King Juan Carlos of Spain's affair nearly brought down the monarchy

From a ‘€1m symbolic engagement ring’ to a VERY fierce High Court legal battle, how ‘unhinged’ King Juan Carlos’ explosive five-year affair with a Danish businesswoman almost brought down Spain’s monarchy

  • Juan Carlos, 84, was involved with Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein for five years
  • Former Spanish King abdicated in 2014 as his extra-marital affairs came to light 
  • FEMAIL looks back at the affair that shook the Spanish Royal Family to its core

From the King phoning her office 10 times a day to an angry confrontation with his wife Queen Sofia, a new podcast is laying bare the five-year affair between Juan Carlos of Spain and his ex-mistress in jaw-dropping detail. 

Danish businesswoman Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, 57, who is now based in the UK, first crossed paths with the former monarch on a hunting getaway hosted by the Duke of Westminster in La Garganta, northern Spain in 2004.

Shortly after that weekend, the couple – who have a 27-year age difference – began a passionate relationship, which lasted five years.

As well as being showered with lavish gifts – including a ‘€1m engagement ring’ – from the King, romantic date nights were just part and parcel of Corinna’s affair with the monarch.

But towards the end of their relationship, cracks began to show when Juan Carlos – who abdicated the throne in 2014 amid claims of widespread corruption – would receive ‘bags full of cash’ from friends.

As rumours of his money laundering began to circulate in the media, Corinna claims the man she believed was the ‘husband of her heart’ would tell her that she ‘didn’t understand Spain’ whenever she questioned the source of the cash.

Later this month, the details of the ex-lovers’ relationship will be sensationally read out in London’s High Court as part of Corinna’s ongoing legal case claiming that Juan Carlos harassed and spied on her after their relationship ended.

And with more episodes of the podcast still to come, there is no end in sight to the revelations.  

Here FEMAIL looks back at how this extramarital royal romance soured in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

In podcast series, Corinna revealed she first met the then-King in 2004 at a hunting party in Southern Spain. The pair pictured at the Schloss Schockingen castle in Stuttgart, Germany on February 2, 2006

Corinna and Juan Carlos were lovers for five years and she described how she felt ‘married’ to him in this time. Pictured in New York in September 2014

The former King of Spain pictured arriving in Santiago in 2018. Juan Carlos allegedly started seeing another woman when Corinna was caring for her sick father 

Appearing on the new podcast series Corinna and the King, the mother-of-two explained how she was still legally married but separated from her second husband Prince Casimir zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn when she met Juan Carlos, now 84.

While dining on a meal of venison and quail, Corinna says the King – who has been married to wife Sofia since 1962 – was charmed by her reluctance to abide by royal protocol.

Rather than wait until the King had finished eating, Juan Carlos’ lover claims she left the table early – and the monarch was impressed by her boldness.

‘I think he saw in me a different kind of woman than he had come across in the past,’ she said of her former flame in a True Royalty TV interview. ‘I think it fascinated him I treated him like a normal man rather than a symbol.’

Corinna pictured The Prince’s Drawing school at Buckingham Palace on June 19, 2014. The Danish businesswoman is now based in the UK

Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 and handed over the throne to his son King Felipe amid a money-laundering scandal.  King Felipe VI of Spain (second left), his wife Queen Letizia (far left), their daughters Princess Sofia (front left) and Princess Leonor (front right), former King Juan Carlos I (second right) and his wife former Queen Sofia (right) pose before attending the traditional Easter Sunday Mass of Resurrection in Palma de Mallorca on April 1, 2018

After the countryside trip ended, Corinna claims the King started sending her flowers and love letters every day.

The following year, the businesswoman separated from her husband and she says the affair with the King only became more intense as the years went on.

Using the fake name ‘Mr Sumer’, Corinna claims Juan Carlos would call her ’10 times a day’ at her office in Madrid.

The former monarch had chosen the pseudonym as ‘Sumer’ is an acronym of ‘Su Majestad el Rey’, which translates as His Majesty the King.

Although Corinna tried to pass it off as a business call, she said colleagues could see through the pretense because they recognised the King’s ‘booming and distinctive’ voice.

Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 and handed over his throne to King Felipe. He denies ever harassing or spying upon his ex-lover

Corinna Larsen, 57, is pursuing a High Court case against her former lover Juan Carlos, 84, for alleged harassment and spying. The mother-of-two pictured arriving at the court hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on March 29, 2022

Describing him as ‘funny and quite persistent’ albeit in an amusing way, she labelled him, ‘one of the biggest seducers in the royal world’.

Speaking in the second episode of the podcast, the business woman recounted the ‘unusual’ things she saw happen while she and Juan Carlos were having their affair.

‘He would call someone up who had a great château of Bordeaux wines and say, “I really love these wines, and could you send me some?” And the next thing you’d know, 20 cases of this priceless wine would arrive,’ she claimed.

The businesswoman claimed Queen Sofia once confronted her about the affair in front of Juan Carlos at Zarzuela Palace in Madrid – but wouldn’t divulge when the alleged incident took place.

The ex-king and his wife Sofia (pictured) have not shared a bedroom since she caught him with another woman on a 1976 hunting trip and she is thought to be with family in Mallorca

Corinna pictured in London on June 16, 2017. The mother-of-two claims Juan Carlos symbolically proposed to her with a large emerald-cut diamond ring – which Spanish media outlets report was worth €1m – during a romantic dinner in January 2009

‘Suddenly, Queen Sofia bursts into the room with a face like thunder. She pointed at me and said, “I know who you are”. I obviously wanted to disappear into the ground,’ Corinna said.

She added that her royal lover ‘seemed completely taken aback and unable to actually cope with this aggression’ as he watched it unfold.

The mother-of-two claims the former King symbolically proposed to her with a large emerald-cut diamond ring – which Spanish media outlets report was worth €1m – during a romantic dinner in January 2009.

As such, the Danish businesswoman said that she felt ‘married’ to Juan Carlos and described him as the ‘husband of [her] heart’.

However, Corinna claims the relationship went downhill that year when she spent eight months caring for her father who was dying from cancer.

The King who ‘bedded 5,000 women’: From trying to woo Princess Diana to being ‘injected with testosterone blockers’ to control his sex drive – the VERY colourful love life of Spain’s greatest seducer 

He was the King of Spain from 1975 until his controversial abdication in 2014 – and during that time, Juan Carlos is rumoured to have ‘bedded over 5,000 women’.

In October, an ex-police chief sensationally claimed in a parliamentary hearing that the exiled former Spanish king Juan Carlos was ‘injected with female hormones to control his rampant sex drive’.

Jose Manuel Villarejo also said the disgraced former monarch, now living at a luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi, was given testosterone blockers by the Spanish secret service after his libido was categorised as a ‘state problem.’

Villarejo, a former Spanish Police commissioner currently on trial in a blackmail case, said, according to The Times: ‘[The National Intelligence Centre (CNI)] injected female hormones and testosterone blockers to control his libido because it was considered a problem of state that he was so horny.’

Danish-German philanthropist Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, Spanish singer Sara Montiel, Belgian governess Liliane Sartiau and Italian princess Maria Gabriela de Saboya are just some of the women he is rumoured to have bedded besides his wife, Queen Sofia.

News of the disgraced former king’s legendary libido are not new, however. It comes after a Spanish author and military historian Amadeo Martinez Ingles wrote a book entitled ‘Juan Carlos: The King Of 5,000 Lovers’, piecing together evidence of his sexual history and painting the king as a rampant sex addict.

Spanish royal family expert Pilar Eyre said the former King attempted to bed Princess Diana, claiming Juan Carlos made a ‘tactile’ advance to Diana when she was just 25

Princess Diana is rumoured to have been just one of the young ladies the ex-king pursued in a romantic career in which — like his namesake, the seducer Don Juan — he is said to have bedded almost 5,000 women.

Villarejo, who has been accused of spying on and working to discredit some of Spain’s most high-profile politicians as a key figure in the nation’s ‘sewer politics’, also insisted he was asked to get rid of medical documents which would have proved the medication went on.

He denied having any involvement in the effort to bring Juan Carlos’ notorious sex drive under control and said he found out about it from Corinna Larsen, a former lover of the ex-monarch now living in London.

Larsen, also known as Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, 58, had an affair with the 84-year-old monarch – who is married to Queen Sofia, 84 – between 2004 and 2009.

One of Juan Carlos’ early sexual encounters is said to be with Maria Gabriela de Saboya, daughter of the last king of Italy (pictured 1966)

In his explosive book published in 2016 called ‘Juan Carlos: The King of 5,000 lovers’, author Martinez Ingles dubbed the ex-king a sex addict and said he had hundreds of relationships even after marriage to his wife Queen Sofia in 1962.

The book claimed he had had 62 lovers in one six-month period alone, and during his ‘passionate period’ between 1976 and 1994, the king had slept with a staggering 2,154 women.

Spanish royal family expert Pilar Eyre has corroborated Martinez Ingles’ claim that the former King attempted to bed Princess Diana, saying said Juan Carlos made a ‘tactile’ advance to Diana when she was just 25.

Diana herself denied anything untoward had happened but admitted that while the libidinous king was ‘charming’ he could be a ‘little too attentive.’

One of Juan Carlos’ early sexual encounters is said to be with Maria Gabriela de Saboya, daughter of the last king of Italy.

Later, Juan Carlos, who was crowned king in 1975, allegedly became estranged from his wife after the queen found him in a compromising position with Spanish actress and singer, Sara Montiel.

It is rumoured that Queen Sofia caught him in the act with Montiel just weeks after their coronation, but she denied any affair.

An explosive book published in 2016 called ‘Juan Carlos: The King of 5,000 lovers’, dubbed the ex-king a sex addict, claiming he had hundreds of relationships even after marriage to wife Queen Sofia in 1962 (pictured together in 1994) 

In January 2017 it was claimed spymasters paid a former Miss World contestant millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to stop her spilling the beans on her supposed affair with Juan Carlos when he was still King of Spain.

Former beauty queen-turned-actress Barbara Rey reportedly had the cash paid into an offshore account to make sure she kept quiet about her long-standing romance with the ex-monarch.

A Belgian housewife has also claimed to be the daughter of Juan Carlos, alleging that the former King had an affair with her mother, governess Liliane Sartiau.

In 2015, her daughter Ingrid brought a paternity suit to the Spanish courts. But the writ was thrown out on the basis of the king’s ‘legal inviolability’ under Spanish law.

Spanish waiter Albert Sola also claimed around the same time as Ingrid that he was an illegitimate son of Juan Carlos – but his attempts to be recognised failed early on.

Following the end of their relationship, Corinna claims the former monarch harassed her into returning €65 million [£56m] that he had transferred into her bank account.

This sum was a key aspect of the corruption case brought against the ex-King, whose extramarital affairs and widespread corruption caused the Spanish monarchy to plunge in popularity.

In 2012, their romance was sensationally discovered when he fractured his hip and had to be rushed back home from an elephant hunting trip in Botswana where Ms Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein – still a close friend – had accompanied him. 

The trip – which cost £27,000 – was shrouded in controversy at the time as one in two young people in Spain were reported to be jobless.

In a bid to save the monarchy, Juan Carlos handed over the throne to his son Felipe in 2014 amid as the full extent of money laundering came to light.

He fled the country after Swiss prosecutors opened an investigation into bank accounts allegedly held by Juan Carlos in tax havens.

While his wife is believed to have stayed with family in Mallorca, Juan Carlos was reported to have gone into hiding with his ‘most faithful friend for the past 40 years’ in a £10,000-a-night presidential suite in Abu Dhabi. 

Royal expert and author Pilar Eyre said the ex-king and his wife Sofia had not shared a bedroom since she caught him with another woman on a 1976 hunting trip.

Spain launched its own investigations based in part on information shared by Switzerland including one about cash the former king allegedly received as part of his involvement in a high-speed Saudi Arabia rail contract.

The ex-lovers pictured at the Laureus Sports Awards at Parc del Forum in Barcelona on May 22, 2006

After putting himself in a self-imposed exile in the UAE in 2020, the former King then settled a tax debt of more than £600,000 with the Spanish tax authorities.

Commenting on the money-laundering claims, Corinna said: ‘It became clearer and clearer to me [that] he was conducting not just a double life, he was conducting a quintuple life.

‘There’s something quite unhinged about him and something quite ruthless. It’s all about self-preservation. Imagine that someone who says you were the love of their life would frame you in a criminal investigation.’

What’s more, the King’s ex-lover claimed that ‘intruders’ broke into her apartment in Villars, Switzerland, and left a book about Princess Diana’s death in her apartment as part of a campaign designed to intimidate her.

In 2020, Corinna told True Royalty’s The Rise and Fall of The Spanish King that she was visited by a man who ‘couldn’t guarantee the safety of her and her children’ if she spoke to the media about her lover.

It is claimed that, at a meeting in the Connaught Hotel in London on May 5 2012, an ‘agent or associate’ of the former king was ‘threatening’ towards Ms zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn and her children.

She alleges that the meeting was timed ‘to correspond with the breaking into her apartments in Monaco and in Villars, Switzerland, where a book on the death of Princess Diana was left on a coffee table’.

The book, entitled ‘Princess Diana: The Hidden Evidence, How MI6 and the CIA were involved in the death of Princess Diana’, was left on the table, with papers in the apartment allegedly being ‘disturbed’.

Corinna – pictured in November 2017 – is seeking damages for personal injury and ‘great mental pain’ after Juan Carlos, allegedly spied on and harassed her from 2012 onwards.

Corinna alleged that soon after finding the book, she received a follow-up telephone call from an ‘unknown person speaking Spanish’.

‘There are many tunnels between Monaco and Nice,’ the person allegedly told Corinna, in an apparent reference to the manner in which Princess Diana died in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris.

She is seeking damages for personal injury and ‘great mental pain’ after Juan Carlos, allegedly spied on and harassed her from 2012 onwards.

Corinna also alleged to have suffered trespass and criminal damage at her home in rural central England.

Gunshots were fired at and damaged security cameras at the front gate of the property, she alleged, accusing the former king of being angry at her refusals.

Juan Carlos denies wrongdoing and has begun an appeal bid after losing a UK High Court fight with Corinna earlier this year, with the judge, Mr Matthew Nicklin, saying at the time that the claim could go ahead.

In March, the High Court in London rejected Juan Carlos’s claim that English courts had no jurisdiction to hear the case because he has state immunity as a royal.

Judge Matthew Nicklin said that ‘whatever special status the defendant retained under the law and constitution of Spain, he was no longer a ‘sovereign’ or ‘head of state’ so as to entitle him to personal immunity’.

He also said Juan Carlos is not a member of the current king’s household within the meaning of that Act.

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