King Felipe of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain wave from a car while attending a mass in El Escorial, Spain.
King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain wave from a car while attending a mass in El Escorial, Spain. Credit: Photo by Europa Press/Europa Press via Getty Images

White gloves and formal attire will be the order of the day for the June 16-18 royal visit by the King and Queen of Spain to San Antonio in celebration of the city’s Tricentennial.

King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia are set to arrive Saturday, and will undertake a series of ceremonial visits to sites, including Mission San José, the Bexar County Courthouse, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and other locations.

Much of the itinerary is private, reserved for local dignitaries and honored guests, to include hosts Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and County Commissioners, with Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City officials.

Invitees are asked to honor protocol, customs, and security screenings appropriate to a visit by royalty, including no selfies, and no hugging.

“The Royal Couple are very warm and welcoming and do encourage handshakes (no curtsies necessary!),” reads instructions for guests given by the Bexar Heritage Office.

The original invitation was extended in 2017 by former Mayor Ivy Taylor and the City’s International Relations Office, with foresight towards Tricentennial celebrations.

“It should be emphasized that hosting Their Majesties would be the most special and most important part of the Tricentennial,” it reads. “They would represent the continuity of connection, the confluence of civilizations and the thread of history that binds our communities together.”

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) helped Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos to hand-deliver the official invitation to the Royal Couple at their country residence just outside Madrid, Treviño said.

The invitation details the long relationship between Spain and Texas, with a few key notes, including the importance of the original Spanish missions to the 2015 UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, and a donation of cattle by Spanish citizens in Texas “to the troops of Bernardo de Gálvez who engaged the British along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts” during the American Revolution.

During his 2017 visit to Spain, Treviño made a drive to his namesake region, the Condado de Treviño, and its 900-year-old township. On his visit, he met a Monterrey, Mexico, native involved in the restoration of a church dating to 1161.

“It’s a beautiful little township with amazing history,” Treviño said. “It’s nice to see where my namesake came from.”

Treviño also noted the similarity of the Spanish and Texan terrain, and that the original cowboys were vaqueros, “a Spanish tradition brought to Mexico and Texas.”

San Antonio and Spain still have very strong historic ties, he said. “We’re very similar with regards to the spirit and innovation in art and architecture.”

Spain is a perfect example of how well the “confluence of cultures,” a key theme of the Tricentennial year, is embraced, he said. “Diverse cultures brought together in a beautiful palette, and that speaks to the spirit of San Antonio,” Treviño said.

The public will have two opportunities to view the Royals from afar: “The public is invited to view the arrival and departure of Their Majesties outside in front of the Spanish Governor’s Palace on Sunday morning” reads a news release from the World Heritage Office. A time is not specified, although a private welcome ceremony takes place from 9:30-10:15 a.m., and a visit to Mission San José is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.

Shahrazad Dowlatshahi, chief of protocol for the City’s International Relations Office, recommended catching a public glimpse “after 9 a.m.” outside the governor’s palace, and said small flags will be available for the public to wave.

Note that in preparation for the visit, the Spanish Governor’s Palace will be closed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 15 and 16.

Laura Mayes, public relations manager for the Tricentennial Commission, assured that the public will have a further opportunity to catch the King and Queen “around noon,” as they arrive for a stop at the Bexar County Courthouse, on the Main Plaza side.

Perhaps the private event most discussed this week among the many uninvited is the Sunday invitation-only official dinner at the Pearl Stable. One City employee who asked not to be quoted because staff were instructed not to speak publicly, said 200 people will be in attendance, including elected officials, city and county leaders, and various heads of local civic and business organizations.

Various City staffers have privately described intense lobbying efforts by people accustomed to being invited to such occasions, but the common reply was, “The King and Queen control the events and the invitations.”

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...