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Spain’s Royal Family leads national memorial for coronavirus victims

King Felipe VI of Spain

King Felipe VI of Spain and Princess Leonor stood side by side to lay white roses in memory of all those who have lost their lives to Covid-19 at a national service in Madrid. The Spanish monarch and the heir to the throne led tributes from across Spanish society at the act of remembrance which took place at the Royal Palace.

King Felipe, Queen Letizia, Princess Leonor and Infanta Sofia joined politicians, including the country’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, as well as representatives from the emergency and health services and relatives of some of those who have died from coronavirus at the ceremony. The Director General of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was also present. Social distancing was observed while all present wore masks.

King Felipe VI, Queen Letizia, Princess Leonor and Infanta Sofia stand before the memorial to victims of Covid-19
(Casa de S.M. el Rey)

Spain’s official coronavirus death toll stands at almost 29,000. As well as paying tribute to them, the service commemorated the contribution of all those who have worked over the past months to treat those suffering from Covid-19 and also to stop its spread in Spain.

The ceremony began with the Spanish national anthem before the tributes began. First to speak was Hernando Calleja. His brother, journalist Juan Maria Calleja, died of coronavirus. ”We are here to honour all those who lost their lives because of this illness,” Me Calleja said in a moving tribute, ”when I speak of my brother, I speak of them all.”

Next to speak was Aroa Lopez, an emergency response nurse at the Vall d’Hebron hospital in Barcelona. In a passionate speech, she described how medical staff across Spain had worked tirelessly to treat patients and how they had been called upon to care for people dying without their families around them. In the soft breeze of a Madrid morning, she told those present that ”we had to hide our tears when someone said to us ”don’t leave me to die alone”. She urged everyone to always remember those lost, adding ”I want you to think about those who died and the health service professionals. Don’t let their efforts be in vain. I want to ask the political authorities to defend health.”

Then, as the orchestra began to play, white roses were handed out to those present with King Felipe and Princess Leonor joining Hernando Calleja and Aroa Lopez to lay the first tributes around a memorial flame blazing at the heart of the plaza where the memorial took place. Their acts of remembrance were followed by flowers from politicians, emergency service workers and relatives of those lost to the virus.

King Felipe VI of Spain, Princess Leonor
King Felipe VI and Princess Leonor join Hernando Calleja, who lost his brother to coronavirus, and nurse Aroa Lopez to place the first floral tributes at a service commemorating those who died of Covid-19
(Casa de S.M. el Rey)

King Felipe then spoke, telling those assembled that he wanted to address those who have lost loved ones to let them know that ”you are not alone in your grief, it is a sadness that we all share, your grief is our grief.”

The King of Spain went on to note that many of those who have died were older people who had ”dedicated their lives to hard work so that their children could progress and to build the edifice of our democratic co-existence. Others we have lost were men and women with their whole futures ahead of them.”

Felipe VI paid tribute to the health and essential services workers of Spain, saying ‘‘in such difficult conditions they have sustained the pulse of our country. We feel and immense gratitude.” And he ended by acknowledging the sacrifices that everyone in the country had made in lockdown and the impact the pandemic has had on society and the economy before saying ”we have a moral obligation to always recognize and respect the dignity of those who died and a civic duty to promote the best values ​​underlying our society”.

The memorial service ended with a minute’s silence for the victims and applause in their memory.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.