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The Queen warmly welcomes Spain's King Felipe and Queen Letizia to the UK

The Spanish royals are on a three-day state visit

by Gemma Strong

The Queen has officially welcomed Spain's King Felipe and Queen Letizia to the UK at the start of their three-day state visit. The British monarch and her husband Prince Philip personally greeted the Spanish royals at Horse Guards Parade in London on Wednesday morning. Felipe and Letizia, who arrived privately in the UK at Luton Airport on Tuesday, had earlier been met at their London hotel by Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall. Together the quartet then travelled to the Whitehall parade ground in a carriage, to be met by the Queen and the Duke.

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Queen Letizia and King Felipe have arrived in the UK for the start of their state visit

With pleasantries exchanged, the Guard of Honour gave a Royal Salute as the Spanish Nation Anthem rang out. King Felipe, accompanied by Philip, then inspected the Guard of Honour, which was the 1st Battalion Irish Guards. Following the inspection, the guests joined the Queen and the Duke for a state carriage procession along the Mall to Buckingham Palace.

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The Spanish royals were met at their London hotel by Prince Charles and Camilla

Felipe and Letizia are set to enjoy a private lunch at the Palace, hosted by the Queen, and will then view an exhibition in the Picture Gallery from the Royal Collection relating to Spain. In the afternoon, they will meet with Prince Charles and Camilla for tea at Clarence House. They will then visit the Palace of Westminster, where they will be welcomed by the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker. King Felipe will deliver an address, before the royal couple attend a reception with members and invited guests.

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The Queen with King Felipe of Spain

On Wednesday evening, the Queen will host a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace in honour of her special guests, with Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge all expected to attend. It's the first time that Prince Harry has taken part in a state visit; on Thursday, he will accompany Felipe and Letizia to Westminster Abbey to lay a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.

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This is the first state visit to the UK by a Spanish king since Felipe's father, Juan Carlos, came 31 years ago. The Queen and Prince Philip last visited Spain in 1998, while Charles and Camilla paid an official visit in 2011. It is thought this will be Prince Philip's last state visit before he retires from public duties after the summer.