Juan de Borbón y Battenberg lived most of his life in exile but at the time of his death, after several months admitted to the University Clinic of Pamplona, he had become a figure that aroused compassion precisely because of his long agony that ended on April 1, 1993, 30 years ago today.
The father of King Juan Carlos, grandfather of Felipe VI, lived more abroad than in Spain in his 79 years of life. He was born on June 20, 1913 in La Granja de San Ildefonso (Segovia) where Queen Victoria Eugenia went into labor. The proclamation of the Second Republic, in 1931, caught him sailing on a British Royal Navy ship.
He inherited the rights to the Crown, after the death of Alfonso XIII and the resignations due to illness of his older brothers and was known as Count of Barcelona, a historical title inherited from the sovereigns of the Crown of Aragon. After a first period in Italy, France and Switzerland, he ended up installed in Estoril (Portugal) until he finally returned to Spain in 1977, after ceding his dynastic rights and headship of the Royal House to his son Juan Carlos, proclaimed king in 1975.
In the fifteen years that he lived in Spain he did not have a great public role, except in those ceremonies that had to do with the Navy, of which he was named an honorary admiral. An iconic image is that of Don Juan, King Juan Carlos and the then Prince Felipe, aboard the Juan Sebastián de Elcano, the school ship where the three of them, at different times, served as midshipmen.
The illness had manifested itself to him years before and had forced him to undergo a tracheotomy. Almost without being able to speak, eat or drink, in his last years he had the pleasure of drinking a gin and tonic with a syringe.
In mid-January 1993, Don Juan entered the Navarra University Clinic, from where he only left, making one last effort, on January 18, 1993 to receive the Gold Medal of Navarra. He then returned to the health center aware that he was living through his last days, which, finally, were weeks. The kings Juan Carlos and Sofía practically lived in Pamplona, staying at the Blanca de Navarra hotel, located opposite the clinic. Every time they threatened to return to Madrid, the doctors warned of the imminence of don Juan's death.
It did not happen once, not twice, a prognosis was never contradicted by reality as during the weeks in which don Juan lived his last moments several times. The infantas Pilar and Margarita also settled in Pamplona, while the dying man's grandchildren came and went. The Countess of Barcelona arrived in Pamplona when the last warning of the end was, really, the definitive end.
In those days, the aristocrat Beltrán Osorio, Duke of Alburquerque, was Head of the House of Barcelona. On April 1, he decided to leave Pamplona, for the first time in weeks, and travel to Madrid to arrange some business. He was to leave the Navarrese capital and don Juan die. The kings Juan Carlos and Sofía, the infantas Pilar and Margarita were eating, like every day, in a private dining room of the same clinic, when they were told that don Juan had died.
The Government of Felipe González, at the request of King Juan Carlos, granted Don Juan de Borbón the treatment of King and the right to have state funerals. Son of a king, father of a king, but never a king, he ended up being transferred to El Escorial as Juan III. In a last attempt to enlarge his figure, his desire to act as Count of Barcelona for posterity and to be buried in the chapel of Sant Benet in the Poblet monastery was not respected, where he left two tombs paid for, one for himself and the other for the Countess of Barcelona.
Don Juan's remains were deposited in the so-called Pudridero, where they spend 25 years covered in lime until they shrink and can occupy the small tomb of the Pantheon of Kings. They are still there thirty years later, without what remains of Juan de Borbón having been transferred to its definitive niche.