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Spain's Game of Thrones

King Juan Carlos Exits the Stage

Royal Palace, Madrid. Bernard Lafond / Flickr

When King Juan Carlos abdicated the Spanish throne earlier this week, Spaniards were caught off-guard. As recently as April, Juan Carlos, who is one of the modern era’s most successful monarchs -- he assumed the throne in 1975 following the death of General Francisco Franco and is widely considered to be the father of Spanish democracy for having orchestrated a widely-praised democratic transition that became a model for many other countries -- was shutting down rumors that his transfer of some responsibilities to his son, 46-year-old Prince Felipe, was a sign that he might step down. “Abdication is not an option,” said a royal spokesman at the time. His statement was in keeping with Juan Carlos’s longstanding pledge that “he would die with his crown on.”

Juan Carlos’ sudden resignation is a gamble to restore the monarchy’s luster. Although the king is generally lauded as a class act,

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