“I was afraid that one day I would end up dead in a tunnel, like Princess Diana.” These are the words of the Danish businesswoman Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. When she met the then King of Spain Juan Carlos in 2004, she did not expect to meet him in court some twenty years later. This week it really happened. What drama preceded this?
Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein (now 58) and then King Juan Carlos (now 84) met eighteen years ago at a hunting event. The king would have immediately fallen in love with her: Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein claims that after the first meeting he showered her with flowers and love letters. After that, they call regularly and eventually a relationship develops.
The Dane puts an end to her marriage, but Carlos stays with his wife. He tells his mistress that there is no longer any love in his marriage. “He was one of the biggest seducers in the royalty world,” the businesswoman tells the podcast Corinna and the King. “Yet I felt more like his wife than his mistress.” At one point, the king even asks her to marry him.
Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein’s father becomes seriously ill and she decides to spend all her time with him. Shortly after her father’s death, in 2009, Carlos appears to have been in a relationship with someone else for three years. “It destroyed me,” Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein said. “I never expected this, especially when he proposed to me. I made it clear to him that I would not allow him to have relationships other than me.”
Despite everything, the two remain friends. They meet again in Botswana in 2012. Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein organizes safaris there and the Spanish king hunts elephants. The latter has again led to a storm of criticism. If Carlos breaks his hip in a fall, he is in bad shape. Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein decides to follow him on the plane home. And then, years after the affair ended, it finally leaks out that the two were once together.
From that moment on, Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein has been continuously monitored by the Spanish intelligence service. At least that’s what she claims herself. The king says this is done to protect her from the media. But it goes further than that: Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein finds that her apartment in Monaco has been completely turned upside down. And she is followed during a trip in Brazil. At one point, she receives an anonymous phone call: “Did you know there are many tunnels between Monaco and Nice?” A reference to the car crash in a tunnel that killed Princess Diana. A death threat, says Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. Later, she finds a book about Diana’s death in her house.
Soon after, she gets an unexpected visit from the head of the Spanish intelligence service. “He said he was sent by the king. I wasn’t allowed to talk to the media. If I did, my life and my children’s lives would be at stake.” She takes the man in question to court. In court he declares “that he would never hurt a woman or a child”.
The drama doesn’t stop there. In 2020, both Juan Carlos and his former mistress face an investigation for possible tax evasion. The king is said to have transferred 65 million euros to her in 2012. It was a gift, says the Dane, she has nothing to do with the money. The fact that she is also the subject of the investigation is the last straw for her.
She goes to court and sues the king, who stepped down in 2014. Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein says she has been spied on for years on behalf of the king and has received numerous threats. Not only because Carlos wanted her not to talk to the press, but also because he wants the 65 million euros back. The businesswoman demands that the former king no longer be allowed to contact her. She also wants compensation for the psychological damage she has suffered.
Not entirely coincidentally, a few days before the start of the case, the podcast where Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein tells his story uncensored. She explains how their love started, but especially where it went wrong. One thing is for sure: whatever the referee decides, Juan Carlos’ reputation will surely be shattered.