Letters of credence accredit that the holder is a foreign ambassador as representative of their country in Spain. The presentation ceremony to His Majesty the King is one of the oldest still taking place in the world.
Letters of credence are documents that accredit a foreign ambassador as the representative and most senior diplomatic dignitary of another country in Spain. The presentation ceremony to His Majesty the King is one of the oldest traditions in the world. Its origin dates back to the reign of Felipe II. A key figure in the ceremony is the Introducer of Ambassadors, a post that derives from the “Royal Butler” and subsequently the “Introducer”, who is commissioned with receiving foreign ambassadors on their arrival to Spain and, upon receiving their copies of style, authorises the start of their work in our country, although this cannot be fully developed until their letters of credence are handed over to His Majesty.
Arrival in Madrid. Reception of the new ambassador and handing over of the copies of style
The copies of style of the letters of credence, in which the government of the accrediting State informs of the appointment of the ambassador are handed over, together with the ‘Letters of Recall’, which notify the end of the mission of the previous ambassador, to the Introducer of Ambassadors at their official office in the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation at Santa Cruz Palace. This allows the new ambassador to start to interact with all the Spanish authorities and institutions and with foreign diplomatic corps. They must only abstain from attending those acts involving the presence of Their Majesties the King and Queen until such time as they have presented their letters of credence.
Visit to Santa Cruz Palace, headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation
On the day of the presentation of the letters of credence, a diplomat accompanies the new ambassador from their residence to Santa Cruz Palace, the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, where they are received in the Ambassadors’ Hall by the Deputy Introducer of Ambassadors and by other senior officials from the ministerial department.
Upon leaving this hall, the ambassador and the members of the embassy are saluted by the Royal Horse Guard. The members of the embassy sit in the carriage known as the “Paris Carriage”, drawn by two horses, with a driver and footmen, and the ambassador and the Spanish diplomat that accompanies them sit in the gala carriage, drawn by six horses, with a postilion, grooms, footmen and a driver. These carriages date back, respectively, to the reigns of Isabella II and Alfonso XII, while the staff uniforms that operate them date back to Carlos III.
The Royal Horse Guard accompanies the cavalcade to the Royal Palace, crossing Plaza Mayor and travelling down Calle Mayor and Calle Bailén to the Patio of the Royal Armoury. As the ambassador’s carriage passes this Patio, the Royal Horse Guard salute them by playing the national anthem of their country.
Ceremony at the Royal Palace
The ambassador and entourage climb the Ambassadors’ Steps. The Introducer of Ambassadors accompanies them, from there, through the Royal Guards’ Room, the Columns Room and the Gasparini Room to the Throne Room, where the Head of Protocol of the Royal Household of His Majesty the King awaits them. They then proceed to the Royal Antechamber through the Teniers Room.
The ceremony to hand over the letters of credence takes place in the Official Chamber, where His Majesty is present, accompanied by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation.
The Introducer of Ambassadors announces the new ambassador with their official title in their own country; the new ambassador presents their letters of credence to His Majesty who, in turn, hands them over to the minister. The ambassador presents the other embassy officials to His Majesty before moving to the Nuncio Room to hold a brief meeting with His Majesty and the minister.
Once completed, the ambassador, the diplomat and the officials from the Mission leave the Official Chamber and return to the embassy. Upon leaving the Royal Palace, a Section of Fifers and Drummers of the Royal Guard play the National Anthem of Spain.