Former Spanish king seeks royal immunity from UK courts

The former king of Spain, Juan Carlos I, is seeking royal immunity from the English courts following accusations of harassment and spying made by his former lover. On Monday 6 December, papers were made public that show Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn is seeking damages for “great mental pain, alarm, anxiety, distress, loss of well-being, humiliation and moral stigma she has suffered” allegedly due to the king.

The Danish businesswoman and the king were together for five years. She claims that the then head of the Spanish Intelligence Agency, General Sanz Roldan, met her in London’s Connaught Rooms in 2012 and that is when the threats against her and her children began. This would have been two years before Juan Carlos abdicated the throne and his son Felipe became king.

Juan Carlos denies all of Ms Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn’s allegations and is claiming he is “entitled to royal immunity from the jurisdiction of the English courts in his capacity as a senior member of the Spanish Royal Family.”

Justice Nicklin, the judge overseeing the case has called upon the country of Spain to either confirm or deny that Juan Carlos is still a member of their Royal Family. They said: “I would feel much more comfortable if the Spanish state could confirm that Juan Carlos continues to be a member of the royal family.”

Jonathan Caplin QC, representing Ms San-Witgenstein-Sayn, has argued that royal immunity should not be granted based on Juan Carlos relinquishing the status of “a sovereign or other head of state” when he abdicated the throne. He said: “The defendant is plainly not, and does not claim to be, a dependent of his son King Felipe VI.”

Sir Daniel Bethlehem QC, representing Juan Carlos, said that the former king “rejects the allegations made against him and any alleged wrongdoing by the Spanish State is denied in the strongest of terms.”

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Written by

Claire Gordon