Felipe to honour Republicans in France

King Felipe VI will make his first state visit as king on Tuesday, speaking at France's National Assembly where he will pay tribute to the Spanish Republicans who liberated Paris after the Second World War.

Felipe to honour Republicans in France
King Felipe and Queen Letizia at the Pardo Palace in Madrid. Photo: Dani Pozo/AFP

Spain’s King Felipe will make his first official state visit this week since taking the throne nine months ago when he visits France with his wife, Queen Letizia.

The Spanish monarch will give a speech to France’s National Assembly on Wednesday in which he will pay tribute to the Spanish Republicans who helped liberate Paris, Spanish daily El País reported.

Speaking in front of the National Assembly is an honour reserved for very few; the first person to speak in front of the Assembly was US President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 and the last speech took place in 1993.

On Wednesday morning the royal couple will unveil a plaque dedicated to ‘The Nine’ (El Nueve), the company in the Lecrec division made up almost exclusively of Spanish Republicans (146 out of 160 men) which, on August 25th 1944, was the first company to arrive and liberate Paris.

A feat that was largely forgotten over the years, only two of the men who took part are still alive; one in hospital. The other, Rafael Gómez, 94, will attend the ceremony in a garden opened in January, as well as a state dinner on Tuesday evening.

The garden was the brainchild of Spanish-born mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, who was born to Republican parents in Cádiz.

King Felipe will also officially open an exhibition of Spanish artist Velázquez in the Grand Palais on the Champs Elysees, one of the most comprehensive collections of the renowned artist’s work outside of Spain.

Felipe and Letizia will also meet with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and President Francois Holland during the visit. 

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