Spain's King Juan Carlos I is under fire over a $26,000 trip to Botswana to hunt elephants at a time when his country is facing renewed economic pressures and one in two young Spaniards is unemployed.
The Spanish media have criticized the cost of his trip and the lack of transparency of the Royal Household, which three months ago promised to disclose its income following a corruption probe linked to the king's son-in-law, according to Reuters.
The royal holiday had been kept secret until the 74-year-old king tripped on a step, fractured his hip and had to be emergency airlifted to Madrid to undergo hip replacement surgery, Reuters reported.
Agence France-Presse pointed out that Juan Carlos had in his annual Christmas message said there were times when he could not sleep because of concern about Spain's youth unemployment problem.
He had also urged the country's leaders to set a good example.
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The palace would not confirm reports he was big game hunting, saying only that the trip was private.
However, Spanish papers printed photos of the king holding a gun and standing proudly in front of a dead elephant, the Guardian reported.
The center-right daily El Mundo wrote: "From what we have gathered, it was an irresponsible trip, taken at the most inopportune time."
And: “The spectacle of a monarch hunting elephants in Africa while the economic crisis in our country causes so many problems for the Spanish [conveys] an image of indifference and frivolity."
El Pais, a center-left daily, reportedly chided the palace for failing to inform neither “the government, nor parliament, nor the public” of the trip.
The royalist newspaper ABC, meantime, insisted that the king had a right to a private life and that critics were "taking advantage of the accident suffered by the king" to criticize him, "thus ignoring his key role in the functioning of our democratic system."
According to the Guardian, the king's grandson, 13-year-old Froilán Marichalar, had previously shot himself in the foot while hunting in Spain.