The presence of king Felipe VI in Barcelona to take part in the ceremony in memory of the victims on the anniversary of last year's attacks was surrounded by high tension. The royal household was particularly concerned about avoiding a repetition of the scenes seen last year with the uproar against the monarch in plaça Catalunya which went as far as causing the then deputy prime minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría to have to leave the ceremony. This led to the king not taking part in the most emotional moment of the day, the laying of flowers on the Rambla itself. But more than that, it stopped Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez from attending too.
The monarch's presence was protected and limited to the ceremony in plaça Catalunya which, after pro-independence organisations called for politics to be left aside on Friday, was hogged to a large extent by unionists cheering Felipe VI.
The king didn't taken part in any of the other ceremonies in memory of the victims. He didn't attend the reception for the victims' relatives in Barcelona city hall, nor did he travel with them from there to the Rambla. Nor did he attend the laying of flowers on the Pla de l'Os mosaic, the place where the van came to a halt in the attack and which became the focus of tributes.
Although both the Rambla and plaça Catalunya were under tight security, the king didn't want to expose himself to the possibility of facing the protests that have accompanied him every time he's been to Catalonia and which have only grown in virulence after his speech on 3rd October last year.
But the monarch wasn't prepared for his absence to be unique, according to sources involved in organising the ceremonies. The sources say that it was pressure from the royal household which stopped the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, from attending the laying of the floral tributes.
According to the sources, the royal household refused to go the city hall or the pre-ceremony on the Rambla and pressured the Spanish prime minister to do the same.
Other sources say that the monarchs' refusal to go to the city hall is because Barcelona city council didn't agree to let Felipe VI and Pedro Sánchez give medals to the victims and their families during the visit.
Both the Spanish government and Barcelona council have done everything possible to avoid Felipe VI leaving Catalonia after another storm. After the unprecedented ruckus he faced last year, Barcelona had to turn up security high in February for the king to preside over the opening dinner of the Mobile World Congress, to a cold reception from Catalan authorities. This June, he had to award the Princess of Girona prizes on private property. Only the inauguration of the Mediterranean Games gave the king some respite, but only because the ceremony was held in a stadium which was practically empty.