The establishing of the King Alfonso XIII Professorship

The King Alfonso XIII Professorship of Spanish Literature was established in 1927.  'A Mansion House Committee with the Lord Mayor of London as its chairman collected £25,000 and gave it to the University to establish [the Professorship]', Firth tells us (though exactly why that should have happened at that particular time remains unclear).  The gift was conditional on the University's contributing £600 p.a. to cover the costs of a Lecturer as well as the running costs of a Spanish Departmental Library.  Since the start, an associated non-stipendiary Fellowship at Exeter College has been linked to the Professorship. 

The King Alfonso XIII Professors

Salvador de Madariaga
(1886-1978), the distinguished writer and Spanish statesman, was appointed as the first King Alfonso XIII Professor in 1928, remaining until 1931.  He had studied engineering in France and worked as an engineer for a French-run company in Spain, before being appointed as head of the British propaganda campaign for Spanish-speaking countries in 1916.  He worked as London correspondent of several Spanish newspapers until 1921, when he transferred to the press office of the League of Nations (in Geneva, then New York). 

Madariaga was accepted as Ambassador of the Spanish Republic in Washington in 1931 and became Spanish Ambassador in Paris in 1932, as well as member of the Spanish Delegation to the League of Nations in Geneva (of which he was later President).  He became Minister of Education in Madrid in 1934.  He returned to Oxford during the 2nd World War, and contined to exert much influence despite no longer holding a University post.  On 30 July 1966, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate.  He returned to Spain after Franco's death.  In 1976, he was admitted to Seat M in the Royal Spanish Academy – an honour to which he had been elected in 1936.  Madariaga's many publications include Semblanzas literarias contemporáneas (= The Genius of Spain) (1923); Guía al lector del Quijote (1926) (pub. in English in 1934); and Englishmen, Frenchmen and Spaniards (1928), published in all 3 languages, which was his best-selling work. 

William Entwistle (1895-1952) was born Cheng Yang Kwan in China, where his parents were both missionaries of Scottish origin.  He was appointed in 1932, having previously been (the first) Lecturer in charge of Spanish Studies at the University of Manchester in 1921, and, from 1925, having held the Stevenson Professorship of Spanish at the University of Glasgow.  He was Visiting Professor at the Universities of Pennsylvania and California.  In Oxford, he was instrumental in getting Portuguese Studies recognised as a full Honour Subject.  He remained in post until his death.  He was awarded many honours, both British (FBA 1950) and foreign (Portugal, Spain including Catalonia, Brazil, the US and Norway).  His numerous publications included The Arthurian Legend in the Literatures of the Spanish Peninsula (1925), The Spanish Language (1936), and European Balladry (1939). 

Sir Peter Russell was a Fellow of Queen's College and University Lecturer in Spanish Studies 1946-53, then Fellow of Exeter until 1981.  >From 1982 to 1987, he was Visiting Professor at a number of American universities.  Member of the UGC Committee on Latin-American Studies in British Universities, 1962-64, his honours include: Real Academia de Buenas Letras, Barcelona, 1972; Fellow of the Royal Historical Society; Premio Antonio de Nebrija, Univ. of Salamanca, 1989; Commander, Order of Isabel la Católica (Spain), 1989, and of the Order of the Infante Dom Henrique (Portugal), 1993.  He was knighted in 1995.  His numerous publications include (ed.) Spain: a Companion to Spanish Studies, 1973 (Spanish edn., 1982); Temas de la Celestina y otros estudios (del Cid al Quijote), 1978; Prince Henry the Navigator, 1984; Cervantes, 1985; La Celestina, 1991; and many articles and reviews in the Modern Language Review, Medium Aevum and the Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (etc.).

Ian D.L. Michael was appointed in 1982, and remained until his retirement in 2003.  He previously held posts at Manchester and Southampton, where he was Professor of Spanish 1971-82.   He was President of the Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland 1990-92.  He became Commander of the Order of Isabel la Católica (Spain) in 1986 and Fellow of King's College London in 2001.  His publications include The Treatment of Classical Material in the 'Libro de Alexandre', 1970 and The Poem of the Cid (1975; 1984) and Poema de Mio Cid (1976;1979) as well as, under the name David Serafin, a series of detective novels set in Spain.

Edwin Williamson was appointed in 2003.  Professor Williamson previously held the Forbes Chair of Hispanic Studies at Edinburgh University, and academic posts at Trinity College, Dublin, and Birkbeck College, University of London.  He has been visiting professor at Stanford University, California, and at the Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil.  He was appointed Commander of the Order of Isabel la Católica in 2002.  His research and publications reflect his interests in both Latin America and the Golden Age of Spain.  A literary scholar as well as a historian, his books include The Half-Way House of Fiction: "Don Quixote" and Arthurian Romance (1984), The Penguin History of Latin America (1992), and Borges: A Life (2004).