Mon roi déchu

Mon roi déchu / My Fallen King

Non-fiction , 2021


Pages: 200

“Once upon a time there was a prince. Who from being young and charming became an outcast. His name was Juan Carlos, or Juanito to his close friends. In fact, he wasn't exactly a prince, he was the grandson of a king. But a king without a kingdom, forced into exile. His real country, the one over which his Bourbon ancestors had ruled for three centuries, was Spain." 

In 1969, after 40 years of dictatorial power, Franco nominated Juan Carlos, this docile thirty-year-old playboy, this dutiful soldier, as his successor. But against all the odds, our colourless prince became a political animal, transformed the face of Spain, saved it from a coup d’état in 1981, and guaranteed democratic stability. By dint of duplicity and collusion, tears and triumphs. Because behind the political success story and the charisma lie the personal tragedies. Handed over as a child to the enemy Franco, shunted back and forth between two ruthless father figures, indirectly responsible for the accidental death of his younger brother, usurper of his father’s throne... a heavy price to pay, which was carefully covered up. Shakespeare couldn't have done it better. And the final banishment is the culmination of all this.” 

What could possibly bring together a “daughter of revolutionaries” and a king? Although it may seem implausible, after spending her teens in Spain Laurence Debray became interested in Juan Carlos I as a historian, wrote his biography and interviewed him on the eve of his abdication, in 2014, for a TV documentary. Since then, she has kept in contact with him, following the twists and turns of his fate. And she visited him in 2021, in Abu Dhabi, where he took refuge following a series of scandals, having become a pariah in his own country and an excessively troublesome father for King Felipe VI. 

Laurence Debray’s account of this unusual relationship fascinates for its virtuosity, its intelligent understanding of the circumstances, and its lucidity when the past is confronted with the present.