Spanish King Juan Carlos apologized Wednesday as he emerged from hospital after breaking his hip on an African elephant hunting trip, provoking a scandal at home.
"I am very sorry. I made a mistake and it won't happen again. Thank you for your interest," the 74-year-old monarch said during his televised departure from a Madrid hospital where he was taken after the Botswana mishap.
The medical condition of Juan Carlos, 74, following the hip replacement on Saturday has been overshadowed by criticism of him for making an expensive hunting trip while his country struggles with a recession.
A pack of television cameras and well-wishers crowded the pavement outside the USP San Jose Hospital in Madrid where the king was recovering on Tuesday, while a handful of animal rights activists protested quietly nearby.
"He is very well and in very good spirits," Sofia said as she left the hospital after a two-hour visit. "He has a good appetite and will come out of hospital soon."
Leaders of the two main political parties have refrained from explicitly criticising or defending the king, widely respected for helping steer Spain to democracy after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
But media have widely criticized the trip, with conservative newspaper El Mundo branding it "irresponsible" and "inopportune" in an economic crisis.
Centre-left daily El Pais reported that the palace had informed conservative Prime Minster Mariano Rajoy of the trip to Botswana, although the government has denied knowing about it.
Protestors from animal rights group Igualdad Animal stood on a street corner near the hospital on Tuesday, holding photographs of elephants and baby seals to denounce the king's hunting trip.
Well-wishers meanwhile cooed at the arrival of Sofia and voiced support for the king, whose fondness for hunting big game has long been known.
"Others have done worse things and not been criticised," said one supporter outside the hospital, Victor Garcia, 71. "The king is a good person."
"King Juan Carlos is continuing to get better and resting well," the hospital said in a statement. "The initial inflammation has gone down and the surgical incision is healing correctly."