King-to-be Felipe, a new face for Spain's beleaguered monarchy

Mon Jun 2, 2014 8:08am EDT
 
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By Elisabeth O'Leary

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's next king, Felipe VI, strikes a low key contrast to his extrovert father, which could help him restore popularity to a monarchy battered by scandal.

The 46-year-old, married to a former TV news anchor, has not been implicated in the allegations of royal extravagance and corruption that tarnished the last years of the reign of his father Juan Carlos.

But the legacy of the 39-year reign of the once beloved king hangs over him and Spain no longer needs the monarchy for political stability as it did when his father took on the role to oversee the transition from dictatorship to democracy.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced Juan Carlos's planned abdication on Monday, saying Prince Felipe was well prepared to take over.

"His preparation, his character and the wide range of experience he has been acquiring in public affairs over the last 20 years are a solid guarantee that he will be able to carry out his role," said Rajoy.

A royal source said the transition was for political reasons. A wave of scandals has eroded the royal family's credibility, leaving it looking decadent and out of step with a nation which has suffered a prolonged economic crisis.

Felipe is very different from his extravagant 76-year-old father Juan Carlos I and, while friendly in public, prefers an understated lifestyle.

That may help clean up the royal image if the palace is capable of assimilating a level of scrutiny unknown before the age of online social networks.   Continued...