18 June 2014
Last updated at 17:57
Juan Carlos’s reign will end at midnight in Spain and Felipe will be proclaimed king on Thursday
The reign of King Juan Carlos of Spain is in its final hours after he signed the bill formally abdicating in favour of his son, Prince Felipe.
Juan Carlos, 76, signed the bill at a ceremony in the Royal Palace in Madrid, which was attended by only 160 guests.
At midnight local time (22:00 GMT), Felipe, 46, will become king although the event will not be marked in public until Thursday morning.
The succession was endorsed by both of Spain’s main political parties.
Before the signing, Juan Carlos sat with Queen Sofia to his right and Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia to his left as the content of the law was read out.
After Juan Carlos had signed the document that will end his rule, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also signed the law. Moments later, the assembled guests applauded, the prince’s two daughters joined the royal group and the national anthem was played.
Juan Carlos was applauded after he signed the law on his abdication
Felipe will head to the lower house of the Spanish parliament on Thursday for the first royal transition the country has seen since democracy was restored after the death of Gen Francisco Franco in 1975.
Juan Carlos and his son hugged after the king had signed the law on his abdication
The ceremony will take the form of a proclamation rather than a coronation, in part because of the economic hardship that many Spaniards have experienced in recent years.
The new king will face the dual challenge of trying to rehabilitate a monarchy that has been damaged by recent scandals and trying to unify a country in which a vocal minority favour republicanism, BBC correspondent Chris Morris reports from Madrid.