Hundreds of Catalan independence supporters have taken to the streets to protest a visit by King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia.

The visit from the royals was billed as a tour to boost morale during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Catalan leg of the tour was initially planned for last week, covering several towns and Barcelona, but the palace said it had postponed it and scaled it back to a short visit to a monastery because of the spike in virus cases in and around the area.

Protesters on Monday carried photos of Felipe upside down and letters completing the sentence “Catalonia doesn’t have a king” during a march organised by ANC, the region’s largest pro-independence civil society group.

“Are the king and the queen here to promote tourism? What they promote is repulsiveness,” protester Marta Martí told the Press Association.

“They know we don’t want them. But they come here to test our patience.”

READ MORE: Protests erupt as Spain convicts leading Catalan separatists

Spain Catalonia Royal VisitSpain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia visit the Royal Monastery of Poblet (David Zorrakino/Europa Press via AP)

Tensions between separatists in Catalonia, which has a population of 7.5 million, and those in support of Spanish unity has long been an undercurrent of the area.

Clashes, however, came to a head in late 2017 after a banned referendum was met with police violence, and prompted the prosecution of top elected officials and activists.

“We want democracy, simply democracy,” said school teacher Marcel Barbosa speaking to the Press Association, adding that the king had shown disrespect for Catalans’ demands for independence.

“They know they are going to lose and that they will need to leave, that’s why we are not allowed to vote.”

Protesters marched to the Royal Monastery of Poblet, which the king and the queen were visiting, but police blocked access at the main road.

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All protesters left after the end of the visit after some had attempted to reach the monastery.

The visit came amid mounting media reports accusing the king’s father, former monarch Juan Carlos I, of allegedly hiding millions of untaxed euros in offshore funds.

Prosecutors in the country’s Supreme Court are determining whether Juan Carlos can be investigated for allegedly receiving the funds from Saudi Arabia, possibly as kickbacks for a high-speed railway project.