MADRID – Spain’s new King Felipe VI was proclaimed monarch at a formal ceremony in the country’s Parliament on Thursday, a deliberately low-key occasion for austere times and tarnished royal reputations.
Felipe swore an oath of allegiance to democratic principles in front of lawmakers and senators, who shouted “Viva el Rey!” (Long live the king!).
Although the 18th-century Spanish crown and 17th-century scepter were displayed next to the new monarch, authorities shunned an opulent coronation ceremony. The option for a relatively low-key proclamation was chosen out of sensitivity to the financial hardship endured by many Spaniards after a double-dip recession.
Even so, the cheering crowds and the pageantry provided a welcome distraction as Spaniards were reeling from their national team’s shock defeat by Chile in the World Cup in Brazil, which ended their hope of winning a second consecutive title.
Earlier, in his first official act since ascending to the throne after midnight, Felipe received the red sash of Captain General of the Armed Forces from his father Juan Carlos, who signed his abdication decree in favour of Felipe on Wednesday.
“We have a great country. We should all be proud of being Spaniards,” Felipe said at his swearing-in ceremony.
Felipe acknowledged a need to restore the monarchy’s image after recent royal scandals.
The monarchy was rocked when Juan Carlos went on a luxurious elephant-hunting safari in Botswana as Spaniards endured financial hardship, and his youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, was obliged to testify in a fraud and money-laundering case engulfing her husband, Olympic handball medallist turned businessman Inaki Urdangarin.
Felipe also sought to inspire a country where a quarter of the population is unemployed and many have emigrated in search of work.
He ended his speech by saying “thank you” in three Spanish regional languages — Catalan, Basque and Galician. Some people in those regions want to secede or achieve greater independence from Spain.
After a brief military parade, Felipe and his wife Queen Letizia drove through Madrid in an open-top vintage Rolls Royce with the king standing, before appearing in front of crowds on a balcony at the royal palace. The royal couple’s daughters, Princesses Leonor, 8, and Sofia, 7, accompanied them throughout.
Barry Hatton in Lisbon contributed to this report.