The Royal Palace of Madrid is one of the tourist spots in the city capital despite being the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family. The Royal Palace stages state ceremonies and the Royal Family lives in the Zarzuela Palace in El Pardo complex. Henceforth, millions visit the Palacio Real de Madrid each year. Like most of such palatial homes, the Royal Palace has a rich history seeped in Spanish architecture.
The present palace is recent compared to the citadel cum palace constructed atop a hill that overlooked the Manzanares River in prehistoric Spain, the era of Islamic moors to be precise. The original structure on top of the site was actually erected amid 860 to 880 AD by Muhammad I of Córdoba. The invasion of Christians from the Castile Kingdom from up north alongside Leon kingdom and Aragon Kingdom made it mandatory to improve defense in Toledo region especially. Henceforth, the spot of the fortress was selected as a defense strategy to protect invasion from across the river and tackle the advances of Hispanics.
Intended to protect Mayrit city, the palace included not just the citadel but also a mosque, the home of the Emir, and a playground. Prehistoric writings suggest it was below 10 acres and was expanded since then keeping intact the core structure. The photographic evidence of the Royal Palace of Madrid as of now shows the renovated palace alongside remains of the old palace featuring semicircular turrets. Quite like the remains of Islamic Spain, the city was captured by the invaders from Leon and Castile Kingdoms in 1083, at which point the moors were ousted by the Christians.
Madrid town was incorporated years later and the citadel remained as the military outpost for a major part of prehistoric Spain. Alfonso XI of Castile held court inside the city capital in 1329 for the first time ever it is said. Henry III of Castile added new towers on the citadel, and John II of Castile added the royal chapel and a living room as well. Charles V decided to held court following the ‘Revolt of the Comuneros’ and commanded to renovate the Alcázar. This went on to renovate the Moorish foundations with Baroque architecture, which the countrymen favored.
The palatial renovations continued in the centuries to come, making Madrid the capital of the growing Spanish Empire, and the Alcázar was adopted by the King of Spain as the principal residence. The citadel went on to become the ‘Real Alcázar de Madrid’, which was derived from the Arabic word for fortress rhymed ‘al qasr’. However, a fire that occurred on the Christmas Eve of 1734 destroyed the palatial structure. The palace guards noted the fire and trigged an alarm to get help, which went in vain due to the celebrations following Christmas day. Consequently, the fire also destroyed countless valuable objects, artworks, and artifacts stored inside the palace.
Still, many items were salvaged from the Royal Chapel before the fire could spread there. King Phillip V decided to move heirlooms to Buen Retiro Palace beforehand, which also salvaged potential damage from fire. It also set off reconstruction works of the palace. The final phase of the renovations happened in 19th Century, which was when Alfonso XII of Spain ordered to reconstruct the rooms with a Victorian architecture instead of the previous Baroque style from Italy.
Spanish Architect José Segundo de Lema was commissioned to complete the rooms, which made the Palacio Real largest palace in Madrid and Europe. The palace has over 3400 rooms, and more than 13000 square meters making it larger than Palace of Versailles and Buckingham Palace.
From the Palace to Royal Home More History
When the republican President ruled the first Spanish republic, the palace was started to be addressed as Palacio Real. The President of Spanish Second Republic Manuel Azaña was the last sovereign head to have held office from 1936 until he was overthrown by factitious Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War in 1939.
Upon ousting the government, Francisco Franco chose not to inhabit the Palace in Madrid perhaps as a sign of respect for the monarchy. However, Franco had inhabited another eponymous royal palace in Madrid residing at the Mount of El Pardo and Madrid’s Royal Palace has not been used as an official residence for a long time to come.
When Juan Carlos I of Spain was restored to his throne in 1975, following Francisco Franco’s death, the palace was again chosen as the palatial home of the King of Spain. Subsequently, the palace went on to become a coveted tourist spot in the city capital and hosted ceremonial and diplomatic events every year since then, despite not being the residence of the King of Spain.