King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia visit Exeter College; photo: John Cairns / University of Oxford
His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain and Her Majesty Queen Letizia today visited Exeter College as they observed the close academic and cultural links between the College and the wider University of Oxford and Spain.
The Spanish royals began their visit to Oxford at the recently-refurbished Weston Library, where they viewed a selection of treasures from the Bodleian Library’s collections. Among them was the Ulm Ptolemy, a woodcut map of the world which dates from the 15th century and contains the first printed modern map of Spain. It was presented to Francesco Capello, Venetian Ambassador to Spain, by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492. Also on display were a very rare first edition of Cervantes’ Don Quixote and one of the Bodleian’s four copies of the 17 surviving engrossments of Magna Carta.
A lunch was then held in honour of the King and Queen at the 15th century Divinity School, at which King Felipe spoke about the importance of academic links between Spain and the UK, and international academic links more generally, and paid tribute to Oxford University’s contribution to the world.
‘All of us have benefited from the scientists, scholars and writers who were aware that spearheading knowledge means expanding the horizon for humankind,’ he said. ‘With its unique blend of vanguard and tradition, Oxford is, indeed, not only an admirable British university, but one of the institutions that have contributed to shaping the heart and soul of Europe and what we now call the West.’
He went on to say that internationalisation is ‘woven into the very DNA of universities’ and to encourage universities to attract the best possible talent from around the world ‘because if there is a lesson to be learned from historic universities such as Oxford, it is that their global nature has a direct impact on improving the standard of living of our citizens and on the progress of our societies.’
After lunch the royal visitors attended a reception at Exeter College for Spanish students and staff from the College and the wider University, along with members of the University who are studying, researching and teaching about Spain. Exeter College hosted the reception because of its long-standing association with Spain and its strength in Spanish studies. The College is home to the King Alfonso XIII Professorship of Spanish Studies, which is this year celebrating its 90th anniversary. The Chair was founded ‘with the object of promoting friendly and sympathetic relations with the Spanish-speaking countries’ and is named after King Felipe’s great-grandfather in commemoration of His State Visit to the United Kingdom in 1926. It is currently held by Professor Edwin Williamson, who helped to organise the programme of events for Their Majesties, and was first held by Salvador de Madariaga, the renowned Spanish writer and statesman, who went on to become President of the League of Nations and a leading pioneer of European integration.
King Felipe VI’s mother, Queen Sofía, has been an Honorary Fellow of Exeter College for 30 years and the College is home to a Fellowship in Spanish literature named in her honour – currently held by Dr Alice Brooke. From October this year there will also be an Exeter-based Fellowship in Iberian History.
King Felipe and Queen Letizia viewed a portrait of Queen Sofía which hangs in the Rector’s Lodgings before moving to the reception in the Fellows’ Garden, accompanied by Rector Trainor, his wife Professor Marguerite Dupree and the Chancellor of the University, Lord Patten of Barnes.
Afterwards Sir Rick said, ‘As the home to a great deal of academic activity relating to Spain, as well as the place of work for some Spanish nationals, Exeter College was delighted and honoured to host a reception for King Felipe and Queen Letizia.’
Their Majesties are welcomed to Exeter College by Rector Trainor and his wife Professor Marguerite Dupree
Rector Trainor escorts Their Majesties to the reception in the Fellows’ Garden
All photos: John Cairns / University of Oxford