King Juan Carlos of SpainKing Juan Carlos of Spain is has abdicated after almost 40 years on the throne, euronews reports.
His son Prince Felipe, who is 45, will succeed him.
No official reasons were given – a government source said the king was stepping down for “personal reasons”.
The 76-year-old’s health had declined and he and the royal family had become increasingly unpopular after a series of scandals.
The announcement comes as a huge surprise.
The Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy said:
“The King is convinced that this is the best moment for change in the leadership of the state to happen in a normal manner and to transfer the Crown to the Prince of Asturias.”
The prime minister paid tribute to the pivotal role Juan Carlos played in the transition to democracy. The king came to the throne after the death of General Franco in November 1975.
But recently his daughter, Princess Cristina, and son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin, have been under investigation in a corruption case.
The king himself was much criticised after going on an expensive safari trip to Africa – this as many people in Spain were suffering economic hardship with a recession and severe austerity measures.
Juan Carlos was at one time one of Europe’s most popular monarchs.
He oversaw a radical period of change in Spain, from the end of the fascist era in the mid 1970s to Spain’s accession to the EU in 1986.
He also played a pivotal role in calming the situation when there was an attempted coup in 1981, when former military officers from the Franco era took over parliament.