King Juan Carlos’ Name Day Celebrations

The “name days” are a Christian tradition celebrated in some European societies  (mostly Catholic and Orthodox) that consists on commemorating the feast day of the saint that one was named after. King Juan Carlos of Spain celebrated his name day on the feast day of Saint John the Baptist, June 24th, and one year after he was proclaimed King in 1975, he started celebrating his “Onomástica del Rey” with full pageantry.

Every June 24th started with a mass at the Zarzuela Palace, followed by a lavish reception at the Royal Palace of Madrid. Until 1981, it was held at the state rooms, later being transferred to the Palace gardens, the “Campo del Moro”. Every year, between 3.500 and 4.000 guests were invited. Those guests were part of the Spanish high society, the crème de la crème, among them there were aristocrats, politicians, businessmen, diplomats, ecclesiasts, soldiers, journalists, intellectuals, bankers, bullfighters, athletes and artists.

The royal family (King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia, the Prince of Asturias, Infanta Elena and Infanta Cristina) was present as was the King’s extended family (Count of Barcelona, Infanta Pilar with her husband and children, Infanta Margarita and her husband, Infanta Alicia, Princess Esperanza and Prince Pedro, Princess Dolores, the Duke and Duchess of Calabria, the Duke of Cadiz, the “Baviera” cousins, the “Marone” cousins…). King Simeon II of Bulgaria and Queen Margarita also attended, as well as Princess Irene of Greece.

The reception, that put the closing of the institutional life until after the summer, used to start at 20:30. At that time the royal family arrived at Campo del Moro, being received by the band of the Guardia del Rey, playing the National Anthem and by a gun salute. This was followed by the besamanos and the cocktail.

In 1991, during an official trip to Sevilla, the reception took place in the gardens of the Reales Alcázares, and the following year, due to the Olympic Games in Barcelona and the EXPO in Sevilla, the event was suspended.

Embed from Getty ImagesEmbed from Getty Images

After the death of the Count of Barcelona in April 1993, the celebration was scaled-down into a much sober reception at the Palace of Zarzuela. Less than 100 guests, mostly members of the government and high authorities, were greeted by the members of the immediate royal family. This version of the “Onomástica del Rey”  also ended up being suspended in 2010.

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

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