The King of Spain has spent two days viewing some of the most famous historical artefacts of his country. Felipe VI’s visits came as controversy over the financial affairs of his father, King Juan Carlos I, continue.
On July 21st 2020, the Spanish monarch welcomed the President of Portugal to Madrid for a lunch and a tour of the Prado Museum, one of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations. Felipe knows Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa well and the two men shared an engagement just weeks ago when they attended a ceremony marking the symbolic re-opening of the border between their two countries as the lifting of lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic continued.
This latest encounter saw the two men enjoy a private lunch together at the Zarzuela Palace, just outside Madrid, as well as a visit to a new exhibition at the Prado called ”Reencuentro” or ”Re-encounter”. It showcases some of the most famous pieces in the museum’s collection as the landmark begins to welcome back visitors following the Covid-19 restrictions.
”The Annunciation” by Fra Angelico, Goya’s famous ”Maja” painting and ”The Adoration of the Magi” by Rubens were among the art works on display. King Felipe was also shown one of the best known pieces of royal art in the world, Las Meninas, the masterpiece by Velazquez representing the Infanta Margarita Teresa having her portrait painted.
Critics have long debated the meaning of this work of art which depicts the daughter of King Felipe IV of Spain surrounded by her meninas, or ladies in waiting. For some it is an example of the painter making himself as important as his subjects while for others it is an examination of the relationship between reality and illusion. Felipe VI posed for photos with his guest in front of the painting. The two men later saw Goya’s famous ”Second and Third of May” paintings which depict the aftermath of Napoleon’s invasion of Spain in 1808 and the deposition of the country’s royal family.
It was King Felipe’s second visit to the past in two days. On July 20th 2020, he travelled to the Monastery of Poblet in Catalonia with Queen Letizia as the two continued their visits to different parts of Spain to show support for all sectors of the economy as rebuilding continues following lockdown.
At Poblet, King Felipe wandered among the tombs of his ancestors. The monastery is the last resting place of many of the kings and queens of Aragon, including James I and John II, the father of Ferdinand II whose marriage to Isabella of Castile brought about the unification of much of Spain.
Felipe and Letizia were also given a tour of the monastery as well as an exhibition there of work by the artist, Josep Guinovart, currently on show there. They also spent time talking to the Benedictine monks of Poblet monastery.
It was the shortest of their visits so far and was marked by some protests from anti monarchists. The royals had originally intended to visit Barcelona but called their engagements there off. The Royal Household said the decision was taken before the President of the Generalitat, Qui Torra, wrote to them asking them not to come because of concerns over ”unnecessary visits” to the city during a resurgence of coronavirus there.
The day before King Felipe and Queen Letizia visited Catalonia, Quim Torra also said he was looking into the possibility of a new complaint against King Juan Carlos whose financial affairs are already under investigation. The Spanish Supreme Court began investigations in June 2020 over allegations Juan Carlos hid money in Swiss bank accounts that came to him via rail contracts. In March 2020, King Felipe renounced his personal economic inheritance from his father and removed the allowances paid to Juan Carlos.