For those of you have been to Seville the scene in the picture above will be a familiar one (probably including the blue sky and the queue to go into the Alcázar palaces). The location is the original 10th century west wall of the palace complex in the corner of the Plaza Triunfo, alongside the Lion Gate, the “modern” (12th century) entrance, and apart from being big and old and rugged, there doesn’t seem to be anything overtly unusual to be seen.
Take a look at the photo below, however, and something seems to be amiss. “Why,” you may ask, “is there a rather ordinary looking house built against the wall of the castle”? This question was apparently asked by the reigning Spanish king, Alfonso XIII, in 1907, during a visit to Seville (the Alcázar is still an official royal residence, so he was on his way to spend the night there). Now I can’t precisely answer the why part of that question, but I can say that the house belonged to one Juan Diente (John Tooth), a government employee who worked in the grounds of the palace.
The king’s chance remark, however, was to have immediate repercussions. No sooner had the monarch passed beyond sight and hearing through the palace gate, than the mayor issued his instructions. John Tooth, his family and belongings were removed from the house (they were provided accommodation elsewhere, so it could have been worse), the demolition team moved in to pull the building to the ground, and the rubble removed on donkeys. By the time the king emerged from the palace the following day, nothing remained to show where the house of John Tooth had once stood.
History does not record whether the king noticed or remarked upon the change.