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Spain's king is resigning, watch his finest hour as he halts a 1981 military coup

Now I eat humble pie
Now I eat humble pie
Pablo Cuadro/Getty

King Juan Carlos of Spain announced Monday that he will abdicate the throne in favor of his son. Reasons include his declining health and declining popularity in the face of some scandals relating to his son-in-law. Regardless, Juan Carlos stands out among modern European monarchs for having played an important and constructive role in the political development of his country — especially Spain's transition from military dictatorship to parliamentary democracy in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

His greatest hour was the role he played in helping to foil the 1981 coup attempt that has gone down in history as 23-F. Spain democratic government was in a moment of crisis, when Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero Molina and about 150 armed men from the Civil Guard stormed into parliament and disrupted the effort to install a new prime minister. You can watch footage here:

But the king delivered a speech 17 hours later denouncing the rightist plotters and calling for a return to civilian government and legal processes. Here's the speech:

Translated to English:

Addressing all Spaniards, with brevity and conciseness, in the extraordinary circumstances that we are currently experiencing, I ask of everyone the greatest serenity and confidence and I inform you all that I have given the Captains General of the military, the navy, and the air force the following order:

Given the situation created by the events that took place in the Palace of Congress and to avoid any possible confusion, I confirm that I have ordered Civil Authorities and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take all necessary measures to maintain constitutional order, within the law.

Should any measure of a military nature need to be taken, it must be approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Crown, the symbol of the permanence and unity of the nation, cannot tolerate, in any form, actions or attitudes of people attempting by force to interrupt the democratic process. A process which the Constitution, voted for by the Spanish people, determined by referendum.

This helped deny the coup any sense of legitimacy or momentum and the plot swiftly collapsed afterward. That put Spain on a path to incorporation into Europe's political mainstream and created a democratic legacy that's lasted until this day.

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