There was one final ovation. On a humid afternoon in early summer, in a place indelibly associated with royalty, King Juan Carlos of Spain stood on a balcony painted in the colours of his country’s flag to acknowledge the cheers of the crowd. They knew they were watching the end of an era. For this would be the king’s last official public appearance.
Juan Carlos confirmed he would be retiring from engagements earlier in the week and he’d chosen June 2nd 2019 for his final bow as it marked the fifth anniversary of his surprise announcement that he would be abdicating the throne of Spain. The curtain fell on a remarkable public career in Aranjuez as the man who helped bring Spain from dictatorship to democracy attended a bull fight in memory of his mother.
A portrait of Maria de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies hung above the former monarch in the royal box at the newly renovated bullring at Aranjuez. A crowd of around 9,000 people welcomed him to the corrida which he watched alongside his elder daughter, Infanta Elena, and her son, Felipe, the eldest grandchild of King Juan Carlos.
The event also marked the first public appearance of Juan Carlos’ sister, Infanta Pilar, since it was confirmed earlier in the week that she is being treated for cancer. The infanta, who is now 82, is said undergoing chemotheraphy and is said to be doing ”reasonably well”.
Juan Carlos had earlier held a private lunch for friends and family attending the event. However, his wife of 57 years, Queen Sofia, didn’t attend. King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia weren’t present either.
As the sun began to fade on the royal site of Aranjuez, the man who ruled Spain from 1975 until 2014 gave one final wave and walked into history. King Juan Carlos I of Spain’s official public life is over.