1 day in Madrid with Benjamin Franklin

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CATEGORY |1 day programs |

EXPERIENCE |Special Madrid |

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN |Architecture |Classical Art |History |


In 1776, Benjamin Franklin intended to leave Paris for Madrid, where he was looking for an alliance between the 13 Colonies and Spain against England. But, having been advised by the Spanish ambassador in Paris to postpone his travel, it was delayed forever. Can we imagine what would have been a day of Benjamin Franklin in Madrid that year? Let’s discover it as members of a hypothetic American delegation.

Having a full morning ahead before being received at the Royal Palace, we might have started the day at the Royal Academy, where the teaching of art had at last produced a generation of amazing artists: that of Goya, who was just starting his career in Madrid then. Even today, the Royal Academy is a mandatory visit for those who love Goya, but keeps more than just one surprise for art lovers in general. The building itself would have had a special interest for Benjamin Franklin’s economist-eye, since it had been the headquarters of Goyeneche’s tobacco monopoly. 

He would then walk towards the Royal Palace, but stopping at a certain number of places (Royal Post Office, Torre de los Lujanes, house of Domingo Trespalacios, Palacio Grimaldi Tribunal of Inquisition) which had a special interest for Benjamin Franklin or where he could meet influential statesmen and intellectuals.

Franklin’s audience at the Royal Palace might have lasted one hour and a half, which would be enough for us, his kinsmen, to visit the palatine complex. There was all the power and ideology of Charles III turned into stone and art. With its architectural symbolism, the Bourbon’s Palace also acknowledged the importance America had for Spain. During an hour and a half, we would collect evidences of it.

After the Royal Palace, we would knock at the door of Campomanes (magistrate in charge of the agricultural reform) and Bishop Lorenzana (a man with a vast knowledge of the eastern coast of North America) and invite them for lunch at a famous 18th century restaurant.
Then, on our way to Saint Francis the Great (a temple whose architecture expressed Charles III wish of religion illuminated by reason) we could have had coffee with three important enlightened aristocrats (the Prince of Anglona, the Duke of Infantado or the Marquis of Villafranca) at any of their palaces.

Late afternoon’ walk would connect a number of places where Bourbon’s reforms and enlightened personalities would have satisfied Franklin’s curiosity (Reales Estudios San Isidro, House of Corporations, Palace of Tepa, Palace of Goyeneche, House of la Mesta, Nuevo Rezado, Chirurgic Faculty, General Hospital, Royal Observatory, Royal Botanic Garden, Silver and Chrystal Manufactures , Prado Promenade, the Natural History Museum, Hydrographic Deposit) ending at the Bank of Spain, which, in the end, can be considered the best evidence that his diplomatic mission had been somehow successful.

The story line of this 10am-7pm tour would have provided us with the opportunity to see and understand 18th century Spain, as well as the historical city center of Madrid and two must-see landmarks: the Royal Academy and the Royal Palace.

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