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Until now, Juan Carlos had always been a highly respected figure in Spain and almost never came in for criticism from either politicians or the media.

The king rarely speaks out on current affairs in Spain. But with the royal family looking so bad because of the Urdangarin case, in his traditional Christmas address last year, the king made a point of saying “everyone is equal in the eyes of the law.” He said he was worried because of what he called growing mistrust of “some of our institutions.”

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Daniel Woolls contributed to this report.