A powerful biography of Spain's great king, Juan Carlos. How did a playful, moody young prince, educated to sustain Franco's dicatorship, mature into the skilful, calm and brave king who defended Spain's infant democracy from siege and then nurtured it into health? It's a fascinating story, given definitively here in this gripping portrait.
There are two central mysteries in the life of Juan Carlos, one personal, the other political. How to explain 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 tradtiions, obliged to conform to the Francoist norms during his youth and early manhood, and educated to be a cornerstone of the plans for the reinforcement of the dictatorship, sided, when he had to, so emphatically and courageously with democratic principles.
Paul Preston – who has thrown more light onto the sometimes inspiring, often shameful, always eventful history of Spain in the twentieth century than any other living commentator – has set out to address these mysteries and in so doing written perhaps the definitive biography of King Juan Carlos. He tackles the king’s turbulent relationship with his father, his cloistered education and his resistance to it, his bravery in opposing the attempt to overthrow the infant democracy a few years after Franco’s death, and his immense hard work in consolidating parliamentary democracy in Spain. The resultant biography is both rigorous and riveting, its vibrant prose doing justice to its vibrant subject. It is a book fit for a king.
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‘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.’ The Economist
‘FOR more than 40 years a veil has been drawn over one of the most tragic episodes in the life of King Juan Carlos of Spain. Just before Easter 1956, his brother, Alfonso, 14, was shot dead with a .22 calibre pistol while the 18-year-old Juan Carlos was alone with him. The king’s authorised biography made no mention of the incident. But light has been shed on it by Paul Preston, a professor at the LSE, whose biography laying bare the king’s private life has reached No 1 in the Spanish bestseller lists. Preston’s book has caused a furore by suggesting the future monarch may have pulled the trigger. It says he admitted to a friend he had been holding the gun at the time. The professor has given more than 60 interviews to the Spanish media and has been bombarded with hate mail and death threats.’ Sunday Times, 11 May 2003
'The lights and shadows of the life of Juan Carlos are reproduced with scientific precision. Preston's scalpel has been implacable… A lucid, penetrating, accurate book, backed up with an arsenal of facts… A scientifically admirable work that once more sees one of the great European historians flexing his muscles.' Luis María Anson, La Razón
‘A splendid book which, as an unauthorised biography, offers both a panoramic view of contemporary Spain as well as providing profound insight into the role of a King in the late twentieth century… The book provides a magnificent mosaic to solve the riddle that is the Spain of the last seventy-five years.’ Marius Carol, La Vanguardia
'Preston's Juan Carlos is much more ambitious than a mere biography. I must confess that it is a long time since I read a six-hundred page book at a sitting. This is one of the books that, after thirty pages, you just know that you either stop or let yourself be carried on right to the end. It is not only a model biography of the King but also a detailed, quietly erudite, history of Spain from 1931 to the present, rich in anecdotes, written with magisterial literary skill.' Antonio Gallego Morell, Ideal de GranadaSunday Times:
"....Juan Carlos's biography reads like a spy thriller....(Preston's) compelling style carries the reader with him."
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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2004. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0002556324