Royal flourish Spanish King, Queen make history

By Staff
ROYAL VISIT n His Excellency Alvaro Fernandez-Villaverde, the Duke of San Carlos, left, describes the history of the royal carriage of Fernando VII to King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain, third and fourth from left, Saturday during a tour of the "Majesty of Spain" exhibit at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion in Jackson. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, second from right, and his wife, Melanie, third from right, look on. AP photo
By Nell Luter Floyd/Special to The Star
April 1, 2001
JACKSON  With fanfare and flourish fit for a king, Spain's King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia walked into history here Saturday.
Visiting The Majesty of Spain: Royal Collections from the Museo del Prado &Patrimonio Nacional exhibition, they became the first reigning royalty to set foot in Mississippi.
The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets from Washington, D.C., greeted the royal couple as they stepped from a dark-colored Lincoln Town Car outside the Mississippi Arts Pavilion.
Inside the pavilion, the king and queen quickly shook hands with board members of the Mississippi Commission for International Cultural Exchange, the exhibit organizer, and then unveiled a plaque commemorating their visit.
Next, the king and queen greeted Alwin van der Linde, a Dutch portrait artist who lives in Madrid, who painted their portraits that hang at the exhibit. They had not seen the finished portraits and seemed pleased.
The king and queen and a swarm of dignitaries and members of the royal household watched the exhibit's orientation film and toured the exhibit's 14 galleries of royal riches from the Prado Museum and the Royal Palaces in Madrid, El Escorial, Aranjuez and El Pardo.
A flurry of flash bulbs greeted the king and queen in the first gallery, as 30 Spanish journalists and an equal number of American journalists snapped photos and took notes.
Journalists were instructed not to ask the king and queen questions. Only a few journalists from the largest media outlets were allowed to follow the king and queen throughout the entire exhibit; others were allowed to stand, observe and photograph them in certain galleries.
The king and queen were supposed to spend just a few minutes inside the exhibit, but their visit lasted nearly an hour.
The couple posed for photos in the gallery that holds one of the exhibit's high points, a 55-foot, magnificently gold-gilded gondola. They later
posed for more photographs in front of a portrait of Charles III by Francisco de Goya.
William L. "Buck" Stevens of Jackson, chairman of the commission, presented the king and queen gifts from the commission, including bronze busts of
literary greats William Faulkner, by the late Bruce Brady, and Eudora Welty, by Kim Sessums.
During a luncheon to which about 350 people were invited, Musgrove thanked the king and queen for allowing the objects to be loaned for the exhibit. He also offered another thank-you.
The king spoke for about five minutes, referring to the exhibit as the "greatest effort ever made in this country to stage an exhibit about Spain." That's because of the large number of objects on display, the room recreations and the period of history that the exhibit covers, he said.
Luncheon guests dined on hushpuppies with shrimp Provencale, Yukon gold potato "Skin" with lobster salad, Mississippi quail, black eye pea risotto
cake and "BBQ" gastrique, caramel apple gateau, chocolate nib tuile and apricot vanilla. They drank Veuve Cliquot, "Yellow Label" from New York and
Veuve Cliquot "Demi-Sec" from New York.
About 25 members of the Central Allied Florist Association, a nonprofit professional group, donated time, talent and hundreds of flowers to spread
throughout the exhibit and on the luncheon tables.
Later, the king and queen visited the Capitol where outside they waved at the crowd that gathered to greet them and posed with dignitaries for photos. In the crowd were students from Delta State University in Cleveland with a large Spanish flag and students from St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Ridgeland with a 10-foot-long, homemade welcome banner.
Inside the Capitol, the couple received the official gifts from the state. The gifts includes the bronze sculpture, Bluesman, also by Brady, and a collection of CDs by world-renowned musicians who call Mississippi home  Elvis Presley, B.B.King, Leontyne Price and Faith Hill. The CDs were presented in a handcrafted walnut box by artist Fletcher Cox of Jackson.
After remarks at the Capitol by the king and a reception at the Governor's Mansion, the couple departed for their next U.S. stop, St. Augustine, Fla.
The exhibition, which runs through Sept. 3, has drawn an attendance of 40,000 during its first month and sold 115,000 tickets overall, Kyle said.
State Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, was ready to get home after the 2001 legislative session and did not attend the festivities surrounding the royal couple's visit. But, he said he considers their visit an honor for the state.