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The emeritus has left the building. The controversial visit home by Spain's former king Juan Carlos I came to an end this Monday night, when he took off from Madrid in a private jet to return to the United Arab Emirates, after more than 10 hours in the Zarzuela royal palace with his son, current king Felipe VI, his wife, queen Sofía, and other family members. The former head of state was in Spain for around 100 hours, but did not at any point appear before the press or offer any explanation to clarify the scandals in which he and the royal house have been immersed. Apart from today's meeting with the royal family behind closed doors, Juan Carlos I's trip consisted only of a weekend watching boat races in Galicia with his close friend Pedro Campos. In fact, it was just as he was arriving at his host's villa that he uttered the words which became the headline of the trip. Asked by a reporter if he would give the explanation which even the prime minister has asked for, he replied: "An explanation of what?"

Felipe VI and Juan Carlos I held a very long meeting alone at the Zarzuela palace in Madrid, which lasted more than four hours. The current king and his father had not seen each other for the whole of the 21 month period since the flight of Juan Carlos I to Abu Dhabi in response to his legal problems. A family meal was later attended by his granddaughter, the infanta Sofia, his wife, queen Sofia, as well as his daughter, infanta Elena and two of her children, the infanta Margarita and Carlos Zurita. According to a statement issued by the royal house, queen Sofia was not able to share lunch with them because she had tested positive for Covid after returning from her own recent trip to Miami. However, as the royal house made clear, she was with the whole royal family in the dining room, always wearing a mask and with the room well ventilated. It is not expected that photos from the meeting will be distributed, as it was a "family meeting".


Juan Carlos I has, in general, been kept well removed from the microphones. Apart from the faux pas with the reporter in Sanxenxo, he was reported to have repeatedly let his friends in Galicia know that he had "come here to normalize everything." However, he refused to make any significant statements, and the spokesperson for the Spanish executive, Isabel Rodríguez, said today that the former king had "missed the opportunity to give explanations and to apologize." Rodríguez made a distinction between the emeritus and the current monarch and asserted that Felipe VI is carrying out an "impressive exercise in regaining transparency and exemplarity." On the other hand, the spokesperson for the Spanish executive regretted that Juan Carlos I "has missed the opportunity that Spanish society and democracy deserve."

Within the Spanish political landscape, the arrival of the ex-head of state has generated conflicting opinions. On the one hand, the leaders of the right-wing People's Party (PP) support the visit by Juan Carlos. On Saturday, PP deputy José Antonio Bermúdez de Castro argued that "people should not enter into sterile controversies" as the king emeritus "does not have to give explanations" about his behaviour, as demanded by the governing PSOE. On the other side of the coin, the Spanish government's culture and sport minister, Miquel Iceta, considered that Juan Carlos should give explanations "for having defrauded the trust of many people and for his special responsibility". In this line, the MP from the left-wing Compromís party, Joan Baldoví, asserted that Juan Carlos I "must give an explanation" because, in his opinion, "he has more cheek than spine", and said that he felt "shame and pity" that people applaud a person who has cheated them.

The royal house's press statement today mentioned that among the topics of conversation when father and son met in Madrid were "different events and their consequences in Spanish society since the king's father decided to move to Abu Dhabi", but it does not specify whether the departure of the emeritus from Spain, and its "consequences", was itself one of those "events".