Spanish King Juan Carlos will abdicate in favour of his son Prince Felipe, the premier announced Monday, ending a 39-year reign that ushered in democracy but was later battered by royal scandals.
The 76-year-old monarch, crowned in November 1975 after the death of General Francisco Franco, is stepping down dogged by health woes and with his popularity deeply eroded by scandals swirling around him and his family.
"His Majesty King Juan Carlos has just informed me of his desire to renounce the throne and begin the process of succession," Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in an impromptu announcement to the media.
"The reason for the king's decision is something that he wants to communicate personally to the Spanish people this morning," the prime minister said.
Juan Carlos hands over the throne to 46-year-old Felipe de Borbon, Prince of Asturias, a 1.98-metre (six foot six inches) tall, former Olympic yachtsman, who has been relatively unscathed by the scandals that battered the rest of the family.
"I found the king convinced that this is the best moment to change the head of state in all normality and for the transition of the crown to the Prince of Asturias," the prime minister said. AFP