who recorded the video and uploaded it to YouTube, completely unaware of what she had just captured and the controversy that would ensue.

"The opening was on July 22 - and Mr Krause issued an open invitation to all the local people in Clonmellon," Ms Tighe told the Irish Independent.

She and her husband Michael decided to go along.

"I just went out of interest really, to see the building and the grounds. It was a lovely reception. Mr Krause said there was a special guest in attendance. Sure we had no idea who it was.

"Towards the end of the event, he introduced the former King of Spain to the surprise and delight of everyone there and he got applauded. He was a gentleman and was happy to pose for photographs.

"So I took some photographs and video.

"I put up the video on YouTube - it got a few hundred hits and I was delighted. I then re-edited the video and changed the headline saying King Juan Carlos was in it. Next thing, the views soared to 99,000.

"Then I spotted my own video on other platforms - and there were circles around the King and this woman whom they identified as his mistress.

"Sure I didn't have a clue who she was at the time - my video seems to have highlighted their relationship," a surprised Ms Tighe told the Irish Independent.

"I'm shocked at finding myself in the middle of this - I don't pry into other people's business and I had no other motivation when attending that reception other than seeing the new centre."

Indeed, her video footage is the first time the former king and Ms Gaya have been pictured publicly, despite being linked for more than two decades.

The footage was seized upon by a number of mainstream media outlets in Spain - including El Mundo, one of Spain's biggest-selling newspapers, being one of the many outlets to describe the woman as Ms Gaya.

Juan Carlos is married to wife Queen Sofia - the couple have two daughters and one son, King Felipe.

However, since his abdication, the couple are barely pictured together.

A book - 'Juan Carlos: The King of 5,000 Lovers' - published earlier this year, shone the spotlight on his friendships with other women outside his marriage.

Juan Carlos was crowned King in 1975 when Spanish dictator General Franco died. His popularity declined rapidly during the banking crisis when he was pictured going on safari in Africa while Spain was plunging into financial turmoil. He abdicated in 2014.

Irish Independent

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