King Juan Carlos I abdicated in 2014 to make way for his son, King Felipe, to be monarch

By Stephanie Petit
May 28, 2019 10:42 AM
King Felipe VI of Spain and King Juan Carlos and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II
Credit: Carlos Alvarez/Getty; Arthur Edwards -Pool/Getty

Five years after his abdication, King Juan Carlos I of Spain is retiring from public life.

The 81-year-old royal shared his plans to withdraw from public duties in a letter to his son, King Felipe VI, according to El Pais.

In Juan Carlos’ letter to Felipe IV, which was shared by La Zarzuela, reveals that the former king has been considering his retirement since his 80th birthday in Jan. 2018. The recent celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution in Congress in December confirmed his decision.

“[It was] a solemn act, full of emotion for me, that evoked, with pride and admiration, the memory of the many people who made the political transition [to democracy] possible and renewed my feeling of permanent gratitude toward the Spanish people, the true architect and leading protagonist of that transcendental stage of our recent history,” King Juan Carlos said in the letter.

King Felipe VI of Spain and King Juan Carlos
King Juan Carlos and King Felipe of Spain
| Credit: Carlos Alvarez/Getty

King Juan Carlos’ final official act was the presentation of the Spanish Order Awards 2019 in the San Lorenzo de El Escorial Royal Monastery on May 17, when he handed the prestigious prize to historian Miguel Ángel Ladero. His final royal trip was to Chile in March 2018, accompanied by his wife, Queen Sofia.

King Felipe VI of Spain and King Juan Carlos
Queen Letizia, King Felipe VI, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain
| Credit: A. Ware/NurPhoto via Getty

Juan Carlos’ retirement will officially begin on June 2, exactly five years after his abdication. The former Spanish king reportedly wanted to pass the job onto his son before Felipe, 51, grew old – comparing the situation to Prince Charles‘ nearly lifelong wait to be king.

He reportedly spoke to Rafael Spottorno, chief of the royal household, and said: “I do not want my son to wither waiting like Prince Charles,” according to El Mundo newspaper in 2014.

Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth
| Credit: Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

In a rare move, Queen Elizabeth publicly backed Charles as the next Commonwealth leader in April 2018.

The monarch, now 93, formally asked the Commonwealth Heads of Government to appoint her eldest son as her successor of the association of Britain and its former colonies.

Queen Elizabeth has been the group’s symbolic figurehead since 1952. Leaders were expected to discuss who should follow her in the role. The position is not hereditary, but Prince Charles is expected to get the nod. (As the Queen’s firstborn, Charles is the hereditary heir to the British throne, which he will automatically inherit upon his mother’s death.)

“It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949,” the Queen said at the formal opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Buckingham Palace.

Charles’ father, Prince Philip, also publicly retired from public life in August 2017.

“The Duke of Edinburgh will no longer undertake his own program of public engagements,” a statement from Buckingham Palace read. “The Captain General’s Parade will bring His Royal Highness’s individual program to a conclusion, although he may choose to attend certain events, alongside The Queen, from time to time.”