Palacio Real de Madrid

“Long before Madrid became the capital of Spain, Emir Mohamed I chose Magerit (the city’s Arabic name) as the site for a fortress to protect Toledo from the advancing Christians. The building was eventually used by the Kings of Castile until finally becoming what would be known as the Antiguo Alcázar (Old Fortress) in the 14th century. Carlos I and his son Felipe II turned the building into a permanent residence for the Spanish royal family. However, in 1734 a fire burnt the Palace of Los Austrias to the ground, and Felipe V ordered the construction of the palace that stands today.”



Madrid becomes the capital of Espana in 1561. This location was the center of civic and religious government for Florida until 1821.

Spanish Florida was established in 1513 when Juan Ponce de León claimed peninsular Florida for Spain during the first official European expedition to North America. The presidio of St. Augustine was founded on Florida’s Atlantic coast in 1565; a series of missions were established across the Florida panhandle during the 1600s; and Pensacola was founded on the western Florida panhandle in 1698, strengthening Spanish claims to that section of the territory. Spanish Florida did not cease to exist until 1821. (Wikipedia)

Felipe V was monarch from 1700-1746. He was the grandson of Louis XIV. He was born in Versailles and was the first French Bourbon king of Spain, which still rules to this day. He intended to build a type of Versailles in Madrid.

Carlos III was the son of Felipe V. He ruled Spain from 1759 to 1788. Before becoming King of Spain, Carlos III lived in Italy for 19 years.

The French and Italian influence on Spanish culture and specifically the Palacio Real is readily apparent. The architects and artists are all Italian. The plans were based on Bernini’s design for Versailles by Filippo Juvarra and Giovanni Battista Sacchetti in cooperation with Ventura Rodríguez, Francesco Sabatini, and Martín Sarmiento. King Carlos III first occupied the new palace in 1764.

Sculptures of the Kings of Spain, including Aztec ruler Moctezuma II and the Inca emperor Atahualpa.


Grand Staircase

Built by Sabatini in 1789 when Carlos IV wanted it moved to the opposite side of where Sabatini placed it in 1760, it is composed of a single piece of San Agustin marble. The frescoes on the ceiling are by Corrado Giaquinto and depict Religion Protected by Spain. On the ground floor is a statue of Carlos III in Roman toga, with a similar statue on the first floor depicting Carlos IV. The four cartouches at the corners depict the elements of water, earth, air, and fire.

to the right of the door to find a white marble bust of Felipe V.

Guard Room

The fine inlaid stone table in this room is important to Spaniards because it was here, in 1985, that the king signed the treaty finalizing Spain’s entry into the European Union.

the fresco by Tiepolo, Venus, and Vulcan.

Rooms of Carlos III

Carlos III spent his formative years in Italy. He then refers to Trajan and Hadrian, two Roman Emperors born in Spain.

Gasparini Room

The entire room is designed, top to bottom, as a single gold-green-pink ensemble: from the frescoed ceiling to the painted stucco figures, silk-embroidered walls, chandelier, furniture, and multicolored marble floor. Each marble was quarried in and therefore represents, a different region of Spain. Birds overhead spread their wings, vines sprout, and fruit bulges from the surface. With curlicues everywhere (including their reflection in the mirrors), the room dazzles the eye and mind. It’s a triumph of the Rococo style, with exotic motifs such as the Chinese people sculpted into the corners of the ceiling. (These figures, like many in the palace, were formed from stucco, or wet plaster.) The fabric gracing the walls was recently restored. Sixty people spent three years replacing the rotten silk fabric and then embroidering back on the silver, silk, and gold threads. (Steves, Rick. Rick Steves Spain 2016 (Kindle Locations 8481-8487). Avalon Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

Queen’s Apartment or Banquet Hall

Formerly the queen’s apartments under Carlos III, the three rooms were converted into a banquet hall by Alfonso XII in 1879 and completed in 1885. The three ceiling frescoes remained though, Dawn in Her Chariot by Raphael Mengs, Christopher Columbus Offering the New World to the Catholic Monarchs by Alejandro González Velázquez, and Boabdil Giving the Keys to Granada to the Catholic Monarchs by Francisco Bayeu y Subías.

Carlos III Bedroom: 

Carlos III died here in his bed in 1788. His grandson, Ferdinand VII, redid the room to honor the great man. The room’s blue color scheme recalls the blue-clad monks of Carlos III’s religious order. A portrait of Carlos III (in blue) hangs on the wall. The ceiling fresco shows Carlos III establishing his order, with its various (female) Virtues. At the base of the ceiling (near the harp player) find the baby in his mother’s arms— that would be Ferdy himself, the long-sought male heir, preparing to continue Carlos III’s dynasty. The chandelier is in the shape of the fleur-de-lis (the symbol of the Bourbon family) capped with a Spanish crown. (Steves, Rick. Rick Steves Spain 2016 (Kindle Locations 8501-8506). Avalon Publishing. Kindle Edition. )

Throne Room: 

This room, where the Spanish monarchs preside, is one of the palace’s most glorious. And it holds many of the oldest and most precious things in the palace: silver-and-crystal chandeliers (from Venice’s Murano Island), elaborate lions, and black bronze statues from the fortress that stood here before the 1734 fire. The 12 mirrors, impressively large in their day, each represent a different month. The throne stands under a gilded canopy, on a raised platform, guarded by four lions (symbols of power found throughout the palace). The coat of arms above the throne shows the complexity of the Bourbon empire across Europe— which, in the 18th century, included Tirol, Sicily, Burgundy, the Netherlands, and more. Though the room was decorated under Carlos III (late 18th century), the throne itself dates only from 1977. In Spain, a new throne is built for each king or queen, complete with a gilded portrait on the back. The room’s chairs also indicate the previous monarchs—“ JC I” and “Sofía.” With Juan Carlos’ abdication, the chairs may not have changed names yet. Today, this room is where the king’s guests salute him before they move on to dinner. He receives them relatively informally… standing at floor level, rather than seated upon the throne. The ceiling fresco (1764) is the last great work by Tiepolo (see sidebar on here), who died in Madrid in 1770. His vast painting (88 × 32 feet) celebrates the vast Spanish empire— upon which the sun also never set. The Greek gods look down from the clouds, overseeing Spain’s empire, whose territories are represented by the people ringing the edges of the ceiling. Find the Native American (hint: follow the rainbow to the macho red-caped conquistador who motions to someone he has conquered). From the near end of the room (where tourists stand), look up to admire Tiepolo’s skill at making a pillar seem to shoot straight up into the sky. The pillar’s pedestal has an inscription celebrating Tiepolo’s boss, Carlos III (“ Carole Magna”). Notice how the painting spills over the gilded wood frame, where 3-D statues recline alongside 2-D painted figures. All of the throne room’s decorations— the fresco, gold garlands, mythological statues, and wall medallions— unite in a multimedia extravaganza. (Steves, Rick. Rick Steves Spain 2016 (Kindle Locations 8550-8553). Avalon Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

John William Bailly 25 April 2022

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