My last two days in Oviedo were for the most part taken up with the celebrations for the Princesa de Asturias awards themselves, largely conducted in the presence of the King and Queen, and on the final day in the presence of what we would call the Queen Mother (that is Queen Sofia, King Felipe's mother). The formal proceedings kicked off with a concert on Thursday night in Oviedo's wonderful concert hall (much more splendid that anything we have in Cambridge -- and the size of the towns must be roughly comparable). It was a performance of Beethoven's Ninth, including the Ode to Joy (as the husband, jokingly observed, this may get banned in Britain before too long... so ENJOY).
Now, I am not a great expert in European (or any other) monarchies, and I suppose if pushed I would be a Republican (to put it another way, I wouldn't have invented monarchy in the first place, but now we have got it, there are quite a lot of other things I would get rid of first!). But the Spanish King and Queen (and Mother) had a rather different style than most of ours (in my limited experience). Sure, there was a lot of security, but there was none of that anxious protocol about how exactly they were to be addressed ("Your Majesty" on first meeting, then "ma'am', said "mam" like "jam", not 'marm'). In fact, once the other side of security, they just mingled, joked and chatted, without obvious minders hovering close; and, more to the point, the king's speech on day two (the award ceremony itself) was a lot meatier, less bland, than most of what you hear from our own lot.
That ceremony took place in the local theatre, to which all us prize winners processed in a motorcade: another first for Beard, as well as the waving at the waiting crowds, of which there were hundreds and hundreds (heaven knows how you judge the sincerity of spontaneity of all this, but it certainly felt 'real').
After walking in on the blue carpet, rather determinedly in my case, we sat on the stage while the citations were read out and we went up to get our scroll and then moved to the front of the stage to wave it triumphantly at the audience, 'victor ludorum' style. In between some of got to make 5 minute speeches. You can see and hear mine here (I hope you enjoy the sentiments about the essential reltionship between history and citizenship, and the sneaking in of John Donne at the end!).
It was actually truly humbling. I was in the great comany of other prize-winners from Nuria Espert to Richard Ford and SOS Children's Villages. And the whole week was all over the Spanish speaking media. It seemed slightly odd in that context that the only mainstream UK reporting that I saw was in the Mail, and an article solely concerned with what Queen Letizia was wearing and whether she was copying Kate Middleton.
Hang on a minute...