SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK:The king has become a polarizing figure in Catalonia since making a rare political intervention at the height of the secession crisis, when he called pro-independence leaders irresponsible and undemocratic.

He visited regional capital Barcelona on Sunday to host a dinner for a mobile phone industry meeting.

Catalan separatists burned photographs of the king and blocked roads in downtown Barcelona.

Protesters carried banners with slogans such as “Stop Repression” and “Rotten Bourbons”, referring to Spain’s royal house. They threw eggs at the regional police at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) where the dinner was held.

The king’s presence in Barcelona comes at a delicate moment for Spanish politics as twelve Catalan separatist leaders are being tried in Madrid over the independence drive.

Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called early elections for April 28 after Catalan pro-independence parties joined opposition parties in defeating his 2019 budget bill.