• Morgan Fagg

Flying the Flag in Europe

Updated: Feb 11, 2020

I couldn’t help but notice the Irish ambassador amongst the distinguished guests at the royal palace in Madrid, when I turned on the lunchtime news on Wednesday, February 5. The king was addressing the diplomatic corp at Palacio Real, and I decided to, grab my camera and take a look for myself.

The Palace was flying the royal standard when I arrived and palace horsemen shimmered in the bright sunlight of a Spring-like day in Spain. I always thought knights in shining armour was just a cliche but the shimmer of sunlight could be seen reflected off their bright yet probably ancient armour.

The armoury inside the palace displays armour used in the days of Columbus and the enormous palace which is almost twice the size of Buckingham Palace dates back to Felipe V's reign in 1735.

The palace as a fortress dates back hundreds of years but was transformed over the years and became an important central location when Felipe VI’s descendant Felipe II moved the Spanish capital to Madrid.

Felipe II’s geopolitical rule included having the Philippines named after him and earning the title of King of England and Ireland through his marriage to England’s Queen Mary.

Police patrolled the perimeter and men dressed in green, monitored things from the rooftop.

Through an archway, a plethora of parked cars shared the red CD number plate of the Corps Diplomatique.

Large black germanic cars left the building as the royal horses paraded up and down the street and I wondered if the Irish ambassador’s car would be embellished with the tricolour.

Some cars flew their national flags and while I didn’t see our ambassador’s car displaying the Irish flag, she has in my opinion, always flown the flag, ever since she received her credentials from the Spanish king in September 2017.

On the news, Felipe VI had talked about the need and importance of the diplomatic corps and the challenges we face in terms of tackling Climate Change and Human Rights.

According to the Daily Mail, the Queen was seen wearing the same beautiful velvet dress she had worn to a New Year's Eve party in 2018 which means that in 2020, even the Royal household has started recycling.

As the Irish Ambassador was driven away, I couldn’t help but notice that her car was an electric car and just like one swallow doesn’t make a Summer, one environmentally friendly green car doesn’t make much of a difference even if it was a good example for the other embassies to follow.

There is no point in embarrassing the Ambassador by listing her credentials and foreign affairs experience but when the king spoke of "Derechos Humanos", I couldn’t help but be reminded of our own ambassador who held a Human Rights night in December 2018 to honour an Irish woman who ran a tearoom in Madrid called “Embassy”.

While Margaret Kearney Taylor was not an actual ambassador, the restauranteur used her tearoom to cater to the finest of tastes in Madrid’s embassy district while at the same time secretly helping people to escape the holocaust in Nazi-controlled Europe.

The secret of Margaret Kearney Taylor remained a secret for decades but with the help of Ambassador Maguire and her own embassy staff, Europe’s horrible past was not forgotten nor those who risked so much to help the needy.

Margarita, as she was known in Spain, smuggled people out of her restaurant after having papers forged for them while they stayed in her upstairs apartment. All the time while high society drank tea, and dined on delicious cakes in the restaurant which was situated next to the German embassy.

(RTE documentary about Embassy: https://www.nohemingway.com/post/margaret-kearney-taylor)

It takes more than an electric car to keep Europe moving in the right direction but even as the line of black german cars ground to a halt at a nearby traffic light, the diplomatic congestion won’t stop our own ambassador from making sure that all the lights turn green, on Saint Patrick’s Day.

A bevy of Benz and BMWs, Audis and a Volkswagen drove past, there were a few Jaguars and I presume some hybrid Lexuses too. Or is that Lexii in Latin?

The slow-moving cars barely travelled fast enough to cause their flags to wave in the wind and by the time Japan’s Ambassador passed by in a large Lexus, it looked like they were waving a white flag.

The British embassy was the first car I saw leaving the palace which is hardly surprising as I can’t imagine the Ambassador wants to make much small talk, immediately after Brexit.

The Ukranian state car left flying the Roscommon flag and was followed by the Ambassador of the European Union and then the Irish Ambassador. I had actually expected the Americans or Russians to be following them instead.

The Lexuses were probably all hybrids since Toyota has offered hybrid engines since 1997 and many of the massive Mercedes might have been environmentally friendly of course but I didn’t notice any hybrid or electric markings except on the Irish car.

Not one to toot her own horn, our ever discreet ambassador didn’t parade her nationality with a tricolour flag yet patriotically drove around town, in a green car.

PAINTED BLACK: A line of diplomatic cars stuck in traffic outside Palacio Real.

BLACKLINE: A line of Mercedes Benz leaves the palace.

LONGWAY TO TIPPERARY: The Ukrainian Ambassador's car flying a blue and yellow flag.

LAND OF LEXUS: The Japanese flag flying high on a luxurious Lexus.

ON THE LOOK-OUT: On the ground, rooftops, and on horseback.

STABLE GROUND: Two horsemen pass-by an archway to the old royal stables.

VANGUARD: Old and new, call in the calvary and they will come in well-kitted out vans.

BEWARE OF THE HORSES: Two horsemen patrol outside the palace.

SIGN HERE: Walk this way, a policeman patrols by a palace entrance.

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