When one of the nannies caught a fatal illness, King Mohammed VI along with his siblings flew to Madrid to “say goodbye to their beloved ‘Aunt Juanita.’” According to legend, the nanny saved their lives from rebels, seeking the end of monarchy in 1971. The story is believed to be one of the “most unknown episodes” in the King’s biography.
Rabat – There is always an untold story hidden behind closed doors. In 1971, Morocco witnessed a turning point when rebel military leaders attempted to assassinate late King Hassan II on July 10, 1971, during his forty-second birthday celebrations.
The coup d’etat attempt made it into Morocco’s history, but some details of the heroism and sacrifice remain an untold story.
The report comes as Morocco celebrates the 20th anniversary of King Mohammed VI in power.
The report tells the story of Juanita and Ascension, two Spanish nannies who allegedly saved the monarch, when he was a prince during the coup d’etat attempt in 1971 in Skhirat, on the outskirts of Rabat.
The report takes us back 48 years to a Saturday when King Mohammed VI’s father was celebrating his 42nd birthday with a large party. The entire royal family were in attendance along with high-level diplomats.
The evening of the birthday party, “hid a surprising gift for the Alawite monarchy,” said El Esmanoyk. A group of soldiers, generals, and colonels “very close to Hassan II, organized a coup d’etat that aimed to overthrow the monarchy.”
At the time of the attempted coup d’etat, King Mohammed VI was then 7 years old.
“A real butcher’s shop:” is how the Spanish news outlet described the scene after military rebels opened fire, killing 100 people and injuring 200 more.
El Espanol said that the life of King Mohammed VI was the “target” of the military rebels, “but his baraka [blessing] had two female names: Ascension and Juanita.”
As guests made their entrance to the celebration, they were required to sign their attendance in a guest book. Suddenly, a group of soldiers bursts into the palace.
The entrance of the soldiers, shouting and shooting into the air, attracted the attention of the Royal Governess, Juanita Labajos. She asked them what they were doing, saying that the King was not yet ready.
“The party has not begun yet!” Shouted the nanny.
The military rebels pointed their machine gun, saying that the “party starts now!” and started shooting people.
Chaos reigned. While some of the dignitaries and politicians attending the party attempted to escape, many simply threw themselves to the floor, trying to avoid the gunshots.
During the massacre, 100 people lost their lives and 200 were injured. Among the dead was Belgian Ambassador, Marcel Dupret.
However, Juana Labajos had one goal in mind: saving King Mohammed VI and his siblings.
“Juana Labajos moved in the palace like a fish in the water. She knew everyone and everyone knew her,” El Espanol wrote.
Meanwhile, King Hassan, apprehended by a soldier, persuaded him to remain loyal to their king.
“Are you going to kill your own king?”
The soldier then stood firm and greeted the King and let him go, but warned him that others were still trying to kill him and his family.
At the same time, soldiers came upon King Hassan II’s five children: Princess Lalla Asmae, Prince Moulay Rachid, Princess Lalla Hasna, Princess Lalla Meriem, and King Mohammed VI with a Spanish nanny. The nanny refused to give in to the soldiers and stood in front of the children and the other nannies, protecting them.
Military sources from the Spanish embassy claim that this was Labajos, and that she spoke firmly to the soldiers in Arabic, taking the children and their other caretakers to hide in the women’s bathroom, where they remained locked in until rescuers came.
The Spanish embassy sources confirmed that this woman was none other than Juana Labajos, however, her younger sisters told the press that the rescuer was in fact Ascension Diaz.
Biographer of King Mohammed VI, Ferran Sales, wrote that, “No one is able to confirm if it was [Juana Labajos] who in July 1971, amid the Skhirat coup d’etat, [threw herself] into a pool to save the little Sidi Mohamed who had fallen into the water and threatened to drown. ”
While there are several versions of the story, and no one but King Mohammed himself will ever truly knew what took place that day, El Espanol reports that the evidence confirms Juana Labajos as the heroine.
Two years after the coup d’etat, late King Hassan II gave the two highest decorations to the Spanish Governess. King Hassan named the nanny a Dame of the Alawite Throne.
In 1977, Labajos also had to go back to Spain after suffering a serious illness, allegedly cancer. During her stay at the Nuestra Senora de Loreto clinic. According to El Espanol, King Mohammed VI, and his siblings flew to Madrid to “say goodbye to their beloved ‘Aunt Juanita’ as they called her in private.”