Spanish King abdication: Juan Carlos says his son Felipe "represents stability and a new generation"

Explaining his decision to abdicate after nearly 39 years, King Juan Carlos of Spain has told his people that the country”s present economic crisis requires the energy of a new generation.

He said that his son Prince Felipe who will become Felipe VI, “represents stability”. He described his 46-year-old heir as having “the maturity and preparation” to assume responsibility, adding that Felipe “will count as always on the support of [his wife] Princess Letizia”.

The decision was taken, he said, on his 76th birthday earlier this year.

photos for full gallery

The King told the nation the current times required the energy of a new generation

A towering figure of Spain”s transition from dictatorship to democracy, the King was for years one of the world”s most respected and popular monarchs. 

Unfortunately, the royal household has suffered setbacks in recent years. In 2012, King Juan Carlos had a series of operations on his hip after falling during an elephant hunting trip in Botswana. In response to criticisms about the holiday during Spain”s recession the monarch apologised.

He hands the baton on to his son the Prince of Asturias and his wife Princess Letizia

The crisis followed a judicial investigation into his son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin, on allegations of corruption. It”s claimed that the former Olympic handball champion used a foundation he headed to divert public funds.

Still the King”s decision to step down will be met with some sadness in the nation.

Earlier on Monday the sovereign met with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, handing him an official letter with his decision. On Tuesday, there will be a cabinet meeting to oversee the process.

Following their meeting the Prime Minister appeared on TV paying tribute to the monarch.

“He has been the best spokesman and representative of Spain in all corners of the world,” said the Spanish leader. He went on to describe the outgoing sovereign as “a tireless defender of our interests,” adding: “I am convinced this is the best moment for change”.

Mr Rajoy went on to expressed his confidence in the Prince citing “his preparation, character and extensive experience in public affairs”.