Diamond Jubilee: Spain's Queen Sofia cancels UK visit

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's Tom Burridge says the Spanish royal family is backing Madrid after a deterioration in the Spanish government's relations with London

Queen Sofia of Spain has cancelled a visit to the UK to mark Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee because of disputes over Gibraltar.

A Spanish government statement said it was "hardly appropriate" for Queen Sofia, 73, to attend a lunch on Friday.

The UK and Spain have been in dispute over fishing rights off Gibraltar, a UK territory which Spain also claims.

Spain has also protested over a visit to Gibraltar by Queen Elizabeth's son Prince Edward and his wife Sophie.

The prince and the Countess of Wessex are to visit Gibraltar on 11-13 June as part of the celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen's reign.


Spain continues to claim sovereignty over Gibraltar, which has been ruled by Britain since 1713 under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht.

Queen Sofia's husband, King Juan Carlos, had already declined his invitation to the lunch at Windsor Castle on Friday.

He is recovering from surgery last month after he fell and broke his hip while hunting elephants in Botswana.

In 1981, the Spanish royal couple declined an invitation to Prince Charles's wedding ana, Princess of Wales because they planned to visit Gibraltar as part of their honeymoon.

And a visit by Princess Anne to Gibraltar in 2009 sparked an official complaint from the Spanish government.

An additional cause of unhappiness for the Spanish royal household is the fact that the British regimental band of Gibraltar will be performing at the Diamond Jubilee, reports the Spanish news agency Efe.

A spokesman for the UK Foreign Office told the AFP news agency: "The visit was a private commitment and we don't comment on private visits."

Image caption Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko left Japan on Wednesday for a five-day visit to the UK

Sovereign's lunch

Officials at Buckingham Palace have refused to confirm which monarchs are attending the lunch on Friday, but the BBC's royal correspondent Peter Hunt said Prince Albert of Monaco and the Emperor of Japan would be at Windsor Castle.

Emperor Akihito, who is 78, underwent heart surgery in February and only returned to full official duties in April.

Swaziland's King Mswati III, who critics accuse of leading a "lavish lifestyle" while his people starve, is among those attending.

Protests were held outside the Savoy hotel in London on Wednesday by Swazis living in the UK, who claim two-thirds of people in Swaziland are living in extreme poverty.

Our correspondent said the King of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, could also attend, despite public unrest in the country and accusations of human rights abuses.

The lunch will be followed by an evening banquet at Buckingham Palace, hosted by the Prince of Wales.

More on this story