There are two central mysteries in the life of Juan Carlos, one personal, the other political.The first is the apparent serenity with which he accepted that his father had surrendered him, to all intents and purposes, into the safekeeping of the Franco regime. In any normal family, this would have been considered a kind of cruelty or, at the very least, baleful negligence. But a royal family can never be normal, and the decision to send the young Juan Carlos away from Spain was governed by a certain ‘superior’ dynastic logic. The second mystery lies in how a prince raised in a family with the strictest authoritarian traditions, who was obliged to conform to the Francoist norms during his youth and educated to be a cornerstone of the plans for the reinforcement of the dictatorship, eventually sided so emphatically and courageously with democratic principles. Paul Preston – perhaps the greatest living commentator on modern Spain – has set out to address these mysteries, and in so doing has written the definitive biography of King Juan Carlos. He tackles the king’s turbulent relationship with his father, his cloistered education, his bravery in defending Spain’s infant democracy after Franco’s death and his immense hard work in consolidating parliamentary democracy in Spain. The resulting biography is both rigorous and riveting, its vibrant prose doing justice to its vibrant subject. It is a book fit for a king.
Reviews of Juan Carlos
‘An excellent biography…It reads like a spy thriller…There is no doubt that Preston is an ardent fan of Juan Carlos, and his compelling style carries the reader with him…Preston’s great skill is to recreate real suspense over the thirty-five years that elapsed between Juan Carlo’s arrival in Spain as a boy and the irreversible entrenchment of democracy in the 1980s.’ Sunday Times
‘This is that rare thing – a work of academic history that is also an absorbing narrative. And its great merit is to remind us that at the centre of all the dynastic wrangling, political conspiracy and media speculation stands a man who has often felt very alone.’ Economist
‘As with most of Preston’s work, his eye for the winning detail makes his subjects quite human and enlivens the world of political maneuvering into something other than dry history.’ Washington Post