Five key moments in ex-Spanish king Juan Carlos's life

SPAIN'S former king Juan Carlos, who turns 80 on Friday, has taken a secondary role since his son Felipe ascended the throne in 2014, putting an end to his nearly four decades-long reign.

Following are key moments in his life:

1948: Moves to Spain

Born in Rome on January 5, 1938, "Juanito" spent his childhood in Italy and Switzerland. His grandfather King Alfonso XIII had fled Madrid seven years earlier and the family was kept in exile by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, whose side won Spain's 1936-39 Civil War.

At the age of eight he was sent to a Swiss boarding school and two years later his father, Juan de Borbon, agreed to send him alone to Spain where Franco wanted to take charge of his upbringing.

Perhaps the darkest episode in Juan Carlos's life happened at 18 when he accidentally shot dead his younger brother Alfonso at the family's home in Portugal.

1975: King after Franco

Married since 1962 to Princess Sofia of Greece, Juan Carolos was named by Franco in 1969 as his successor. But the dictator, who behaved like a king, maintained tight watch over Juan Carlos and controled key aspects of his life.

Juan Carlos was proclaimed King of Spain on Nov 22, 1975, two days after the death of Franco put an end to 36 years of dictatorship.

The following year he picked a former minister from Franco's administration, centrist Adolfo Suarez, to head the government and guide Spain's transition to democracy, upsetting Franco supporters who had hoped he would continue in the dictator's footsteps.

Suarez swiftly legalised the Communist Party of Spain that was so hated by Franco and issued an amnesty for political crimes.

After Spain in 1977 held its first democratic elections in four decades, Juan Carlos was hailed as the king of a new democratic country.

1981: Quells a coup

Army leader Lieutenant Colonel Tejero burst into the Spanish parliament on February 23, 1981, brandishing a pistol as his followers fired over the heads of terrified lawmakers in an attempted coup carried out "in the name of the king".

King Juan Carlos was instrumental in ending the rebellion by announcing on national TV that such action would not be tolerated.

The king, then aged 43, remained in contact throughout the night with army officers to ensure the coup ended. Realising they had little support, the rebels finally surrendered and let go their captives.

2012: Africa hunt apology

In April 2012, the monarch at 74 fell and broke his hip during a private hunting trip to Botswana he took with a divorced German aristocrat, with whom he was reportedly having an affair.

The luxury trip – paid for by a close friend of the future king of Saudi Arabia – sparked outrage in recession-hit Spain and the king issued an unprecedented apology.

"I am very sorry. I made a mistake and it won't happen again. Thank you for your interest," he said during his televised departure from a Madrid hospital.

The Spanish royal family had long been sheltered from news media and public criticism, but after the incident the press began to question the king's alleged romantic ties, the source of his fortune and his close ties to Gulf monarchies.

2014: Abdication

In June 2014 the 76-year-old king tearfully signed the bill on his abdication in favour of his son Felipe, aged 46.

Juan Carlos maintains the honorific title of king and in 2014 parliament awarded him legal immunity. — AFP