Spanish State Visit to the United States, 1976

Between the 2nd and the 6th of June 1976, five years after visiting the United States as Prince and Princess of Spain, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia returned to the country on a State Visit, this time as the reigning King and Queen. This is considered one of the most important and successful visits among the ones made throughout their 39 years of reign. It was essential for establishing King Juan Carlos’ international image and also to get a favourable position from the United States in helping the Spanish political transition. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia made many more State Visits to the United States, most notably in 2000, while the State Visit of King Felipe and Queen Letizia last year was delayed due to the pandemic.

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President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty Ford received the King and Queen, on this first ever visit from a Spanish monarch to America. Events included an Official Welcome, a State Dinner at the White House, a Returning Banquet at the Spanish Embassy, a Historic Speech at the National Congress, a Meeting with the United Nations Secretary General and a Reception at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. The trip had began on the 31st of May, with a stopover in Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic, the place where, five centuries before, the discoverers of the crown of Castela set foot in the continent for the first time.

At the State Dinner hosted by the President at the White House in honour of the King and Queen, Don Juan Carlos was wearing the Order of the Golden Fleece and the Order of Charles III and Doña Sofia was in a white dress with golden brocade and a long white sleeveless cape, wearing the Order of Charles III and the Order of Queen Maria Luisa, a pair of long diamond and pearl earrings, a brooch with a large oval citrine, a diamond tennis bracelet, a four-row pearl bracelet, a ring with a large round pearl and a golden handbag.

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One of the highlights of this visit was the speech delivered by the King before the North American Congress. Don Juan Carlos was one of the three heads of state invited (the other two being the French President Valéry Giscard and Queen Elizabeth II) to speak in a joint session of both Houses on the occasion of the Bicentennial of the North American nation.

This speech had a message about Transition already implicit in it. Also, the king pronounced the word “democracy”, for the first time in public:

“The Monarchy will ensure that, under the principles of democracy, social peace and political stability are maintained in Spain, while ensuring orderly access to power for the different alternatives of government, according to the freely expressed wishes of the people ”.

This part of his speech provoked a loud and long ovation from the congressmen.

At the Returning Banquet hosted by the monarchs at the Spanish Embassy, Don Juan Carlos was again wearing the Order of the Golden Fleece and the Order of Charles III and Doña Sofia was in a pale blue dress designed by Valentino, wearing the Order of Charles III and the Order of Queen Maria Luisa, and her wedding earrings, necklace and bracelet.

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At the final part of this visit, the King and Queen travelled  from Washington to New York for a meeting with the UN Secretary General and a black-tie reception at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The Queen was wearing the same dress she had worn days before in Santo Domingo, also repeating her wedding earrings and bracelet.   

This article written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!


4 thoughts on “Spanish State Visit to the United States, 1976

  1. I am surprised to see that Queen Sofia didn’t wear a tiara to the State Banquet. If memory serves me right, Queen Elizabeth always wears one during State Banquets whenever she attends one. Maybe the Spanish monarchs were too new and Queen Sofia didn’t feel comfortable wearing one? I don’t know if the Countess of Barcelona had already given her the Joyas de Pasar that she had in her custody, but Queen Sofia had at least two tiaras that were her personal possession in her jewelry box, the Spanish floral wedding gift tiara and the Prussian tiara that had been her mother’s and her grandmother’s before her. She did wear her orders, though. That year 1976 was a very big deal in the USA. It was the Bicentenary of the Republic! This was quite an auspicious visit, one that cemented the good relations between the two nations, especially since King Juan Carlos restored the democratic process in his country.

    1. In the early years of their reign (especially before the Count of Barcelona formal renounced his claim), Queen Sofia didn’t wear Tiaras for Banquets and also didn’t have the Joyas de Pasar. While she wore Tiaras as Princess of Spain in the 70s (in the US, Finland, Ethiopia and the Philippines) after becoming Queen, she did not wear Tiaras on outgoing State Visits to Republics. It seems Queen Letizia is following that example because she didn’t wear one in Portugal in 2016.

      1. More’s the pity, right? I love seeing those beautiful tiaras come out to play!

      2. Which was / is a great shame. I remember being a bit disappointed in that. I mean, even the Duchess of Bragança – who was also present at the banquet in Portugal – did wear a tiara!

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