December 27

This Day in History

General Interest

Dec 27, 1978:

Spanish king ratifies democratic constitution

Following its approval in a national referendum, King Juan Carlos ratifies Spain's first democratic constitution in nearly five decades.

Juan Carlos' grandfather was Alfonso XIII, the last ruling monarch of Spain, who was forced into exile in 1931 after Spain was declared a republic. Born in Italy in 1938, Juan Carlos returned to Spain in 1955 under the invitation of General Francisco Franco, dictator of Spain since 1936. In 1969, Franco designated Juan Carlos his successor. In 1975, Juan Carlos became Spain's acting head of state after Franco conceded that he was too ill too govern. The 83-year-old dictator had been suffering serious health problems for nearly a year. Three weeks after Juan Carlos assumed power, Franco died of a heart attack. Two days later, on November 22, Juan Carlos was crowned king.

Despite having pledged loyalty to Franco's authoritarian regime, King Juan Carlos immediately began a transition to democracy in Spain. During the next decade, he presided over a period of extensive democratization in Spain.

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