The former king of Spain Juan Carlos is facing a storm of allegations over his financial dealings and his private life. Now his son, King Felipe VI, is fighting to preserve the monarchy
By Isambard Wilkinson and cross-posted from The Times
Breakfast at Zarzuela Palace, where the Spanish royal family reside on the outskirts of Madrid, must be a tense affair these days. With Juan Carlos, the former king, facing a storm of allegations over his financial dealings, the ruling Bourbon clan may dread the morning papers.
This year a series of reports have linked Juan Carlos, 82, who abdicated after a series of scandals in 2014, with multimillion-euro payments into offshore accounts. Swiss prosecutors are investigating them and the source of a €65 million payment he made to his former mistress, Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. As more allegations emerge about secret accounts and funds, the royal household fear their patriarch may end up in the dock. In March his son, King Felipe VI, 52, disinherited himself and cut Juan Carlos’s annual stipend in an apparent bid to buffer the crown from the allegations.
The corruption claims have stoked republican sentiment. Felipe, helped by Queen Letizia, his wife, a former television journalist, is fighting to save the monarchy’s reputation. Speculation is rife in Madrid that Juan Carlos may flee Spain to save his son further embarrassment.
Tensions are running high at Zarzuela, where the king and queen and their two young daughters, the princesses Leonor and Sofía, live with Juan Carlos and his wife, Sofía, the former queen. The former king’s fate hangs in the balance. “The king has had to put a formal distance between himself and his father,” said a source close to the palace. “But Juan Carlos needs his son to try to limit the damage done to him.”
The family and Juan Carlos himself may well be ruing his affair with the 56-year-old Sayn-Wittgenstein. The former lovers are now engaged in a bitter feud, with allegations of harassment and leaks over alleged links to offshore funds further tarnishing his name and endangering the monarchy. They met at the Duke of Westminster’s shooting estate in Spain in 2004 when she was still married to Casimir zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, a Bavarian prince. The businesswoman, who was born into a middle-class German-Danish family and baptised Corinna Larsen, was divorced soon after. Her affair with Juan Carlos is reported to have lasted from 2004 until 2010. However, the mutual fascination seems to have outlasted their “formal” relationship. In 2012 Juan Carlos invited her and her son on an elephant hunt to Botswana. She accepted, her public relations representatives say, because her son had formed a bond with the king…