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Tomorrow's Sovereign's Lunch Gets Political as Spanish Queen Cancels, and King of Bahrain is Expected

Tomorrow’s Sovereign’s Lunch, to be hosted by the Queen at Windsor castle is turning out to be a surprisingly controversial affair.

Human rights activists are expected in force to protest the invitation of the King of Bahrain, when the Arab country is in the grip of a popular uprising being suppressed by government forces, and now Spain's Queen Sofia has snubbed Britain's royal family by cancelling in protest at an upcoming visit by Prince Edward to the British territory of Gibraltar, which lies just off the coast of Spain.

In a surprisingly forthright statement, the royal palace in Madrid said, "The government has considered that, under the current circumstances, in would be inappropriate for Queen Sofia to attend Queen Elizabeth's jubilee."Spain has long claimed sovereignty over the Rock of Gibraltar, which has been British for the past 300 years, but relations between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar have deteriorated since Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's People's party took power in December.

The British ambassador was summoned to Spain's foreign ministry to discuss Prince Edward's planned June trip to the Rock.

"During the course of the conversation, and amongst other topics, [officials] were able to express the disgust and upset of the government for the visit of the royal highnesses the Count and Countess of Wessex to Gibraltar from June 11 to 13," a foreign ministry statement said at the time.

The Guardian in the UK says that the cancellation comes as Spain's royal family is under intense scrutiny at home after King Juan Carlos was forced to apologise for going elephant-hunting in Botswana while ordinary Spaniards suffered austerity, recession and unemployment, and added that Sofia’s trip to join in the celebrations may also have looked awkward alongside the complete absence of public celebration in Spain to mark the golden wedding of Sofia and Juan Carlos last week.

The couple are reported to be effectively separated, with Sofia reportedly spending much of her time abroad with her daughters.