Antonio M. Romero
Friday, 21 April 2023, 12:32
Spain's King Felipe VI was greeted with cheers and applause by the crowds who had gathered in Ronda to welcome him on Wednesday.
The monarch, on his first visit as king to the town, walked down Avenida Virgen de la Paz on his way to Ronda's famous bullring, shaking hands and chatting to the people as he went.
Felipe was in town to preside over the events to mark the 450th anniversary of the Real Maestranza de Caballería, the royal cavalry training school, a military institution which now has a cultural and social purpose.
It was another King Felipe (II, of the House of Austria), who put his seal on the decree that saw the birth of the Real Maestranza in Ronda 450 years ago.
On Wednesday the present King Felipe attended the general meeting of Spain's five royal cavalry schools (Ronda, Seville, Granada, Valencia and Zaragoza).
In his speech at the private event, he said that "no one, neither institution nor individual, can ignore renovation and modernity", adding that these days more "ethical role models" were needed, examples of that "demanding and dignified form of leadership".
He congratulated the institutions on the "enormous value of their social function".
Felipe VI, who was not accompanied by Queen Letizia, arrived that morning by helicopter at the Spanish Legion's barracks in Montejaque, from where he was driven to Ronda.
After the meeting, the king greeted the attending authorities in the building's Patio de los Herradores. Officials present included the president of the Junta de Andalucía, Juanma Moreno; the president of the regional parliament, Jesús Aguirre; the mayor of Ronda, María de la Paz Fernández; the government representative in Andalucía, Pedro Fernández; and the secretary of state for defence, Amparo Valcarce.
From there, Felipe VI went into the bullring itself and took his place in the Palco Real (the royal box, which had not been opened since 1997 when King Juan Carlos went to the annual Goya bullfight) to watch a show put on by students from the Real Maestranza de Caballería riding school.
The audience in the bullring was made up by 2,500 children from schools in Ronda, Montejaque and Estación de Gaucín, who received the king with cheers and applause.
After the playing of the national anthem, 18 young riders put on a display of equestrian art and dressage.
At the end of the event the monarch went down to greet the youngsters in the audience, before being given a tour of the 200-year-old bullring and its bullfighting museum.
The king later attended a reception with about 400 local representatives.
Tales of those who met the King
Elisa Calle is one local royal fan who managed to shake hands with the monarch. "May the Lord bless you Felipe," she told him.
Ángeles Oliva had gone especially to Ronda from Fuengirola with her husband to get a glimpse of the king. "We love the monarchy," she explained.
Dirk Gerdes, a German resident in Tenerife who is on holiday in Andalucía, said Felipe seemed "very close to the people". "We didn't expect to bump into the King of Spain," he said. "It was a pleasant moment."
"Now I've got a story to tell my baby," said pregnant Carolina Sánchez, who managed to have her photograph taken with the king.
Meanwhile Mari Ángeles Ríos, who made the headlines earlier this week for her collection of press cuttings about Felipe that she started when she was a girl in 1975, had the chance to meet her idol. "He knew who I was and said I had more documents about him than he has," she laughed.
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