From Publishers Weekly
Ever since the Middle Ages, Spanish history has been a deeply polemical field. Preston, professor of international history at the London School of Economics, is one of a coterie of English-speaking historians of Spain whose reputation for objectivity has gained them intense admiration among the Spanish public. Following his definitive biography of the dictator Franco, Preston now turns his attention to the man Franco chose to perpetuate his repressive regime, the grandson of King Alfonso XIII. Juan Carlos, with his soldierly temperament and his taste for women and fast cars, was widely perceived as Franco's stooge and an intellectual mediocrity. Preston, however, a self-confessed pragmatist, is thoroughly sympathetic, presenting his subject as an intelligent patriot, repeatedly sacrificing personal happiness in long-term pursuit of democracy. In the pivotal years after Franco's death in 1975, Juan Carlos pacified the left, legalizing the Communist Party and bringing the socialists around to the cause of a constitutional monarchy. At the same time, the king desperately attempted to limit the fallout from attacks by the Basque terrorist group ETA and partially defused the threat of military conspiracy. While unable to avoid the attempted coup of 1981, he was, in Preston's view, undoubtedly instrumental in its failure, preventing a bloodbath and a second civil war. The warmth of Preston's respect for the king will be a surprise to some, but is well supported by the evidence in this exhaustive and compelling book, which should be read by anyone with an interest in contemporary Europe. 16 pages of illus. not seen by PW.
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*Starred Review* King Juan Carlos of Spain is a hero. He has created an effective--no, vital--
place for the monarchy in Spanish politics and national life at a time in European history when the institution of monarchy is somewhat on the wane. Preston, author of the definitive Franco
(1994), supplies a much-needed, serious, comprehensive, and absolutely dynamic biography of el rey
, impressively researched and deeply probing--not only into Juan Carlos the character and king but also into recent Spanish history, which is the necessary context for understanding the king's life. Two major points are stressed here in effecting such an understanding: Juan Carlos was raised from boyhood with one purpose, to help regain for the Borbon royal house the throne left vacant in 1931 by the establishment of the Spanish republic; and, once installed as king upon the demise of the seemingly everlasting dictator Franco, Juan Carlos was determined that the restored monarchy would function as the
force for democracy in the newly opened up, post-Franco Spain. What is learned here is that Juan Carlos' "long march to the throne" was most certainly not an easy journey, but the king's adeptness at performing as a constitutional monarch has been the primary factor in bringing Spain the political security it enjoys today. Brad HooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved