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Spain’s former monarch, King Juan Carlos, celebrates his 81st birthday on Saturday, 5 January 2018.

King Juan Carlos. Photo: Casa de SM el Rey/Dany Virgili

Reign (1975-2014)

He was born in 1938 in Rome, Italy, the eldest son of Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona and Princess María Mercedes of Bourton-Two Sicilies, after his grandfather, Alfonso XIII, his Queen Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg and other members of the Spanish royal family were forced to flee into exile.

Juan Carlos had two sisters and a younger brother Alfonso who died in a tragic accident in 1956.

As one of Queen Victoria’s descendants, he is a 3rd cousin to Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.

King Juan Carlos was educated in Italy and continued his studies in Spain after dictator General Francisco Franco granted permission. He graduated with his baccalaureate in 1954 and enrolled at military academies for Spain’s army, navy and air force.

He graduated from the Complutense University of Madrid in 1961, after a year of study in Political and International Law, Economics and Public Finance.

He married Princess Sophia of Greece, the daughter of King Paul and Queen Frederica, in Athens on 14 May 1962.

They have three children: Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo (born 1963), Infanta Cristina (born 1965) and King Felipe VI (born 1968).

Juan Carlos was proclaimed King on 22 November 1975, following General Franco’s death. He reigned until his abdication on 19 June 2014, in favour of his son, Felipe.

In 2018, King Juan Carlos I celebrated his 80th birthday with a family dinner at the Zarzuela Palace.

Handing over the reign. King Juan Carlos embraces King Felipe after signing the Organic Law, which made his abdication effective. Photo: Casa de SM el Rey / Borja Photographers

Official Visits To Australia

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia travelled to Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra during an official visit in 1988 as part of Australia’s Bicentennial Celebrations.

The Spanish King was said to be the first monarch to be received in the new Parliament House, after Queen Elizabeth II.

They returned in June 2009 where King Juan Carlos had expressed his sorrow for the devastating bushfires in Victoria and the floods in Queensland during a reception at Parliament House in Canberra.

Did You Know?

King Juan Carlos competed in the Dragon Class event at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. He finished in 15th place.

He still supports the Spanish Olympic Team, especially when the Games were held in Barcelona in 1992.