ROYAL ACCIDENT

King makes public apology for hunting-trip incident

Monarch makes unprecedented statement after being discharged from hospital

“I’m very sorry, I made a mistake and it won’t happen again,” he tells assembled press

Spanish King Juan Carlos talks to the press at San Jose hospital. / PACO CAMPOS (AFP)

In an unprecedented move, King Juan Carlos has this morning made a public apology during a brief appearance before the press at the USP San José hospital in Madrid, moments after being discharged after five days of treatment for a broken hip. The monarch sustained the injuries while on an elephant-hunting trip in Botswana, news that shocked many Spaniards given the hard times that many are experiencing due to the effects of the economic crisis.

As he left his hospital room, the king stopped in front of a TV camera and said: “I’m very sorry, I made a mistake and it won’t happen again.” The king went on to say that he was feeling very well and that he was “keen to get back to work.” He also thanked the doctors who have been taking care of him.

Aware that his trip to Botswana has caused a great deal of controversy, the king appears to have opted to reduce the distance that the news has opened up between him and a large section of the political class, not to mention Spanish citizens in general.

While in hospital, the king has been kept up to date with the views expressed in the media, keeping a close eye on the printed press and television reports. His closest advisors have apparently advised him to make a public statement regarding the accident, which happened in the middle of the night, as the king tripped after getting up to go to the bathroom.

The Royal Household has spent the last few days considering the gesture that the king should make. After several meetings, King Juan Carlos decided on Monday that he would eschew an official statement, sent out by the palace, but would rather make an apology himself, in front of the TV cameras.

It is highly unusual for a king to make this kind of statement, but the situation has forced him into doing so. Until now, the king’s behavior has never been called into question to such a great extent.

Traditionally the Spanish royal family has been treated with huge respect by the Spanish press, in particular given the key role Juan Carlos played in the country’s transition to democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, as well as his actions during an attempted military coup in 1981, which was ultimately unsuccessful.

However, the images published last week of the king posing by a dead elephant, taken during a hunting trip in which he participated several years ago, have been seen around the world, prompting politicians and the public alike to decry his behavior at such a time of crisis – not to mention the fact that he is currently the honorary president of the Spanish branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

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