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A Tortoise File

Corinna & the king

She was his lover. He was the king of Spain. And they were both at the centre of a strange, luxurious world of hunts, deals and “donations”.

Corinna & the king

First published
Monday 1 February 2021

Last updated
Monday 8 February 2021

Why this story?

Juan Carlos I used to be a hero in Spain. He was the king who oversaw years of stability, prosperity and democracy in the country after the terror of the Franco regime. He was handsome, debonair and forward-looking.

And then, in 2014, he abdicated after a series of scandals. Last year, he exiled himself to the United Arab Emirates, after a $100 million “donation” from a Saudi prince. He’s no hero now.

There is one person who witnessed all this first hand. Who was very much involved. Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, the king’s former lover and beneficiary of a $65 million gift as their relationship declined. She spoke to Tortoise’s Paul Caruana Galizia at her country estate in Shropshire, and gave her account of what happened. It is a remarkable story of high-rolling hunting parties, big international contracts, and underhand threats.

What it shed light on – and what we hope to also illuminate in this File – is the unedifying world of monarchs and money. These historic European families are using their connections for all they can get. Their realms now are mostly offshore. Ceri Thomas, editor

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