The Queen of Spain and the Prince of Wales join for a royal visit to the Bishop of Auckland

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he Prince of Wales and the Queen of Spain have united in their common love of art to open a new gallery which is part of a remarkable regeneration programme.

Charles and Queen Letizia, 49, visited Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, one of Europe’s best-preserved Bishop’s Palaces, which is at the center of an ambitious project funded by a city philanthropist.

The Prince and Queen met at Auckland Castle before officially opening the city’s Spanish Gallery (Owen Humphreys/PA) / PA wire

Founded by Jonathan Ruffer and his wife Jane, the Auckland Project aims to bring tourism to Bishop Auckland using art, faith and heritage.

It includes a collection of galleries, gardens, parks and the spectacular Kynren pageant shows, which take place during the summer.

Once the residence of the powerful Prince-Bishops of Durham, the 900-year-old Auckland Castle has recently reopened after undergoing extensive conservation work, which has restored its state rooms to their original Georgian Gothic splendour. ‘origin.

It houses the 13 life-size figures painted by Francisco de Zurbaran, which were originally brought by Bishop Trevor in 1756 and have since hung in the long dining room.

Queen Letizia, who has raised the profile of Spanish cultural projects around the world in recent years, arrived in an Audi A6 with the SPA IN license plate.

Charles, 73, kissed her on both cheeks and kissed her hand as he welcomed her to the castle.

The Queen has raised the profile of Spanish cultural projects around the world (Owen Humphreys/PA) / PA wire

Mr Ruffer was unable to attend the long-planned meeting as he was self-isolating, watching from an upstairs window from his house at the castle gates.

He saved the Zurburans from sale after donating £15million to the Church of England, kickstarting the regeneration project.

Mr Ruffer has also funded a new Spanish Gallery in the city center – the only space in the UK dedicated to Spanish art – where the Queen and Prince have seen paintings such as El Greco’s The Holy Family and Cherubs Scattering Flowers by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

It was the Queen’s first visit to the Bishop of Auckland, although Charles has been here before and met Mr Ruffer on several occasions.

The royal event took place after the Auckland Project invited them to come and officially open the gallery.

Spain’s Queen Letizia speaks to schoolchildren who waved UK and Spanish flags (Owen Humphreys/PA) / PA wire

Schoolchildren waited outside the gallery waving flags of Spain and the UK and cheered as the royal party walked out.

Project Auckland volunteer Ann Turnbull, from Crook, County Durham, shook hands with the Queen.

She said: “I thought she was wonderful, very classy, ​​beautiful.

“I said ‘welcome to Bishop Auckland’ and she said the gallery was beautiful.”

Rafa de Miguel, a London-based reporter for El Pais newspaper who covered the royal visit as part of a large Spanish media contingent, said: “It’s very impressive.

“The whole exhibit is beautiful, with great taste in the way they presented it.”

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