Mark Nayler

The Queen’s funeral and the row over Spain’s exiled former king

Juan Carlos, 2013 (Photo: Getty)

Juan Carlos, Spain’s exiled former king, will be present at Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in London on Monday – and the Spanish government is furious. Socialist prime minister Pedro Sanchez has reportedly tried to stop the ex-monarch from attending and a spokesperson for Podemos, the coalition’s junior partner, has described him as a ‘criminal on the run’. But the 84 year-old emeritus king, who abdicated in 2014 and fled Spain in 2020 under suspicion of fraud, is attending anyway, along with his wife, former Queen Sofia.

He is right to do so. Juan Carlos’s attendance at Monday’s state funeral isn’t just a personal affair, separate from the controversy surrounding his alleged misdemeanors – it’s a family matter. Spain’s still popular former king and his wife Sofia are great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria, as were Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The current Spanish monarch and Juan Carlos’s son, king Felipe VI, referred to Elizabeth as ‘Aunt Lillibet’ and was 567th in line to the British throne at the time of her passing.

To quash rumours of a clandestine intervention to prevent Juan Carlos travelling to London, the Spanish government’s spokeswoman Isabel Rodriguez convened a press conference last week. Rodriguez pointed out that the former monarch had received a ‘private invitation’ to the occasion (from the British Foreign Office), thus implying that the Socialist-led coalition had no business interfering in his acceptance of it.

The emeritus king fled Spain for Abu Dhabi on August 3rd and has returned home just once since

She also reiterated that the official Spanish delegation on Monday will be led by king Felipe VI and his wife Queen Letizia (a frequent star of adoring, photo-heavy features in the Daily Mail). The message was clear: Juan Carlos will not be representing the Spanish state in any way whatsoever when he shows up in London on Monday – a role that will be performed solely by the reigning king and queen.

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