Sunday, September 24

Elizabeth II dies | The day Isabel II visited Gibraltar and Franco closed the consulate

April 30, 1954 was the last day that the Consulate General of Spain in Gibraltar remained open to the public. The dictator, Francisco Franco, decided to close it down before Queen Elizabeth II arrived at the port of the British colony. She had just been crowned and had made a tour of the Commonwealth, the group of countries that had belonged to the British Empire, from South Africa to New Zealand. The British colony of the Rock was his last stop. Franco did not want the Spanish consul to pay homage to the regent, as she was going to do to the diplomatic corps present in Gibraltar and requested the protocol. But he did not want to make an ugly diplomat to Elizabeth II either, he explains to EL PERIÓDICO DE ESPAÑA, a newspaper that belongs to the Prensa Ibérica group as well as this medium, Louis Romero, author of The Consulate General of Spain in Gibraltar, an almost unknown story. “Since the absence of the Spanish consul at the reception would have been an offense, it was decided to close the consulate before she arrived. There could be no offense if the consulate did not even exist”, says the professor. Never again would a Spanish consulate be opened in the disputed territory, since then one of the main points of friction between Spain, which claims the territory as its own, and the United Kingdom. “Her Majesty, the Queen, highlighted the power, loyalty and strategic importance of Gibraltar”, was read in the newspaper El Calpense after the hospitality with which Elizabeth II was received.

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That would not be the only disagreement between Spain and the United Kingdom on account of Gibraltar. In 1981, the American newspaper The New York Times carried this headline on its front page: “Juan Carlos snubs the royal wedding [entre Carlos y Diana] for honeymoon plans in Gibraltar”. The Spanish kings had learned that, after their lavish wedding, Prince Carlos and “Lady Di” they would stop at the Rock as part of their honeymoon. King Juan Carlos I offered them to moor the royal yacht Britannia in any other nearby Spanish port. They refused and he reacted angrily by refusing to attend the wedding. Since then, the legend has spread, impossible to verify, that Elizabeth II, angry, blurted out: “he is my son, my yacht and my rock”. El Peñon (“the Rock”) was effectively ceded to the British Crown as part of the Peace Treaty of Utrecht in 1715.

This tension dissipated over the years and the waters returned to their course. In 1986, Juan Carlos I made a state visit to the United Kingdom and was received in London by Queen Elizabeth II. She would do the same two years later. In 1988 she and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, traveled to Madrid. They spent five days touring the country. First, state dinner at the Royal Palace with King Juan Carlos and King Sofia. Then, they visited Seville and Barcelona. They concluded their stay on October 22, in Mallorca. “They disembarked from the Britannia at the western dock, which attracted a large audience”, according to Diario de Mallorca, belonging to the same group, Prensa Ibérica, as this newspaper. “The weather, despite being autumn, was fully summery. They received the Queen and her husband, Don Juan Carlos and Doña Sofía, who boarded and shortly after leaving the port to tour the west coast of the island: a quick excursion through Camp de Mar, La Mola and Port d’ Andratx”.

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Three decades later, in 2017, the new kings of Spain, Felipe VI and Letizia, made their next state visit and were entertained after their arrival by Elizabeth II with a state dinner at Buckingham Palace. she came to Lady Brennan, Spanish married to Lord Brennan and resident in the United Kingdom. She, who has met Queen Elizabeth II, defines her, in conversation with this newspaper, as “an extremely intelligent woman with a sense of humor and who, unlike when she appears on TV, gestures and behaves like any other human being”. Brennan describes Elizabeth II’s concern and interest in the large British community in Spain.

Discreet in political matters

Elizabeth II has practically not interfered in British political affairs or in the foreign relations of her country with others such as Spain. “She has always been very discreet in her political opinions, she has always wanted to follow the rules,” she explains to this newspaper on British journalist in Spain Guy Hedgecoe. “Everything he does is merely protocol. He has never had to do anything like Juan Carlos I in 1981 (intervene after an attempted coup)”, or as Felipe VI did in his speech after the illegal independence referendum in Catalonia in 2017. “He has never talked about independence in Scotland or about Northern Ireland”, explains the correspondent.

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In 2015, Gibraltar was preparing for the anniversary celebrations of its “national day”, on September 10. They commemorated 68 years since the voters of Gibraltar voted in a referendum to remain under British colonial administration. The Government of the Rock sent Isabel II an invitation, backed by 10,000 signatures of Gibraltarians, to attend the pomp. The Queen of England, Elizabeth II, declined to attend. According to a statement from the Government of Gibraltar, she stated that she “greatly appreciates the loyalty of the Gibraltarian people”, but that her travel outside the UK is “very limited”.

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The correspondent Guy Hedgecoe recalls another of the episodes between the United Kingdom and Spain linked to the Royal House of Elizabeth II. In 1994, Lady Diana was spending a holiday in Mijas (Málaga) with some friends. Two Spanish paparazzi took some topless photos of her. The Europa Press agency offered the images to the English press for a large sum of money. However, Hola magazine bought them. They never saw the light. The British newspaper Daily Mail assured that the magazine had bought the negatives to destroy them.

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