King Juan Carlos is recovering in a Madrid hospital from an emergency hip operation after he suffered a fall during an elephant-hunting trip to Botswana. The 74-year-old Spanish monarch is said to be in a comfortable state and is walking with the help of crutches after undergoing hip-replacement surgery on Saturday morning.
In response to criticism over the circumstances of the king’s accident, the Royal Household said on Sunday that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had been informed of the trip to Botswana.
The accident took place at 5am on Friday, unconnected to the big game hunting that attracted the king to Botswana, one of the few countries where it is still possible to kill an elephant legally. The Royal Household has informed that King Juan Carlos woke up in the middle of the night in the camp where he was staying and fell on a step on his way to the bathroom. He fractured his hip, which was already affected by osteoarthritis.
It is the latest in a line of accidents suffered by the king. In 1891 he walked through a glass door, injuring his arm, while in the following decade he sustained several skiing injuries. More recently, another accident involving a door saw the king sporting a black eye. The surgery on his right hip was the fourth operation he has undergone in the last two years, the most serious being the removal of a tumor from his lungs.
The king was flown home in a private plane immediately after his accident, in order to be treated by the same doctor who had previously operated on his foot and knee, Ángel Villamor.
Prince Felipe, the king’s heir, will represent his father during the six-week period Juan Carlos is expected to be out of action.
United Left (IU) leader Cayo Lara said on Saturday that the king had shown “a lack of ethics and respect toward many people in this country who are suffering a great deal.” Speaking for the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), Anna Simó criticized the fact that the king had not joined a waiting list for his treatment: “This just shows the extent of the monarchy’s moral degradation.”
Rajoy’s Popular Party and the Socialists, have not made any official declarations, but the leader of the PSM Madrid Socialist Party, Tomás Gómez, was outspoken in his criticism on Sunday: “The time has come for the [...] head of state to choose between his obligations and public duties and abdication, which would allow him to enjoy a different life.”
On Sunday Rajoy visited the king at the USP San José hospital and said he had found him “in very good spirits.”