Nearly two weeks ago, Juan Carlos I, the former King of Spain, sent his son, King Felipe VI, a cryptic letter saying that he was “moving away” from the country he reigned over for nearly 40 years, before his abdication in 2014. It was the next beat in a scandal over his luxurious lifestyle and reported offshore accounts that has followed the former monarch for nearly a decade. Since then, rumors about his whereabouts have proliferated, but no one really knows for sure where he is—and if they do, they’re not talking.
At first, it was believed that he flew to the Dominican Republic, a country he had previously vacationed in, to stay at a resort owned by a friend. But a spokesperson for the country’s immigration service told the Daily Mail that he had not entered its borders since March 2020. Then, the newspaper El País reported that after he left the Zarzuela Palace, where he has lived for 58 years, he stayed at the home of a friend in Galicia before slipping across the border to Portugal. But this was reportedly only a temporary stay, his first stop before heading to the next location.
Last weekend, the Spanish news agency NIUS obtained a photo that appeared to show Juan Carlos disembarking a plane in Abu Dhabi. The Spanish magazine Lecturas reported that he is staying at a swanky hotel in the city—and he’s not alone. “His faithful friend for the past 40 years is with him, the person who forgives everything, never fails him, accompanies him, comforts him,” they wrote, without mentioning a name.
The mystery has led the royal family and the government to play a game of telephone with the media. On August 4, Pedro Sánchez, the country’s Socialist prime minister, claimed he didn’t know where Juan Carlos had traveled. On Wednesday, after El País reported that Sánchez was involved in the talks that led to Juan Carlos’s departure and had met with Félipe again this week, journalists asked the question at a press conference. He said that his talks with the king were subject to “appropriate confidentiality” and claimed that it is the duty of the Casa Real to decide to share information about his whereabouts. When asked, the Casa Real claimed that, as a private citizen, only Juan Carlos was entitled to share that information. (The newspaper added that Juan Carlos is currently traveling with four government-provided bodyguards and still travels on a diplomatic passport.)
The rest of the royal family spent the week on vacation. On Thursday, Felipe and his wife, Queen Letizia, donned masks to visit a cheese-production factory in Menorca, where they waved at well-wishers. Last weekend, his mother, Queen Sofía, was photographed shopping in Mallorca, officially confirming that, as expected, she did not accompany her husband on his trip out of the country. As El País pointed out, it might well be the first official acknowledgment that Sofía and Juan Carlos have been secretly separated for years, due to the former king’s reported infidelity.
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