King Juan Carlos I of Spain
Juan Carlos, the grandson of the last king Alfonso XIII, spent his early years in Italy before moving to Spain in 1947 at the express wish of his father who wanted him educated there.
This stay would last through his college years and into his 1962 marriage with Princess Sofia, the eldest daughter of King Paul I and Queen Federica of Greece.
After their marriage, the royal couple took up residence at Zarzuela Palace on the outskirts of Madrid, where they live today.
From the beginning of his education in Spain, Spanish Head of State Francisco Franco had taken a special interest in the prince. Franco submitted to the Cortes (parliament) a law in 1969 stating that Juan Carlos would be the future king of Spain. This designation marked the beginning of a period of official trips in Spain and visits to foreign countries.
In the same year, the future king swore loyalty to Franco's National Movement, even though he harbored sympathy for democratic institutions.
But Juan Carlos would not regain the throne for his family until Nov. 22, 1975, following the death of Franco. It was then that he addressed the Cortes and set forth his basic principles of his reign, which included re-establishing democracy and to be king of all Spaniards, withot exception.
Over a three year period, Juan Carlos was successful in peacefully bringing democracy to Spain, and in 1980, the country saw the first democratic elections since 1936. A new constitution established a parliamentary monarchy in which the king arbitrates and moderates the regular working of the institutions. Spain's democracy movement survived a 1981 attempted coup d'etat.
In 1981, Juan Carlos became the first Spanish king to visit the Americas, and also the first crowned monarch to make an official visit to China. As such, he was the first Spanish head of state to visit a communist country.
The following year Spain entered NATO and in 1986 joined the European community.
Before becoming king, Don Juan Carlos visited St. Augustine in February 1971.
The king's last official visit to the United States was in 1998, when he and Queen Sofía visited then President and Mrs. Clinton.