King Felipe VI of Spain toured St. Augustine’s centuries-old Spanish-built castle and other historic sites in his country’s former colony before addressing hundreds of well-wishers from a balcony downtown on Friday.
Under cloudy skies, the king and his wife Letizia toured the oldest city in the U.S. to celebrate St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary and attend a meeting of the U.S.-Spain Council.
Waving Spanish flags and shouting “Long live Spain” in Spanish, throngs of people including children let out of school jammed St. Augustine’s central plaza to catch a glimpse of the glamorous royal couple.
King Felipe said he and his wife were touched by the outpouring, and impressed with the preservation of the Castillo de San Marcos, constructed in the 17th Century by Spanish forces to defend its colony.
“It is a true symbol of the imperishable ties that bind Spanish and Americans together,” he said from a balcony, standing next to Letizia and an actor dressed as a Spanish conquistador.
Because the city of St. Augustine has been continuously occupied since its Spanish founding 450 years ago, it is recognized as the oldest city in the U.S.
The royal couple was in Miami on Thursday, where Felipe gave a speech at Miami Dade College during fall commencement.
He also met with President Barack Obama on this trip, and the two discussed refugees.
The 47-year-old became king last year after his scandal-hit father, former King Juan Carlos, abdicated the throne.
On Friday, Felipe stood on the same balcony that his father used on his visit to St. Augustine 14 years ago.
Jill and David Cole, visiting from London, England, stood shouting their approval of the king and queen. They said they planned their visit for the city’s 450th birthday, and were excited to have a royal visit thrown in.
“We wanted to come here, wave the flag and see the king,” Jill said.
Dressed in a gray suit and flanked by Letizia, who wore a floral skirt and navy blue blouse, Felipe walked through the crowded plaza surrounded by security to lay a wreath at the base of the Spanish Constitution Monument.
The monument was erected in 1814, when the area was still under Spanish control.
“We are deeply touched by your warm affection,” the king told the crowd. “I assure you the feeling is mutual.”
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.