19 Apr 2012

Spanish king apologises for going hunting

9:15 am on 19 April 2012

Spain's King Juan Carlos has bowed to scathing criticism and publicly apologised for going hunting in Botswana while his subjects struggle with the country's economic crisis.

The 74-year-old monarch spoke as he left the hospital in Madrid where he was taken after breaking his hip during the safari. "I'm very sorry, I made a mistake," he said. "It won't happen again."

The BBC reports that news of the hunting trip caused outrage among many because of the type of animal the king is thought to have been hunting: elephants. (The royal house has neither confirmed nor denied this.)

But the real scandal is that the head of state was off on an expensive hunting expedition in Africa, during one of the most precarious moments in Spain's economic crisis, when more than five million Spaniards are out of work, and the country is facing deep public spending cuts and a significant rise in the cost of living.

The king is generally popular in Spain but the royal family has recently been beset by a series of embarrassing news stories. In the past, public criticism of the Spanish royal family was not "the done thing", the BBC reports. Now it is something the Spanish papers are increasingly used to.

Juan Carlos is honorary president of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund and an online petition calling for his resignation had accumulated almost 85,000 signatures by the time he made his public apology.