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Spanish King abdication: Juan Carlos says his son Felipe 'represents stability and a new generation'

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Explaining his decision to abdicate after nearly 39 years, King Juan Carlos of Spain has told his people that the country's present economic crisis requires the energy of a new generation. He said that his son Prince Felipe who will become Felipe VI, "represents stability". He described the Prince as having "the maturity and preparation" to assume responsibility and "open the way for a new era of hope" with "the support of [his wife] Princess Letizia".

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The royal patriarch was speaking during a televised address from his study, flanked by a picture of himself with his 46-year-old heir and his granddaughter Infanta Leonor, who is now in line to become the Princess of Asturias, a title similar to the Prince of Wales in Britain.

The decision was taken, said the outgoing sovereign, on his 76th birthday earlier this year.

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He said: "Today a new generation must come to the fore, one with new energy and the determination needed to undertake the transformation and reforms that the current circumstances demand; a generation that can confront with renewed intensity and dedication the challenges of tomorrow". "I want the best for Spain, the country to which I have dedicated my entire life... My son Felipe, the heir to the throne, represents stability, which is the emblem of the monarchy".

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A towering figure of Spain's transition from dictatorship to democracy, the King was for years one of the world's most respected and popular monarchs.  Unfortunately, the royal household has suffered setbacks in recent years. In 2012, King Juan Carlos had a series of operations on his hip after falling during an elephant hunting trip in Botswana. In response to criticisms about the holiday during Spain's recession the monarch apologised.

© Photo: Getty Images

 The crisis followed a judicial investigation into his son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin, on allegations of corruption. It's claimed that the former Olympic handball champion used a foundation he headed to divert public funds.Still the King's decision to step down will be met with considerable sadness in a nation where he is known for his easy going charm and heroic defence of modern values. Earlier on Monday the sovereign met with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, handing him an official letter with his decision. On Tuesday, there will be a cabinet meeting to oversee the process.