The Spanish State Visit began today, as The Queen welcomed King Felipe and Queen Letizia to London at Horseguards Parade, joined by Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Camilla.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall met the royal couple at their hotel and escorted them to Horseguards for the ceremonial welcome, featuring hundreds of cavalry officers, musicians and horses.
Felipe and Letizia travelled from Madrid to Stansted airport last night for the visit, arriving in terrible rain, but found a sunnier central London and the Spanish National Anthem as they pulled up at the parade ground in a car.
It is known that the Spanish and British Royal Families have been quite close, and Felipe greeted Elizabeth with a kiss to the hand; we believe this to be the first time Letizia has met the Monarch, however.
The King, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, inspected the guard of honour – 1st Battalion Irish Guards – and were entertained with music from the military massed bands.
Following this welcome, Her Majesty and King Felipe stepped into a carriage for the traditional procession down the Mall – bedecked with the flags of each country – to Buckingham Palace, where they will stay for the trip. The Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Letizia travelled in a separate carriage behind, with Prince Charles and Camilla in other behind them.
This is the first state visit by a Spanish Monarch to the UK since Felipe’s father, Juan Carlos, came 31 years ago in 1986, and after two postponements of the trip due to the lack of government in Spain last year, and then the snap general election last month.
It will follow the traditional order of a visit: viewing items in the Royal Collection relating to Spain and the Anglo-Spanish relationship, stretching back to Katherine of Aragon’s wedding to Henry VIII, after lunch, before heading to Clarence House for tea with Prince Charles and Camilla at Clarence House.
A state banquet will be held in the Spanish couple’s honour later this evening, with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry expected to attend; this would be Harry’s first state visit.
The King will address the House of Commons this afternoon, too, but it is thought Felipe will touch on the issue of Gibraltar’s sovereignty, which Spain continues to contest, despite the will of the people being to remain British. The territory has belonged to Britain since 1713.
Andrew Rosindell, a Tory MP, has predicted “serious anger” if the King attempts to “re-open the non-negotiable issue of Gibraltar’s sovereignty”, and it has been stated that a number of MPs will walk out of the speech if this does happen.
Prince Harry will escort the Spanish King and Queen to Westminster Abbey tomorrow.