King struggles to deliver speech at first public ceremony since hip operation

Juan Carlos made a number of errors during military address

The king, accompanied by the prince and princess of Asturias, makes his speech on Monday. / Sergio Barrenechea (EFE)

At his first public ceremony since his hip operation on November 21, King Juan Carlos, who turned 76 years old at the weekend, was showing signs of his health problems on Monday.

Arriving at the military’s annual Christmas holiday celebration using crutches, the king stumbled over a speech, and on a number of occasions appeared to be out of breath. “He couldn’t see the text of his speech very well because there was little light at the lectern,” Royal Household sources later said.

The monarch changed the meaning of a whole paragraph of his address and committed a number of solecisms and errors, saying “militia” at one point when he meant to say “family.”

The king thanked Spain’s armed forces for the “enormous effort” they had made “to maintain the capacity required to guarantee security.”

As a result of the fact he is still convalescing from his operation, Juan Carlos did not inspect the troops as is customary, and listened to Defense Minister Pedro Morenés’s speech sitting down. After underscoring the military’s sense of solidarity with the public during a time of crisis, Morenés called for the armed forces to be given more resources.

The defense budget has been cut by 34 percent since 2008, and sources in the armed forces claim the cutbacks will put the military in a precarious position this year.

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