MADRID (AFP) – Spain's King Juan Carlos arrived at a Madrid hospital on Tuesday for hip-replacement surgery, his eighth operation in just over three years.
"I am very well," the 75-year-old king, who has rejected talk of abdicating despite his ailment, told reporters, waving from his car window as he arrived at the private Quiron Hospital in the western suburbs of the capital.
He was to undergo surgery later on Tuesday to replace his left hip for the second time, due to an infection around the artificial joint fitted last November that was making it difficult for him to walk.
Juan Carlos is widely respected for his role in Spain's transition to democracy after the death of longtime dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975 but his image has suffered due to a corruption scandal implicating his youngest daughter Cristina.
Cristina's husband Inaki Urdangarin has been under investigation since late 2011 for alleged embezzling millions of euros (dollars) paid by regional governments to the Noos Institute, a charitable organisation which he chaired from 2004 to 2006.
Urdangarin has appeared in court for questioning as part of the probe but has not been formally charged with any crime.
It is the first time a direct relative of the king has been called to appear in a court of law on suspicion of wrongdoing.
In May, the judge leading the investigation demanded that tax authorities provide him with a report on Cristina's property and non-property assets, investment funds, financial assets and deposits as part of his probe into the affair.
The king himself sparked outrage last year for taking an expensive elephant-hunting holiday in Botswana, while Spain struggled through a recession that has left one in four people out of work.
The king broke his hip during the trip and had to be flown home for medical care.
He issued an unprecedented public apology after his return but the hunting trip -- reportedly subsidised and organised by Syrian construction magnate Mohamed Eyad Kayali -- threw the spotlight on the royal family's deluxe lifestyle and raised questions about the sources of the royal family's fortune.
The affair also drew attention to the king's friendship with Corrina Sayn-Wittgenstein, a blonde German aristocrat who is 28 years his junior, after it emerged that she accompanied him on the trip to Botswana.
The scandals along with his health concerns -- the king has appeared on crutches, looking frail and sometimes disorientated at public functions -- have fuelled speculation that he may turn a key page in Spanish history by abdicating in favour of his son Felipe, 45.
Announcing news of the operation last week, the royal palace said however that Juan Carlos had at no time considered abdicating nor handing over his powers to Felipe while he recovers from surgery.
The king was working hours before entering the hospital for the surgery, meeting 16 new ambassadors to Spain.
The surgeon due to operate on the king, US-based hip specialist Miguel Cabanela, said the recovery period would last between two and six months.
That means Juan Carlos will likely miss the annual Iberoamerican summit, which brings together the heads of Spain and Portugal and the leaders of Latin America to discuss political issues and arrange business deals.
The summit is due to take place this year in Panama on October 18-19.