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The story of Real Madrid’s royal patronage

This year marks 100 years since Madrid FC became Real Madrid FC

Real Madrid v Manchester City FC - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

2020 marks the centenary year of Real Madrid’s royal patronage when the club, then known as Madrid FC, received King Alfonso XIII permission to call themselves Real Madrid and to include a crown on the club emblem. Although, on first glance, this “story” seems a rather straightforward and already well told tale, it does have some interesting turns and some forgotten elements.

But first, lets start with the basics. Real Madrid, then Madrid FC, received its royal patronage in 1920. They were among the last clubs to receive the title with King Alfonso first bestowing patronage on Real Sociedad in 1912. Although its technically 100 years since Madrid FC became Real Madrid, this year does not mark 100 years of Los Blancos being called Real Madrid largely thanks to the ever shifting political landscape of early 20th century Spain.

Outside of bestowing royal titles on football clubs, King Alfonso was a deeply unpopular figure due to his meddling in Spanish parliament. In 1923, the king only escaped a life in exile thanks to a military coup, led by Miguel Primera Rivera. When the military dictator was overthrown in 1929 and a Republic was ushered in, all mention of the royal family, including the family itself, was banished from Spanish life.

Hence, from 1931 onwards, Real Madrid were once again called Madrid FC and, instead of a crown, a purple strip was placed across the club badge to symbolise the new republic. This strip has remained in the club badge, darkening as the decades have gone by.

A collection of Real Madrid’s badges across its history. The purple strip on the badge was added in 1931 rather than 1925.

In 1941, Francisco Franco allowed Madrid FC to reinstate its “Real” prefix and return the crown to its badge. Real Madrid continued to have a connection with the Spanish royal family into the 1950s. When the club visited Switzerland for its first ever European Cup match against Servette, Raimundo Saporta pulled strings for the team to meet the exiled royal family in Geneva and take a picture. That photo was later leaked to the press, much to the disgust of the Franco regime.

When the first half of that match against Servette finished 0-0, Prince Juan Carlos was supposedly brought into the dressing room to give the squad a morale boost. Given that a large contingent of Real Madrid’s dressing room at the time wasn’t Spanish, it difficult to say what influence the young prince’s appearance had on the team eventual 1-0 victory. Nonetheless, it clearly left some sort of impression on Carlos as he is, to this day, a Real Madrid fan.