Scribbler in Seville

A brace of duchesses

Yesterday, we had a royal visit here in Seville. A four-hour whistlestop tour. Prince Charles came to town, for only the second time since his visit to the Expo 92 with his then-wife, Princess Diana (much harked back to when I spoke those who remember the occasion; they burbled dreamily about her extraordinary beauty).

On this occasion, he was accompanied by his long-time love and now wife, Camilla, otherwise known as the Duchess of Cornwall. Together, they went to meet the President of the Junta at the Palace of San Telmo, his 17th-century seat of government (eat your heart out, Boris). They were taken on the tram from the San Fernando stop by the Hotel Alfonso XIII (surrounded at all times by a phalanx of security officers), to the Ayuntamiento (Monteseirin wasn’t going to miss that photo opp), where they were presented with a replica of the kissing birds Roman mosaic which is the logo of Antiquarium, the archaeological museum underneath the Metropol Parasol, and a flowered fan. The Union Jack was raised over the town hall.

According to the British Embassy, they talked to Monteseirin about making Seville more sustainable (spending less money on vanity architectural projects and more on long-promised car parks and public transport, perhaps?). They also saw the cathedral, and walked around the area in 30-degree heat – she with parasol, like something out of an MGM musical. After this they went to the Alcazar, where Charles met various business people (mostly men, nearly all Spanish; my boss at was one of the few British) and organisations, including the British Chamber of Commerce in Andalucia. The aim of the ten-day tour (Portugal, Spain and Morocco) is to promote British commercial interests. After this, he went to close a conference at the Fundacion Tres Culturas (Europe, Latin American, Africa), on religious tolerance.

Camilla came across throughout, according to onlookers, wellwishers (one row deep) etc, as “very natural” and much more attractive in person (comparisons to Di, then 35 years younger and an icon, seemed a bit cruel).

I had been invited to a flamenco show which had been organised for Camilla at the Museo de Flamenco in Barrio Santa Cruz, a small but informative place housed in a traditional Sevillano casa with patio, which is where the performances take place.

We locals were confined to the basement for a couple of hours – luckily it was cool down there, and it’s a pretty, vaulted space which is also used for performances, but it felt a bit like being sent to the dungeons.

Waiting for Camilla in the vaults of the Flamenco Museum.

After an hour and a half of sipping sherry or beer (water for me, kids to collect later) and nibbling queso and mini-tapas, we shuffled up the stairs and thronged momentarily in the shop, waiting to be allowed to take our seats. That’s when I spotted the Duquesa de Alba, whom I had been told might be there. When we were finally allowed in, I and my compatriot friend made sure to sit where he had a reasonable view of both duchesses, albeit some rows behind (at this stage, can I point that, a) I am an amateur photographer, b) my camera is not great, c) photo conditions were less than ideal.) 

Duquesa de Alba

Then the other duchess arrived, welcomed by a shawl-swirling dance.

Then the museum director welcomed her (and us) in English, explaining that the dance, guajira, we were going to see originated in Cuba  – the farmer in natty cream linen suit and neckerchief, and his wife, in flamenca dress with train.

The first dancer, the girl, looked frankly terrified, though you can’t blame her when she’s performing a couple of metres from her boss and two famous (here in Spain, at least) duchesses. The men, on the other hand, were loving every minute of it, tossing their heads around like prancing brood mares.

Camilla moved her head to the rhythms and applauded enthusiastically after each section of the performance.

Then, the director of the museum presented Camilla with a plaque commemorating her visit, and a torquoise fringed manta (shawl), which she looked rather embarrassed about, handing it back to him at first, before putting it on.

Camilla with Dr Kurt Grotsch, museum director.

Camilla wearing the manta she was presented with .

Then she lined up with the performers for a photo call, and had a chat with the bailaora.

Camilla talking to flamenco dancer.


After that, Camilla buzzed off quick sharp – her plane was leaving for Granada at 5.30pm, where she and Charles were spending the weekend with the

Camilla lines up with Cristina Hoyos, the dancers and guitarist.

Duke of Wellington, on his estate in Illora.

The Duquesa de Alba hung around a bit longer, chatting with her friends who had come with her, including loyal retainers Curro Romero’s wife, Carmen Tello, and Tomas Terry (sic).
Then she left, pausing to greet us on her way out, which was more than the other duchess had done. Having this legend say hello to me made my day. Sorry, Camilla.

La Duquesa de Alba


7 thoughts on “A brace of duchesses

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