“I am very sorry. I made a mistake and it won’t happen again,” the king told Spanish state television TVE as he left a Madrid hospital, where he underwent hip surgery last weekend after falling on the hunting trip in Botswana.
The trip was intended to be a private outing for the 74-year-old king, until he was rushed back to Madrid and underwent replacement surgery on his right hip. In his brief apology, the king did not mention the hunting trip, but state television and other Spanish media reported that he was clearly referring to that.
Spaniards generally hold the king in high regard for his service to the nation and his defense of democracy after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 — especially the king’s decisive stand to halt a right-wing military coup in 1981.
But after news emerged of the expensive hunting trip, with widespread Spanish media reports that it included the hunting of elephants, even normally-staunch political allies of the monarch said publicly that they considered the timing of the trip a mistake.