Poet Laureate Sherry served to Spanish royalty on UK state visit

The King and Queen of Spain were served Sherry selected by Poet Laureate Dame Carol Anne Duffy during their state visit to the UK this week – a nod to a 400-year-old custom that has seen producers gift each successive Laureate with a butt of Sherry.

Queen Elizabeth II and Spain’s King Felipe in London during the King’s state visit to the UK.

UK monarchs have appointed an official poet since 1630, with Dame Duffy appointed to the position of Poet Laureate in Ordinary to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – the first woman ever appointed to the role – in 2009.

Traditionally, the Poet Laureate has been rewarded with a small stipend and a Butt of Sherry (once called Sherry Sack) since 1630, when the poet Ben Jonson received it for the first time. This continued until 1790 when the Laureate of the day, Henry Pye, relinquished his Butt for a payment of £27 per year.

In 1984, to mark over 600 years of the trade in Sherry between the two countries, the Sherry producers of Spain offered to revive the custom on the appointment of Ted Hughes as Poet Laureate. He travelled to Jerez in Spain, chose some Sherry and signed his cask, a traditional mark of respect for distinguished visitors.

During their visit to Buckingham Palace yesterday the King and Queen of Spain were shown an exhibition of historic items relating to the long trading relationship between the two countries, drawn from The Royal Collection, including Poet Laureate Dame Carol Anne Duffy’s commemorative butt, containing ‘Laureates Choice’ Manzanilla Sherry.

At a Royal lunch guests were served the Manzanilla Sherry, specially bottled for Dame Duffy, who like Hughes chose her cask in Jerez upon her appointment.

The Laureate’s Sherry is bottled using each poet’s own label, with Duffy’s carrying a poem ‘In Jerez’ on its back label, and artwork by textual artist Steven Raw.

The Duke of Cambridge, the Prince of Wales, and the Duchess of Cornwall

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