|King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain. Image: Wikimedia Commons|
King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain embarked on a state visit to the United Kingdom with a welcome which showed British pageantry at its best. The three-day state visit was the first to Great Britain by the Spanish Royal Family since 1986.
Tuesday, July 11
The couple arrived privately at Luton Airport. They were welcomed by the Queen’s Lord-in-Waiting, Lord Brookborough.
Wednesday, July 12
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall greeted the King and Queen at their hotel, the ME on the Strand before they travelled to the Horse Guards Parade where they were welcomed by the magnificent pomp and pageantry afforded to visiting heads of state. The King, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, inspected the Guard of Honour, the 1st Battalion Irish Guards. This would be the last official state visit to be attended by Prince Philip before he retires in August.
Queen Elizabeth II invited the King and Queen to a private luncheon. The King was appointed 'Stranger Knight' or 'Extra Knight Companion' of the prestigious Order of the Garter. The last foreign royal to be invested as a Knight of the Garter was King Harald V of Norway in 2001.
In the afternoon, the King and Queen proceeded to Clarence House where they enjoyed tea with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. Afterwards, the couple were welcomed by the Speaker and Lord Speaker to the Palace of Westminster where the King addressed both Houses of Parliament.
An impressive State Banquet was hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in honor of the Spanish king and queen.
The Queen made a speech highlighting the connections between the two countries. “This State Visit is an expression of the deep respect and friendship that describes relations between Spain and the United Kingdom,” Her Majesty said.
It is worth noting that the two heads of state are distant relatives, both descending from Queen Victoria. Felipe’s great-grandmother, Queen Victoria Eugenia, was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Her mother, Princess Beatrice, was Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter. She was eventually married to King Alphonso XIII of Spain in 1906.
Thursday, July 13
In the morning, the King and Queen attended a UK-Spain Business Forum, where they were welcomed by the Duke of York.
The King and Queen also toured Westminster Abbey, where they were accompanied by Prince Harry, so far his first solo duty during a state visit. King Felipe VI laid a wreath of yellow roses and red carnations on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, a common custom for a visiting head of state to perform. This was followed by a brief prayer led by the Dean of Westminster.
Their Majesties next proceeded to the residence of the Spanish Ambassador for a reception with members of the Spanish Community. His Majesty then visited No. 10 Downing Street to meet Prime Minister Theresa May.
In the evening, the King and Queen proceeded to the Guildhall were a lavish dinner was prepared for them by the Lord Mayor and City of London Corporation. It was hosted by Princess Anne and her husband, Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence. The princess was noticed performing an elaborate curtsy as she welcomed King Felipe and Queen Letizia.
Friday, July 14
Towards the end of their state visit, Queen Elizabeth II officially sent off the King and Queen before they visited the Francis Crick Institute to meet Spanish scientists working in the UK. They also stopped at the Weston Library in Oxford, where they viewed Spanish treasures on exhibit. A banquet was held in honor of the King and Queen at the Divinity School before the royal coupled returned to Spain from RAF Brize Norton.
The Spanish State Visit to the UK was twice postponed. First, when Spain was gripped by political crisis last year and then earlier this year the rescheduled visit conflicted with the snap general election last June.
The visit was viewed as a crucial step in strengthening the ties with Spain as the UK prepares to leaves the EU.