We are proud to present our latest original documentary, tracing the history of King Juan Carlos I of Spain's tumultuous rise to power and his scandalous fall from grace. Premiering on October 23, this True Royalty original features the first-ever on-camera interview with the King’s former mistress Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, who accuses the Spanish Royal Family of being responsible for a pre-planned smear campaign amounting to “intrusion, surveillance, harassment and abusive behaviour”.
She tells the programme that she is convinced that Queen Sofia and other members of the Spanish Royal Family were responsible for a pre-planned smear campaign against her in an attempt to oust Juan Carlos from the throne and ensure her son Prince Felipe’s accession. “Because they were in such a dysfunctional marriage and she was deeply unhappy, the King told me that her only objective in life was to see her son take the throne … I was used as a scapegoat … While the Royal Family were rolling out an internal coup d’etat. Anything that was problematic for the Royal Family, anything that caused them reputational problem was simply passed onto me.”
Juan Carlos was born in exile in Italy in 1938, while a bloody civil war was being fought in Spain between the communists and the ultra-right nationalists, led by General Franco. The world of Juan Carlos took a turn for the bizarrely morbid when he was aged just 18, and his fourteen-year-old brother Alfonso died in a tragic shooting accident - one in which Juan Carlos had pulled the trigger. The brothers were alone in the room as they played with a .22 caliber Long Automatic Star revolver belonging to Alfonso, when Juan Carlos pointed it at his brother and fired, unaware that it was loaded. Their father, Juan de Borbon, is said to have grabbed his surviving son by the neck and shouted “Swear to me that you didn’t do it on purpose!”
Following Franco’s orders, in 1962 Juan Carlos married Princess Sofia of Greece in a lavish ceremony watched by millions across the globe. The couple went on to have three beautiful children and together they embodied everything that a happy, rich and successful family was meant to symbolise.
His reign began in earnest in 1975, after the death of Franco on 20th November. Much to the chagrin of Spain’s conservative elements, Juan Carlos I began to institute numerous reforms, thereby earning left-wing support for the monarchy. He had secured the country’s democracy once and for all. An attempted military coup d’etat in 1981 saw the legislative chambers seized by the Spanish Civil Guard, to which King Juan Carlos I responded by appearing on television in his military regalia demanding total support for the democratically-elected government - a move that is believed to have played a considerable role in thwarting the coup.
The power of the monarchy was scaled back after the victory of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party in 1982, and King Juan Carlos I’s role became largely ceremonial. His popularity remained high among his subjects throughout his reign, even as he became involved in a number of questionable business ventures that threatened to bring the monarchy into disrepute.
Meanwhile, his personal life was also somewhat morally questionable, as a variety of extramarital affairs placed considerable strain on his marriage to Queen Sofia. His relationship with Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, who has given her first ever on-camera interview to True Royalty, became public after a much-criticised elephant-hunting trip they took together in Botswana in 2012. Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein says, “I basically became a media sensation overnight. I was the Lady Macbeth; the Wallis Simpson, who led this man astray. None of this was true.” Instead, she claims she was made a scapegoat by the Spanish Royal Family, to redirect attention from an internal coup d’etat.Juan Carlos I ruled as the King of Spain for almost four decades until his abdication in 2014.
In August this year Jaun Carlos went into exile in the United Arab Emirates, in response to claims of improper business dealings in Saudi Arabia - an eventful end to the reign of a man whose life has been intensely dramatic throughout.
Find out about the shady dealings that led to King Juan Carlos I’s abdication and exile, as well as the tangled web of his personal life, from someone who knew him intimately and shared his secrets. Watch The Rise and Fall of the Spanish King for the truth about the colourful King Juan Carlos I, and how his ambition and indiscretions were, ultimately, his undoing.