King Juan Carlos of Spain is to abdicate for political reasons rather than his ailing health after more than 40 years on the throne, the country’s prime minister has revealed.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the 74-year-old king would hand the crown to his son, Prince Felipe, 46, but not before a new law is drafted to pave the way for such an unprecedented handover.
But his patient work nearly came undone during the financial crisis by the now-infamous elephant shoot in Botswana that resulted in him being removed by conservation group WWF as its honorary president.
King Juan Carlos apologised to the Spanish people for the hunting trip, which only came to light when he was flown home from Africa after breaking a hip.
An online petition calling for his resignation from the WWF post accumulated almost 85,000 signatures by the time he made his public apology.
The controversy prompted Spanish newspapers to publish a photo of the king on a previous safari, in which he is seen standing with a gun beside a dead elephant.
‘Although this type of hunting is legal and regulated, many members consider it to be incompatible with the position of honorary patron of an international organisation that aims to protect the environment,’ WWF said at the time.