Proclamation of King Juan Carlos I of Spain

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Why don’t we have a coronation in Spain? Because we never did, not even in medieval times. King Leovigildo set the ceremonies in the year 569 with two distinct parts: secular ceremony and religious ceremony. The first one consists of a public acclamation of the monarch by his people gathered in front of the palace or by their Parliament representatives (the first example of modern Parliament in the history of Europe was the Cortes of León in 1188). The second ceremony involves the anointing which turns the king into Defender of the Faith. This is a more private function. Monarchs tended to prioritize the secular first service in an effort to avoid the interference of the Church in their businesses.

Following the old ceremonial process, King Juan Carlos attended two events during his proclamation and both were public. (King Felipe’s religious ceremony consisted of a simple Mass and was a private service just for family since Spain is now a secular state.)

On 22 November 1975, Juan Carlos, Prince of Spain, was proclaimed King before the Parliament. Several monarchs and foreign dignitaries attended the festivities including Grace and Rainier of Monaco, Hussein of Jordan, the brother of Saudi Arabia’s king, the brother of the Iranian Shah Pahlavi, Constantine and Anne-Marie of the Hellenes, Nelson Rockefeller, US Vice-President, and the extended Spanish royal family. Juan Carlos was sworn in as the new king and then delivered a speech. That’s all–the whole ceremony took 15 minutes!

We’re lucky enough to have the testimony of the best witness, Queen Sofia herself, from the book La Reina.

“We wanted things to be different for the first time but we had no one to ask how to do it. The dictator had died two days before and there was an official mourning decreed, but the proclamation was a gala event… although we were supposed to go to pay our respects before his coffin right after leaving the Parliament. Mourning comes before gala, but gala eliminates mourning. What to wear? Black, short, long? I thought Spanish people should notice that something had changed and that’s why I picked out reddish pink (‘capote’ colour in Spain, the same bullfighters wear) And then I ordered a custom-made long coat of black velvet to cover the dress. The coat was made the night before by Molinero sisters, my dressmakers, and all of us helped to get rid of the tacking and whipstitch. I mean my sister Irene, my sister-in-law Anne-Marie and myself. It was the longest night of my life.”

The religious ceremony took place in San Jerónimo el Real Church of Madrid on 27 November. Grace and Rainier of Monaco were here too along with Bertil of Sweden, Henri of Luxembourg, Prince Philip of Edinburgh, Prince Albert of Belgium, Vittorio-Emmanuele of Savoy, Prince Hans Adams of Liechtenstein and Prince Mouley of Morocco. The Queen chose a mint green dress and Spanish mantilla by the Molinero sisters. These days, the ensemble is part of the exhibition in Aranjuez Palace which also houses the royal family’s wedding dresses as well as the Niarchos rubies. After the ceremony, there was a gala lunch at the Royal Palace were Grace and Rainier took precedence as they were the only official monarchs at the time. The other royals in attendance were just heirs or exiled.

What say you about the sartorial efforts shown here?