King of Spain tours Oxford during state visit

Felipe VI chose to end his state visit with a topical speech at the Bodleian Library

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Photo: John Cairns

The King of Spain, Felipe VI, visited Oxford today as part of his state visit to the United Kingdom.

In the first official trip of a Spanish monarch to the UK since 1986, King Felipe, his wife Letizia and their entourage chose Oxford as the final destination of the historic visit. He toured the Weston and Bodleian libraries with University Chancellor Lord Patten, and went on to make a speech in the Divinity Schools praising the University of Oxford’s role in European development. He said that learning “is and should be open and available to society.”

His particular emphasis on “transnational scientific collaboration” comes in light of the current debate on the UK’s membership of European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). Four Oxfordshire MPs have condemned Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to leave the organisation as part of the Brexit settlement.

King Felipe was greeted by local residents and flag-waving school children, who gathered behind crowd barriers on Broad Street and Radcliffe Square. The Spanish press pack were also in attendance, reporting back home on the day’s events.

Tonight, the King will attend a reception at Exeter College, recognising the institution’s particularly close association with the Spanish monarchy. A college email, circulated to students yesterday, cited the King Alfonso XIII Professorship established in 1927, and the Queen Mother Sophia’s Honourary Fellowship, as reason for the disruption. Some Exeter students were given a place at the reception, but spaces were limited.

Exeter College Medic Sam Zhang told Cherwell: “The splendour of the royal couple was only matched by the ferocity of the glare from security as I tried to get closer.”

Spanish journalists relay news of the King’s visit back home

This comes after the King, a former Olympic sailor, made an address to the British Parliament at Westminster on Wednesday. He raised the controversial issue of Gibraltar’s sovereignty, sparking concerns among members of the UK government. The trip had been planned for June, but was delayed by Theresa May’s decision to call a snap general election.

Queen Elizabeth II made Felipe VI a Stranger Knight of the Garter as part of his visit, a traditional honour for foreign monarchs that stretches back to 1813.

In his tour of the Weston, King Felipe was shown a manuscript of the Codex Mendoza, a document originally intended for the eyes of his Sixteenth century predecessor Charles V.