Royal Visits to the Vatican

Pope Francis will turn 85 tomorrow, and as promised last year in our article on the Privilège du Blanc, to mark the day, we are going to be taking an in-depth, but not too comprehensive, look at all the previous Royal Visits to the Vatican!

The Privilège du Blanc | Royal Visits to the Vatican

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Spain

With the Official Title of Rex Catholicissimus ‘Their Most Catholic Majesties’, the Spanish Royal Family have made the most Official Visits to the Vatican over the years! King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain (wearing the Fleur-de-Lys Tiara) had an Audience with Pope Pius XI at the Vatican in 1923. Queen Victoria Eugenie (wearing her Mellerio Shell Tiara and the Cartier Diamond and Pearl Tiara) also had Papal Audiences after being exiled from Spain and widowed, though she did wear

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Newly weds Prince Juan Carlos and Princess Sofia had an Audience with the Pope on a visit to the Vatican during her honeymoon in 1962 and she first exercised her Privilège du Blanc for her first Papal Audience with Pope John Paul I in 1977, two years after becoming Queen. Queen Sofia has made countless visits to the Vatican over the past six decades, attending for papal audiences, visits, funerals, inaugurations, and masses.

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The newlywed Crown Prince Felipe and Crown Princess Letizia had a very formal Audience with  Pope John Paul II on their first visit to the Vatican in 2004, and had their first and only Papal Audience with Pope Francis just a few days after the Accession of King Felipe VI in 2014.

Belgium

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Another prominent Catholic Monarchy, the Belgian Royal Family have made many visits to the Vatican, most notably in 1922 and on the Belgian Royal Family’s visit to the Vatican in 1930. King Leopold III and the Princess de Réthy also had an audience with Pope Pius XII at the Vatican in 1950.

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King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola (wearing the Nine Provinces Tiara and her Spanish Wedding Gift Tiara) made two State Visits to the Vatican in 1961 and 1966, having Audiences with Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI respectively.  The King and Queen also attended the Funeral of Pope Paul VI in 1978 and the Inauguration of Pope John Paul II a few weeks later, with Queen Fabiola  making many visits to the Vatican into her old age.

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The future King Albert and Queen Paola had wanted to get married at the Vatican, and the two made a few visits to the Vatican in the 1960s, which continued during the King’s 20 year reign, and have regularly attended masses and had audiences with the Pope after the King’s abdication.

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As Crown Prince and Crown Princess, the future King Philippe and Queen Mathilde attended Pope Benedict XVI Holds First Mass and also had an Audience with Pope Francis in 2015, almost two years after King Philippe’s Accession.

Luxembourg

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While were not able to find any picture from Grand Duchess Charlotte’s visits to the Vatican, Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Josephine Charlotte (wearing the Belgian Scroll Tiara) made numerous visits to the Vatican starting with an Audience with Pope Paul VI in 1965, a few months after the Accession of Grand Duke Jean, and continued for the rest of the Grand Duke’s Reign.

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Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Theresa has also had many papal audiences, funerals, inaugurations and masses, making solo official visits and also sometimes bringing their extended Family for Papal Audiences.

Monaco

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Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco made many Official Visits to the Vatican, as have Prince Albert and Princess Charlene who have made visits to the Vatican in 2013 to meet with Pope Benedict XVI and in 2016, for an Audience with Pope Francis.

Italy

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In 1929, the signing of the Lateran Treaty marked the the end of a 60-year feud between the Vatican and the Kingdom of Italy,  with King Victor Emmanuel III and Queen Elena of Italy (wearing the Savoy Pearl and Diamond Tiara) and other members of the extended Italian Royal Family having audiences with Pope Pius XI at the Vatican in December 1929. The following month, after the Belgian Royal Family’s visit to the Vatican in 1930, the Crown Prince Umberto and the new Crown Princess Marie Jose had an Audience with the Pope at the Vatican following her wedding, as did Princess Maria Francesca of Savoy after her wedding in 1939. The Pope was also involved in the Christening of the Prince of Naples in 1937 and the extended Royal Family attended the Coronation of Pope Pius XII in 1939. The Royal Family continue to have Audiecnes with the Poepe despite being abolished for over 75 years ago. In accordance with that special dispensation granted to the House of Savoy, despite the abolition of the Italian Monarchy, the Princess of Naples is the only non-reigning royal consort that exercise her Privilège du Blanc.

Liechtenstein

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Liechtenstein is the last and lowest ranking of the remaining Catholic monarchies, with Prince Franz Josef II and Princess Gina had an Audience with Pope John XXIII at the Apostolic Palace in 1960. More recently, the extended Princely Family had an Audience with Pope Francis in 2017.

UK

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The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh had many visits to the Vatican, including an Official Visit to the Vatican in 1951, with a State Visit to the Vatican in 1961, followed by the State Visit in in 1980. Queen Mother and Princess Margaret made a  visit in 1959, the Prince and Princess of Wales visited in 1985 and the Prince and Duchess of Cornwall’s visited in 2017 have had many audiences over the years.

Greece

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The Greek Royal Family made two major visits to the Vatican. King Paul and Queen Frederica of Greece’s had an audience with Pope John XXIII at the Vatican in 1959, while King Constantine and Queen Anne Marie met Pope Paul VI in the Vatican Library in 1966, which became the only outgoing State Visit during the King’s Reign. 

Denmark

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King Frederik IX, Queen Ingrid (wearing the Pearl Poiré Tiara) and Princess Benedikte (in her Floral Tiara) had an audience with Pope Paul VI in the Vatican Library during the Danish State Visit to the Vatican in 1964, with Queen Margrethe (wearing the Alexandrine Drop Tiara and her Antique Diamond Parure  visiting  Pope Paul VI on her State Visit in 1975. More recently, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary’s visited Pope Francis in 2018,

Sweden

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King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden (wearing the Baden Fringe Tiara)were  joined by Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Carl Philip, and Princess Madeleine for an Official Audience with Pope John Paul II in 1991. becoming the last King and Queen to dress in full Gala. King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia have had many Audiences in the years since, most recently in 2015, when the Queen was joined by Princess Madeleine and her family.

Norway

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King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway (wearing Queen Alexandra’s Diamond and Pearl Brooch) had an Audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 2001, during their first State Visit to Italy.

The Netherlands

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Queen Maxima is a catholic and the Dutch Royal Family have made numerous private visits to the Vatican, but the Dutch State Visit to the Vatican in 2017 was the most formal, with King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima meeting Pope Francis during their State Visit to Italy.

Jordan

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As representatives of the Islamic Faith, King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan have had countless audiences with numerous Popes over the years, at the Vatican and in Jordan, which had a long biblical history.

Thailand

King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit of Thailand (in her Floral Bandeau Tiara) had an Audience with Pope John XXIII at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, during their monumental State Visits around Europe in the Fall of 1960.

Lesotho

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King Letsie III and Queen Masenate Mohato Seeiso of Lesotho met Pope Frances in an Audience in 2013, discussing the themes of education, family and religious freedom. Like Queen Maxima, Queen Masenate Mohato Seeiso is a practicing catholic.

Brides

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In addition to the Queens and Princess we have discussed above, there have been a few special cases when royal couples have had Papal Audiences. soon after their weddings. In 1935, there were three Spanish Royal Weddings in Rome, and all three of the brides; Infanta Beatriz, Princess of Civitella-Cesi, the Duchess of Segovia, and the Countess of Barcelona, had audiences with the Pope Pius XI after their ceremonies.

In 1964,  Princess Irene of The Netherlands (wearing the Bourbon-Parma Tiara) and Prince Carlos Hugo of Bourbon-Parma had a Private Audience with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican, following their Wedding at the Borghese Chapel in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

The Privilège du Blanc

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3 thoughts on “Royal Visits to the Vatican

  1. The last reigning monarch who visited the Holy See in full dress was HM King George Tupou V, who was even wearing black breaches, hose, and buckled shoes with his uniform when he visited HH Pope Benedict XVI on February of 2012.

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  2. It was so wonderful taking a trip down memory lane with this article. Things have certainly changed! Royal visits were treated like very formal state affairs complete with white tie or military uniforms for the men and formal gowns and tiaras for the women. Now it’s more like business attire. The informality is can be considered as friendlier, but I can’t deny that I miss the pomp and circumstance of old. I’ve often wondered why the Liechtenstein ladies don’t have the Privilege du Blanc. They’re probably not a might house and their country is certainly small, but their devotion to the Catholic Church can’t be questioned. In addition, they are certainly the rulers of the country. In fact, I think they own most of the land and properties where it’s located! It’s like when Princess Grace of Monaco also didn’t have it, which was something totally inexplicable to me. But there you have it!

    Liked by 1 person

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