From the regatta boat at the port of Sanxenxo in northwestern Spain, former king Juan Carlos signaled with a thumbs-up “Everything okay!” But the media and other observers agreed on Thursday: The first home visit of the controversial ex-monarch after almost a year is dreary and sobering for the 85-year-old.

He certainly expected the barrage of criticism from the left corner. But the fact that conservative media are now also criticizing the visit with unusual sharpness and former fans are turning their backs on him must have hurt the man, who has been living in exile in Abu Dhabi for over two and a half years because of numerous affairs, deeply.

Spanish media are unanimous how rare

The Spanish media are seldom so unanimous: Juan Carlos’ visit add to the monarchy of King Felipe VI, which is trying to cultivate its image. great damage. “Felipe’s worst enemy is his own father,” wrote Leyre Iglesias, deputy director of the newspaper El Mundo. Even the ultra-conservative daily “La Razón”, until recently one of the most zealous defenders of the cane-walking Bourbons, spoke of an “unsuitable trip” that in the “super election year” of 2023 left-wing parties, who were increasingly demanding the abolition of the monarchy, will benefit.

In an interview with the state TV broadcaster RTVE, the writer and journalist Pilar Eyre, who knows the Palacio de la Zarzuela royal palace north-west of Madrid like few others, warned of the frequent visits that acquaintances of the old king promised: “He will thereby destroying the monarchy.”

Juan Carlos should have noticed shortly after his landing at the airport in Vigo on Wednesday that times are changing quickly. In addition to the numerous journalists who showed up, a single fan was waiting for him at the exit. “It’s unbelievable that I’m the only one who receives him here,” the 23-year-old student was quoted as saying in the newspaper “El País”. Only a few people on the side of the road waved at the old king’s car in Sanxenxo on Thursday. When he first visited his home last May, Juan Carlos was cheered, harassed and asked for selfies by many supporters.

The old king does not speak

A lot is different now. The old king, otherwise close to the people like hardly any other celebrity in Spain, this time did not roll down the passenger window in front of journalists. So far he has not made a single public sound. This also applies to his host and close friend, the entrepreneur Pedro Campos, who acted as “speaker” last year. And also unlike last year, neither daughter Elena (59), who is probably the greatest supporter of the old king in the family, nor the mayor of Sanxenxo have been seen at the side of the illustrious visitor. His son Felipe meanwhile kept appointments hundreds of kilometers away.

This certainly has something to do with the fact that in 2022 practically everything that could go wrong went wrong. Juan Carlos’ behavior was criticized as “immodest”. When asked by journalists whether he wanted to explain something to the country’s citizens, he answered brusquely through the open passenger window: “What should I explain?” He not only angered the royal family, but also the left-wing government, which let it be known that the old king had “missed the chance” to ask the citizens for forgiveness. “El País” has now demanded again that Juan Carlos finally apologize to the citizens.

Head of state for almost 40 years

For the man, who was Spanish head of state for almost 40 years until 2014, things had looked relatively good for a short time. In the spring of 2022, all criminal investigations into financial irregularities against him had been stopped in Spain. It was therefore assumed that Juan Carlos would visit his homeland more often and eventually return for good. Now the grandfather of Crown Princess Leonor (17) is facing a new, perhaps last, “crucible test”, analyzed the state TV broadcaster RTVE.

If he still counts on being a welcome guest in his home country in the future, Juan Carlos can no longer afford a faux pas. Because unlike the former fans, the media, who report live from Sanxenxo for hours, stay close to his heels.