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Spain - The Monarchy

06 Jun 180811 Dec 1813José I Napoleón
11 Dec 181329 Sep 1833Fernando VII
29 Sep 183330 Sep 1868Isabel II
Interim Revolutionary Junta
04 Dec 187011 Feb 1873Amadeo I
02 May 187228 Feb 1876Carlos VII
30 Dec 187425 Nov 1885Alfonso XII "el Pacificador"
25 Nov 188517 May 1902Queen María Cristina -Regent
17 May 188614 Apr 1931Alfonso XIII
22 Nov 1975 18 Jun 2014 Juan Carlos I
19 Jun 2014 Felipe VI
By defining the state as a parliamentary monarchy, the Constitution made it clear that the king was not sovereign and that sovereignty resided with the people as expressed in their democratically elected parliament. The king was a hereditary and constitutional monarch, who serves as head of state. But not a figurehead of state. Unlike the northern European monarchs, King Juan Carlos I took a very active role in Spanish politics, possibly even more so that his nearest counterpart, the King of Thailand.

The specific titles used by the Kings of Spain were fruit of this accumulation and incorporation process undertaken by the Spanish Monarchy. Together with the short title - King of Spain or of the Spains, which makes summary reference to the Monarchy's place of origin, the grand or long title was used officially in each reign up until the 19th century. Said long title explicitly mentioned the territories and titles with which the Spanish monarch reigned, with which his ancestors had reigned or over which he was considered to have legitimate rights. By way of an example the vast titles of Carlos IV, still in 1805, laid down in the Royal Letter preceding the Novísima Recopilación de las Leyes de España on its enactment: "Carlos by the grace of God, King of Castile, León, Aragon, the Two Sicilies, Jerusalem, Navarre, Granada, Toledo, Valencia, Galicia, Majorca, Minorca, Seville, Sardinia, Córdoba, Corsica, Murcia, Jaén, the Algarve, Algeciras, Gibraltar, the Canary Isles, the East and West Indies, islands and solid land in the Ocean sea; Archduke of Austria; Duke of Burgundy, Brabante and Milan; Count of Hapsburg, Flanders, Tirol and Barcelona; Lord of Vizcaya and of Molina". It should be mentioned that article 56.2 of the current Spanish Constitution indicates that the title of the Head of State "is that of King of Spain (Rey de España) and he can use the others corresponding to the Crown".

The Monarchy in its different conceptions and modes, had been the prevalent form of government or the institution holding the utmost political power in Spain and its adjacent territories throughout history. Hence the political and institutional history of Spain, like that of other European countries, is, in part, the history of its Monarchy and its kings and queens.

The Restoration period, which started with Alfonso XII in 1875, concluded in 1931 with the proclamation of the Second Republic and the end of the reign of Alfonso XIII. These were years of great economic growth, grounded on Spain's industrialisation, favored by its neutrality in World War I. In 1947, eight years after the end of the Spanish Civil War and at the height of the dictatorship, it was laid down by law that Spain was a State constituted as a Kingdom.

The decision to retain the monarchy, which had been restored under the Franco regime, represented a historically significant compromise. As the Constitution was being formulated, parties of the left were strongly opposed to a monarchy, which they saw as a Francoist legacy; they favored establishing a republican form of government. At the same time, reactionary elements wanted to preserve the monarchy in order to use it as a means to perpetuate Francoism. In between these two extremes were the reformers, who thought that the monarchy could serve as an element of stabilization during the transition to democracy.

A compromise eventually was reached whereby the left-wing parties accepted the institution of a parliamentary monarchy as reflecting the will of the majority. Constitutional provisions dealing with the king's role were worded in such a way as to make clear the neutral and apolitical nature of his duties. The success of this arrangement was largely attributable to King Juan Carlos de Borbon's willingness to relinquish the powers that Franco had conferred upon him and to rule as a constitutional monarch within a democratic system of government.

The crown is hereditary, and the king's eldest son is first in the line of succession. (In the case of Juan Carlos, there was only one son, Prince Felipe, and there were two daughters.) Whereas Franco's fundamental laws forbade a female monarch, the 1978 Constitution allowed a female to inherit the throne, but only if there were no males of the same generation. If all hereditary lines entitled to the crown by law become extinct, the succession to the throne was to be determined by the General Cortes.

The king sanctioned and promulgated laws that had been worked out by the other branches of government. He formally convened and dissolved the Cortes and called for elections and for referenda. He appointed the prime minister after consultation with the Cortes and names the other ministers, upon the recommendation of the prime minister. He also signed decrees made in the Council of Ministers and ratifies civil and military appointments.

Although the king did not have the power to direct foreign affairs, he had a vital role as the chief representative of Spain in international relations. The potential significance of this role was demonstrated during the reign of Juan Carlos, whose many trips abroad and contacts with foreign leaders enabled the Spanish government to establish important political and commercial ties with other nations. The king also had the duty to indicate the state's consent to international treaties and, with the prior authorization of the Cortes, to declare war and peace.

The Constitution confered upon the king the title of supreme commander of the armed forces, although he had no actual authority over them. Nevertheless, Juan Carlos maintained close relations with the military, and he used his considerable influence with them to counteract potential threats to the stability of the democratic regime.

The influence of the king depended largely upon the individual who held the title, because he is granted no independent executive powers by the Constitution. Every one of his acts must be countersigned by the prime minister or by one of his ministers. In spite of these restrictions, the monarchy under Juan Carlos achieved a significant degree of moral authority, largely because of his courageous and steadfast adherence to democratic procedures.

Public sentiment in a country struggling with a huge recession and plagued by several years of bad government decision-making reached a new tipping point when on 02 June 2014, when King Juan Carlos announced his abdication in favor of his son, 46-year-old Crown Prince Felipe. Thousands of Spaniards flooded Madrid’s downtown Puerta del Sol on 07 June 2014, in pursuit of a referendum to do away with what they see as an out-of-touch and outdated monarchy. Fifty cities erupted in protest.

On December 22, 2014 a judge in Spain ordered Princess Cristina, sister to Spain's King Felipe VI, to stand trial on two charges of tax fraud. The historic decision followed a four-year investigation that has damaged the Spanish monarchy. The case involves allegations that Cristina's husband, former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin, embezzled millions of dollars in public money through his nonprofit foundation.

Spain's King Felipe VI removed the title Duchess of Palma de Mallorca from his sister Cristina in a move to distance the royal family from the princess as she awaits trial for tax fraud. The measure, signed by Felipe on June 11, was made law on being published in the Official State Gazette on 12 June 2015.

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Page last modified: 13-06-2015 20:58:33 ZULU