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Queen Letizia and Prince Charles inaugurate first UK museum of Spanish art

Queen Letizia of Spain teamed up with Britain's Prince Charles on Tuesday to inaugurate the first UK museum dedicated exclusively to Spanish art, which is part of an ambitious town regeneration effort.

Queen Letizia and Prince Charles inaugurate first UK museum of Spanish art
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Spain's Queen Letizia (L) at the opening of The Spanish Art Gallery in Bishop Aukland, north east England on April 5, 2022. (Photo by RUSSELL CHEYNE / POOL / AFP)

Letizia, 49, and the 73-year-old British heir to the throne visited the new “Spanish Gallery” in Bishop Auckland, in northeast England, which boasts one of Europe’s best-preserved bishop’s palaces.

The gallery is home to around 120 works by great Spanish masters of the 16th and 17th centuries, from El Greco and Murillo to Velasquez and Juan de Juanes.

It is inspired by an exceptional collection of paintings by fellow Spaniard Francisco de Zurbaran, which have sat for centuries in the nearby castle.

Philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer and his wife Jane, who are behind the new showcase, purchased the 12 paintings as well as the palace in 2012 after learning the artworks were for sale.

The painting had resided there since a powerful local bishop acquired them in 1756, but were in danger of being uprooted from their longtime home.Jonathan of 70 years was unable to attend after contracting Covid-19.

Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (C) and Spain’s Queen Letizia (R) walk through The Spanish Art Gallery in Bishop Aukland. (Photo by RUSSELL CHEYNE / POOL / AFP)

Jonathan Ruffer, 70, was unable to attend after contracting Covid-19.

“He tought it was a real shame, a sadness for the town, and so he thought we should buy the paintings,” Jane Ruffer told reporters on the fringes of the royals’ visit.

“In the end, we got the paintings and the castle and the grounds,” she explained.

“The question then was what to do with it?”

Jane Ruffer noted that the town had traditionally served the castle and its bishop over the centuries, but the couple wanted to reverse that with their present-day venture.

A decade and £200 million pounds ($262 million, 240 million euros) later, the palace now comprises galleries, gardens and parks, with the Zurbarán paintings on display there.

It opened to the public in 2019 after a lengthy restoration, and together with the new Spanish Gallery in the town centre, are “a long-term project” for the couple.

The gallery, which first welcomed visitors in October, is now Britain’s largest collection of Golden Age paintings outside London and the only museum in the country devoted to Spanish art.

“Some (museums) have a room, but the Meadows (Museum) in Texas and this here are the only dedicated Spanish galleries,” said Ruffer, who spent a decade alongside her husband finding and acquiring the pieces at auction

Home to around 24,000 people, Bishop Auckland has been in decline since the closure of the coal mines at the end of the last century and now suffers from high unemployment.

The Ruffers are hoping the sites will become atractions drawing in tourists, helping to boost the local economy and the need for hotels, restaurants and other enterprises.

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ROYALTY

Spain’s former king wins permission to appeal in harassment case

Spain's former king Juan Carlos I on Monday won permission to appeal against a London court ruling that allowed his former lover to bring a harassment case against him.

Spain's former king wins permission to appeal in harassment case

Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, 58, is seeking civil personal injury damages from the 84-year-old monarch, who lives in the United Arab Emirates.

In March, a High Court judge rejected Juan Carlos’ claim that he had state immunity and that English courts had no jurisdiction to hear the case.

Judge Matthew Nicklin ruled that he was no longer a member of the royal household of his son, the current Spanish King Felipe VI, that would give him legal protection.

But two judges at the Court of Appeal have now allowed him to challenge the ruling about whether he had immunity before his abdication in 2014.

Court documents claim that the pair were in an “intimate romantic relationship” between 2004 and 2009, and that he showered her with gifts, even after they broke up.

The case was adjourned without a date for a full hearing being set.

Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Say alleges that Juan Carlos harassed her after she declined to rekindle the relationship, using threats, break-ins at her properties and surveillance.

Lawyers for the Danish businesswoman accuse him of trying to frustrate her claim.

Juan Carlos, who appeared in court documents under his full name Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor María De Borbón y Borboón, strenuously denies the allegations.

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