Used to be the King of Spain could slaughter as many elephants as he pleased and there wasn't a damn thing commoners could do or say about it.

Used to be the King of Spain wouldn't dream of saying "lo siento" to a campesino.

Used to be being the King of Spain actually meant something.

Not anymore.

King Juan Carlos of Spain issued Wednesday what the press is calling an "unprecedented" apology, following widespread criticism of a lavish hunting trip he recently took to Africa.

Many critics have noted the vacation was particularly ill-timed, as Spain is currently embroiled in a serious economic crisis.

Nearly 1 in 4 Spanish workers is unemployed.

Animal rights activists took issue with photos of the king, now 74, standing next to a freshly killed elephant that Spanish tabloids began circulating last week. While the BBC reports that the pictures in question were actually from a separate lavish hunting trip, taken in 2006, Spanish royal officials have not denied the exact same hijinks went down on this vacation.

And, if those hijinks did go down, they were expensive.

About $26,000 worth of hijinks, to be exact. (Just under half of that sum goes toward killing the elephant, which can be done legally in Botswana, but only when one is in possession of very expensive license.)

Now, with no sign of public outrage abating, the king has been forced to release the following statement:

"I am very sorry. I made a mistake and it won't happen again."


Royal officials claim the king was on the trip as a guest and that no public funds were used to pay for the vacation. This assertion that has yet to be confirmed.

Animal rights activists are now calling for King Juan Carlos to be stripped of his honorary president of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund (a group that, interestingly, does condone regulated "trophy hunting" under some circumstances; for example, when it helps reduce poverty that might otherwise lead to widespread poaching for ivory, the number one cause of African elephant deaths.)

This move would, no doubt, prove a crushing blow for a man whose love of big game hunting was well documented even before this week. (He maybe got a Russian bear drunk on vodka mixed with honey and then shot it?)

The real problem, though, seems to be that hunting just isn't the Spanish royal family's strong suit.

The king issued his apology Wednesday from a hospital, where he had been forced to undergo hip surgery as the result of a fall that occurred while he was in Africa.

A few days prior, his 13-year-old grandson was hospitalized after shooting himself in the foot while hunting on a family estate in Spain. (It is illegal under Spanish law for a 13-year-old to handle the type of gun the boy was carrying. Now we know why.)

Also, as a teenager, King Juan Carlos ACCIDENTALLY SHOT AND KILLED HIS BROTHER, which one might expect would put him off guns for a while. Didn't.

Can you believe these bozos ever had their act together enough to commission the exploration of a westward maritime route to Asia?

[Image via AP]