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Spanish royals to make rescheduled state visit to UK

King Felipe will address the UK parliament on Brexit in a state visit that will take place between June 6th - 8th according to sources cited in Spanish media.

Spanish royals to make rescheduled state visit to UK
King Felipe and Queen Letizia will be visiting the British royals in June. Photo: AFP

King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia will make a state visit to the UK in June, rescheduling a trip that was postponed by Spain’s delay in forming a government last year.

Although there has been no official confirmation of the visit by the British Government or Buckingham Palace, the news has been widely reported in the Spanish press.

According to sources cited in Spanish newspapers ABC and El Pais, the Spanish King will make an address to the British Parliament where he is expected to discuss the importance of bi-lateral relations between the two-nations in the wake of Brexit.

The pair will likely be hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace and meet with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The monarch is also tipped to meet privately with Prime Minister Theresa May, and Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London.

 The State visit, the first by Spanish monarchs for 31 years, was originally scheduled to take place in March 2016, but was called off after inconclusive elections left Spain without a government.

It will be the royal couple's first visit to the United Kingdom since Felipe became king in June 2014, after his father, King Juan Carlos abdicated.

The last state visit by Spanish royalty to the UK was by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia in 1986, while the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh last paid a visit to Spain in 1988.

Since then the Spanish and British royal families have paid a number of formal visits to each other's countries.

In 2011, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall paid a three-day official visit to Spain that was hosted by Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia.

A few weeks later Queen Sofia, Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia attended the wedding in London of Prince William to Catherine Middleton.

King Felipe and Queen Letizia had been due to stay at Windsor Castle during the cancelled three-day visit last March and it is likely that the rescheduled trip in June will follow the same format.

The British and Spanish Royal Families are directly related through the marriage of Alfonso XIII of Spain to Princess Victoria Eugenia, known as Ena, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, in 1906.  Victoria Eugenia is the great-grandmother of King Felipe.

The Spanish royals have made several foreign trips since taking to the throne in 2014, including to the United States in September 2015 and a visit to Saudi Arabia earlier this year. 

The palace has also rescheduled state visits to France, Mexico, Portugal and Japan.

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FOCUS: Can Spain’s King restore faith in the monarchy?

Families are frequently a source of embarrassment, but the recent troubles caused by Spanish King Felipe VI's relatives belong to an entirely different realm.

FOCUS: Can Spain's King restore faith in the monarchy?

From expedited Covid vaccinations to tax offences and shady financial dealings by family members, Felipe has found himself in a royal mess sabotaging his efforts to clean up the image of Spain’s scandal-tainted monarchy.

It has in some ways left him tilting at windmills. Earlier controversies led to him cutting off his own father’s allowance, among other steps, but now more may be on the way, as he seeks to balance
family concerns with understandable outrage in Spain.

Last week his father, former King Juan Carlos, announced he had settled a debt of nearly 4.4 million euros ($5.3 million) with the Spanish tax office due on the value of previously undeclared private jet flights paid by a foundation based in Liechtenstein.

It was the second such tax settlement in less than three months for Juan Carlos, who went into self-exile in the United Arab Emirates in August as questions mounted over the origins of his fortune.

The former king is the target of three separate probes into his financial dealings.

And on Wednesday King Felipe’s older sisters Elena and Cristina acknowledged that they were vaccinated for the coronavirus while visiting their father in Abu Dhabi, sidestepping the immunisation queue in Spain.

The king’s spokesman stressed his sisters, just like his father, were no longer officially part of the monarchy and he was therefore not responsible for their actions.

‘Protect monarchy’

“He takes it badly, logically…because like everyone else, he has a heart” but “his role is to protect the monarchy from the storm,” journalist Jose Apezarena, the author of several books on Felipe, told AFP.

“It is clear to him that if he has to choose between the family and the monarchy, he will choose the monarchy.”

After Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 against a backdrop of scandals over his finances and love life, Felipe VI ascended the throne with the goal of restoring the monarchy’s prestige.

He promptly ordered an audit of the royal household’s accounts and issued a “code of conduct” for its members.

The following year he stripped the title of duchess from his sister Cristina who was implicated along with her husband Inaki Urdangarin in a wide-ranging case of embezzlement of public funds.

The couple stood trial in 2017. While the court acquitted Cristina, her husband is serving a jail sentence of five years and 10 months.

Last year Felipe renounced any future personal inheritance he might receive from his father, and stripped him of his annual allowance of nearly 200,000 Euros, after new details of his allegedly shady dealings emerged.

The king could be forced to go even further, according to Pablo Simon, a political science professor at Madrid’s Carlos III University.

“Felipe VI does not keep his family under control and their behaviour represents a huge reputation problem” for the monarchy, he said.

There will be further revelations regarding Juan Carlos’ questionable financial dealings in the coming years and Felipe will have “no alternative but to erect a clearer firewall”, such as asking the government to remove his title of king emeritus, he added.

PM under pressure

The royal scandals also put Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in an “uncomfortable situation”, said Simon.

Socialist ministers have in recent days repeatedly praised Felipe as “exemplary” even as they criticise his father’s behaviour, and the party backs the continuation of the monarchy.

But the scandals give fuel to the anti-monarchy arguments of far-left party Podemos, the junior partner in Sanchez’s minority coalition government.

Podemos, along with smaller Basque and Catalan separatist parties which help the government pass legislation in parliament, are calling for a serious debate over the future of the monarchy.

Sanchez in December referred vaguely to a “road map” to renew the Crown “in terms of transparency and exemplarity”.

If a debate over the monarchy’s future were to open it would lead to “the fracture of the majority supporting the government”, said Simon.

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