The popularity of the Spanish royal family has transcended every border, every ocean. Whether one supports monarchical governments or not, it is always interesting to analyse the history of such an essential figure when it comes to the way a country’s government is laid out. Additionally, examining how other countries perceive and interact with a monarch will provide a new approach on the matter. Hence, in the following lines we will explore the connection of the king of Spain—or rather the kings of Spain—with the United States of America.
Juan Carlos I, of the House of Bourbon, played an important role in Spain’s international relations during the 20th century. His reign lasted from 1975 to 2014, and he was succeeded by his son Felipe VI, current king of Spain. With all the conflicts and wars that swept the world in the 20th century, the monarch’s visits to the United States can tell us many things about the international situation back then.
The first time Juan Carlos I of Spain and the then Queen Sofía of Greece and Denmark visited the States as monarchs was in 1976. Back then, politician Gerald Ford was in his last months of serving as the president of the United States. This trip was particularly meaningful for many reasons, but mainly because it happened only months after the death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. During their visit to Washington D.C., the king delivered a speech before the North American Congress, and he pronounced the word “democracy” publicly for the first time.
The next important visit King Juan Carlos I made to the United States took place in 1986. This time, he met with President Ronald Reagan in New York City. However, the list of presidents he shook hands with in the White House goes on and on. For example, he met with President Clinton in 1993. Years later, in 2000, King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain attended a State Dinner host by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton. A fun anecdote regarding said event is the fact that the Queen of Spain stumbled on the stairs and was caught on camera.
In 2001, former King Juan Carlos I met with President George W. Bush at the White House. However, it was a private visit this time, and the National Security Council Spokeswoman Marry Ellen Countryman claimed: “They’re just having tea”. First Lady Laura Bush and Queen Sofia also joined in.
Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y Grecia, better known as Felipe VI, has been the king of Spain since June 2014. Despite his short reign, King Felipe VI has attended many an international event representing the Spanish crown.
His first official visit to the United States as a king happened in September 2014. On that occasion, he met privately with President Barack Obama. In addition, he attended the 2014 UN Climate Summit held in New York on September 23. He was also present at the United Nations General Assembly, and he stated that “It is truly an honor for me to speak for the first time as King of Spain at the UN”.
In 2015, the king’s visit to United States included Mount Vernon, Washington D. C., Miami, St. Augustine and New York. He also visited the Fred W. Smith National Library, the Congress, and the Georgetown University. A highlight of the king’s 2015 visit was his speech at the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development.
In 2018, Felipe VI met with former President Donald Trump and Paul Ryan, 54th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Apart from visiting the White House, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia went on a five-day tour that took them to New Orleans, Louisiana, and San Antonio, Texas; both cities were celebrating the 300th anniversary of their foundation.