Breaking: King Juan Carlos I To Abdicate, Son To Become Felipe VI

King Juan Carlos I shocked Spain on Monday when he announced his intention to abdicate the throne in favor of his only son, Felipe.

According to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the 76-year-old monarch is stepping down for political reasons, not his ailing health as most may think.

Rajoy said that King Juan Carlos will abdicate the throne to his 46-year-old son Felipe. However, a new law must be passed to allow the unexpected hand over to occur.

Prime Minister Rajoy said:

“His majesty, King Juan Carlos, has just communicated to me his will to give up the throne – I’m convinced this is the best moment for change.”

King Juan Carlos follows the actions of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who abdicated in favor of her son, Prince Willem-Alexander, in April.

Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias was named head of state by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco in 1969 and became King on November 22, 1975, two days after Franco’s death. He was the first King of Spain in 31 years.

The monarch oversaw Spain’s transition into democracy and established reforms to abolish Franco’s regime, which resulted in the approval of the Spanish Constitution in the 1978 referendum. The country became a constitutional monarchy.

According to the constitution, the Spanish King is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the Spanish Armed Forces and also represents about 700 million people in 24 Ibero-American (former Spanish colonies) countries.

Juan Carlos gained the approval of Spanish citizens for his part in foiling the 1981 coup attempt. In 2008, the King was considered the most popular figure in Ibero-America. However, in latter years his popularity has taken a beating following several corruption scandals — one of them involving his own daughter, Princess Cristina — and his failing health.

The future King Felipe VI is the only son of King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía. He also carries the titles of Prince of Asturias, Prince of Gerona, Prince of Viana, Duke of Montblanc, Count of Cervera, and Lord of Balaguer.

Felipe married Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, a former CNN journalist, and even though she was previously married and divorced, the Spanish subjects approved because of her successful life. They have two daughters, the Infantas Leonor, 8, and Sofía, 7.

The Official announcement from King Juan Carlos I is seen below:

King Juan Carlos abdication announcement

[Image via Twitter]