As he walked out of the hospital, the 74-year-old Spanish monarch gave what is being widely characterized as an unprecedented apology over an elephant hunting trip the king took to Bostwana.

After thanking the medical staff, King Juan Carlos issued a direct and short apology.

"I'm very sorry," he said. "I made a mistake. It won't happen again."

The King broke his hip during the hunting adventure but the big deal here is that he took such an extravagant trip while his country is in the middle of an economic crisis. (Remember, it wasn't long ago that we reported on the violent and massive protests against austerity reforms in the country.)

El País, one of Spain's biggest newspaper, reports that the King made the decision to apologize on Monday, after days of public outcry. The paper says the demands for an apology came from the political sphere, which had never before asked for an apology in such a direct manner.

The paper goes further:

"It's not common for the king to issue these kinds of apologies, but the situation demanded that he do so, because his behavior has never before been in such a spotlight."

The apology, the paper adds, is intended to quell the "greatest crisis faced by the crown since its restoration."

And besides the economic issues, the King also faced criticism from animal rights groups. It turns out the King was the honorary president of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The Telegraph reports:

"The Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on Tuesday said it would seek to remove King Juan Carlos as its honorary president, a position he has held since 1968, in light of his recent hunting expedition to Botswana, one of the few places that issue licenses to cull elephant herd numbers."Pictures of the King posing in front of an elephant shot on a similar trip to Botswana in 2006 were published across the world as an online petition calling for the King to be removed as patron collected more than 80,000 signatures."Juan Carlos del Olmo, the secretary general of WWF España, said the king's position as patron had become untenable. 'It's a problem of the image it sends nationally and internationally rather than the issue of elephant conservation in Botswana.'"

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