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Abdication news catches Spain by surprise

One of king’s former aides explains that monarch always said he would “die with his crown on”

King Juan Carlos reappears in public in December nine days after his last operation.
King Juan Carlos reappears in public in December nine days after his last operation.

News of the abdication of King Juan Carlos caught everyone by surprise – even some of those closest to him, who had become accustomed to hearing him utter phrases such as: “I will die wearing my crown;” or “Kings don’t abdicate, they die in their sleep.”

That was the impression the king left with José Ortega, who worked in a number of different departments in the Royal Household between 1983 and 1995 and traveled all over the world with the king, first as a member of the protocol department and later as the closest aide to the queen.

“I was very surprised,” he said on Monday. “Something must have happened either this weekend or last weekend. It is true that he was deeply affected by the scandal with Corinna,” he added, in reference to suggestions of a relationship between the monarch and German aristocrat Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. “He was on the verge of throwing in the towel at that point so that he could live his life as he wanted to during the last years of his life, but he never did, he always said that he would die being king.”

“The king always acted like the king,” Ortega explains. “He could be more or less affectionate, but he never left you in any doubt. And the prince and the princesses were always clear on that.”

King Juan Carlos was also reported to have joked with British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, saying: “Both of us will die with our crowns on.” Even after the news in July last year of the abdication of King Albert II of Belgium, “Juan Carlos insisted that he would never do it; he lived the monarchy like the priesthood.”

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