Fully cognizant of the pressures under which Juan Carlos, pretender to the Spanish throne, existed, Paul Preston, professor of history at the London School of Economics, examines the life of this nobleman who, from his earliest years, was groomed to reclaim the Spanish monarchy that Francisco Franco wrested from King Alfonso XIII, Juan Carlos’s grandfather, in 1939, following the Spanish Civil War.
The boy’s father, Don Juan, exiled in Portugal, turned his ten-year-old son over to Franco for training in ways that would make him a likely successor when Franco’s regime ended. Franco clearly did not want Don Juan to succeed him. He saw to it that Juan Carlos was schooled in the immutable ways of governing he thought appropriate to Spain’s political situation, preparing the young man for the Borbon’s return to the Spanish throne, which finally occurred in 1975.
Preston offers detailed, carefully documented accounts of how Juan Carlos gravitated toward establishing the representative form of government achieved in Spain following Franco’s death. Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy is filled with interesting glimpses into Basque separatism, the rise of Communism in Spain, and other political matters that provide insights into the challenging intrigues and machinations facing Juan Carlos as he guided Spain from dictatorship toward constitutional monarchy.
Casual readers may occasionally feel overwhelmed by the quantity of detail Preston provides. Such detail, however, makes this study an indispensable resource for serious students of Spanish history. The text is enhanced by sixteen pages of well- chosen illustrations.