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Friday, March 23, 2007

Those dastardly British in Tenerife

The resorts on the south of Tenerife are, as everyone knows, full of British bars, with British names, run by Brits, serving the British clientele. In the island's capital, but that globalization in general has added sights like a McDonalds, a branch of The Body Shop and many other foreign businesses, Santa Cruz does still manage to put on a face of being a Spanish city port, even today.

Little more than a century previously, Santa Cruz had successfully repelled a British attack, but one hundred years ago (OK, 101, who's counting?) in 1906, Tenerife and, particularly Santa Cruz, may have seemed more British than it does now.

When King Alfonso XIII disembarked at the port of Santa Cruz on March 26th, 1906, for an 11 day stay, it was the first ever visit of a Spanish monarch to the archipelago.

Later in that same year, on May 31, 1906, King Alfonso XIII married British Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg (1887-1969) - a wedding marred by an assassination attempt - grandmother of King Juan Carlos. Victoria Eugenie was a niece of King Edward VII and a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, making the Spanish Royal Family direct descendants of Queen Victoria.

Perhaps this British link was the motivation for a huge sign for King Alfonso XIII's November 1906 visit, proclaiming "God Save King Alfonso", in English, seen here in the Plaza de la Candelaria (opposite the current McDonalds, if I'm not mistaken). Look closely and you'll see that it was above a Cafe Belge (Belgian Cafe), premises named "The Standard" and, with a Union Jack draped over the top of the door.

Amazing! But this still seems rather a surprising sight in Santa Cruz of the 1900s.

In 1889, those "Brits abroad" - described as the British colony - in Tenerife had gathered to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday. Colony is right: it's all "jolly afternoon tea and hats", but still looks uncomfortably just like the British Raj in India.

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