A seductive past hidden for years, a popular son whose photogenic family threatens to overshadow him, and endless leaks about his private life: Spain’s honorary King Juan Carlos I can empathize with Britain’s Carlos III.

The former Spanish head of state abdicated after stepping down in 2014. His story is a warning to any European monarch who wants their legacy to be one of achievement on the throne, not gossip.

“He lives in sex, money and power, the three dimensions of all human problems,” said Alvaro de Cozar, an investigative journalist who wrote and produced “Ex-King,” a popular podcast about the complicated life of Juan Charles, 85. “It’s a very Shakespearean plot.”

The honorary king has become the object of open hostility in some sections of Spanish society since his recent second visit from exile in Abu Dhabi. Gone are the days when a complacent press covered up his long string of indiscretions and extramarital affairs, some even questioning whether the time has come for Spain to establish its third republic in 150 years.

Juan Carlos I will not attend the coronation of Carlos III, the Spanish royal house has confirmed, and a meal announced last month with the British monarch has been discreetly cancelled.

Drama in Carlos’ own family also threatens to overshadow the event. Her youngest son’s revealing autobiography ended decades of tabloid coverage of her siblings and the struggles of their two marriages.

Juan Carlos’ relationship with the Spanish public began to deteriorate in 2012, when the former patron of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) was injured during a trip to hunt elephants in Botswana, and his subjects experienced a severe economic crisis in Spain.

This incident came to the fore last month with the sudden appearance of an unauthorized sculpture of Juan Carlos in the Puerta del Sol, a square in central Madrid. A metal effigy of the honorary king appeared to aim a gun at a sculpture of a bear with a strawberry tree, a traditional symbol of Madrid, located in the square.

“It’s an icon of power,” sculptor Nicholas Miranda explained to the Associated Press, pointing to the symbolism of the place where the work was placed. “This sculpture of the king could be a tribute if it is in a neutral space.”

In 2020, revelations about payments of more than $100 million to Juan Carlos I of Saudi Arabia related to government contracts for Spanish companies filled the front pages of newspapers and made headlines. This forced his son to publicly disinherit. Prosecutors in Switzerland and Spain refused to press charges against Juan Carlos.

But the barrage of bad news did not stop. In 2020, Danish businesswoman and celebrity Corinna Larsen, also known as Corinna zu Sain-Wittgenstein, filed a lawsuit against Juan Carlos in a London court. She accused him of causing her “great mental anguish” by sending Spanish intelligence agents to spy on her and harass her when they broke up.

Larsen accompanied the monarch on the fateful hunt in 2012 and says he received a significant portion of the Saudi payments. The court concluded that Juan Carlos was protected by his sovereign immunity from events that occurred during his reign.

The series of revelations complicates life for Felipe VI, who ascended the throne in a low-key ceremony in 2014 without the presence of other royals. The current king, the antithesis of his father, who left the country, is a low-key family man who competed in the Olympics as a sailor and speaks five languages. His job is to keep the Bourbon family, which De Cozar describes as “disastrous,” on the throne with the help of his charming wife, Queen Letizia, a former newscaster, and their two teenage daughters, Leonor and Sofia.

Due to exile caused by dictators, republics, civil wars and bad behavior in Spain’s troubled modern history, no Spanish monarch has died in the country since Alfonso XII in 1885.

In the years since the scandal in Botswana, the king’s reputation has sunk so low that the state statistics agency has stopped asking citizens about their opinion of the monarchy. Private opinion polls show that support has recovered somewhat since the accession of Felipe VI.

The far-left United We Can party, a minority partner in Spain’s governing coalition, last month called for portraits of the honorary king to be removed from the Congress of Deputies following a new round of scandals surrounding the upcoming publication of a new book, “King Corp.” Party spokesman Pablo Echenique called Juan Carlos I a “criminal” who “stole public money from the State Treasury of Spain.” Keeping their portraits in the headquarters of Spanish democracy, he said, “demeans the dignity of the Congress of Deputies.”

The party is openly republican, unlike the government’s larger partner, the more centrist Socialist Party.

It was a precipitous decline for a king so popular that many Spaniards said they were not “monarchists, but Juancarlists.” Those who remember him as a young man speak of his key role in ensuring Spain’s safe transition from decades of authoritarian rule to a more modern constitutional monarchy.

The honorary king was being groomed by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco to succeed him while the rest of his family lived in exile in Portugal. But after Franco’s death in 1975, Juan Carlos supported the transition to democracy in his place, opposing an attempted military coup in 1981 that tried to derail the process.

“As head of state, he was the driving force behind change,” said William Chislett, an author and expert on Spain who interviewed Juan Carlos I in 1977. — I think he will go down in history as the best he could perform. , Given the circumstances.”

However, Chislett acknowledged that young people in Spain or the UK do not share this past glory. “Young people have a different opinion about the monarchy than the generation over 50-60 years old,” he explained. “Like the British, the younger generation is not royalist.”

As Juan Carlos lives out his golden years in the Persian Gulf, Carlos’ head will be crowned on Saturday. However, both the British and Spanish royal families had problems with the reality of public control and the extent established by Carlos’ mother.

“Queen Elizabeth was the leader of all European kings. What he scored is a very difficult standard,” De Cozar said.