King Juan Carlos I of Spain unexpectedly stepped down Monday in favor of his son, Crown Prince Felipe, marking the end of the king’s 39-year reign.
Juan Carlos, 76, suggested he stepped down because his son is more popular.
"Younger people with new energies [are required] to undertake the reforms that the present juncture demands of us," he said, according to USA Today. He added that the abdication would “open a new era of hope combining [Felipe’s] acquired experience and the drive of a new generation."
While Juan Carlos is the first monarch to abdicate the throne in 2014, there was a flurry of abdications in 2013, with four monarchs stepping down. That was followed by nearly five years without any monarchs stepping down. Here’s a list of the five most recent abdications, before Juan Carlos:
· Albert II of Belgium
King Albert II, who reigned for 20 years, abdicated the Belgian throne on July 21, 2013, for health reasons. The Belgian monarch was succeeded by his son, Prince Phillippe.
· Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
Better known as the emir of Qatar, Hamad gained power in a bloodless 1995 coup and went on to rule the rich Gulf nation for 18 years. Under his rule, Qatar’s natural gas production helped make the country the richest in the world with an average income of $86,440 a person.
Hamad abdicated the throne in favor of his son, Tamim, in a June 25, 2013, televised speech.
"The time has come to open a new page in the journey of our nation that would have a new generation carry the responsibilities,” he said.
· Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands
Queen Beatrix, who became Princess Beatrix when she stepped down April 30, 2013, reigned in the Netherlands since 1980, when her mother abdicated in favor of her. Like King Carlos and Sheik Hamad, Beatrix made the move to abdicate to usher in a new generation.
Beatrix was succeeded by her son, King Willem-Alexander.
· Pope Benedict XVI
While usually thought of as the head of the world's largest Christian church, as the pope Benedict was also head of state of Vatican City, a nominally sovereign city state located within Rome. He abdicated the papacy on Feb. 28, 2013, citing declining health due to old age. Benedict is the only member of a non-hereditary monarchy to make the list, and as such could not name his successor. The church's College of Cardinals elected his successor, Francis, on March 13, 2013.
· Gyanedra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
Gyanedra was the king of Nepal for a brief period in 1950 and 1951 and again between June 4, 2001, and May 28, 2008, when the monarchy was abolished by the Nepalese Constitutional Assembly. Gyanedra's successor as head of state is Ram Baran Yadav, Nepal’s president since 2008.