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"Long live the king!": Spain says hello to its new head of state

The king promised an “honest and transparent” monarchy after scandals that dogged his father Juan Carlos in a Spain recovering from recession.

Source: Andres Kudacki/AP/Press Association Images

SPAIN’s NEW KING Felipe VI vowed to clean up the scandal-hit monarchy as he launched his reign today cheered on by crowds waving red and yellow flags.

Thousands of Spaniards put aside their World Cup misery to line the sun-splashed streets of Madrid, yelling “Long live the king!”

The tall, former Olympic yachtsman Felipe, 46, and his glamorous Queen Letizia, 41, waved to cheering crowds from the balcony of the Royal Palace after he swore his oath in parliament.

Source: Andres Kudacki/AP/Press Association Images

Beside them stood their blonde, blue-eyed daughters: eight-year-old Leonor, now heiress to the throne, and Sofia, seven, plus the former King Juan Carlos, 76, who has abdicated.

Earlier in parliament the new king swore an oath to serve the nation, standing in a dark blue military uniform by the royal sceptre and crown – though it was not actually placed on his head.

The king promised an “honest and transparent” monarchy after scandals that dogged his father Juan Carlos in a Spain recovering from recession.

Felipe also pledged his “faith in the unity of Spain”, where separatist tensions are high in the northeastern region of Catalonia.

Source: Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP/Press Association Images

Lawmakers applauded as he finished his speech and turned to kiss Letizia — a divorced former television newsreader — who wore a white knee-length dress and coat by Spanish designer Felipe Varela.

The royal couple waved from an open-topped Rolls Royce as they were driven to the palace, where they shook hands one by one with some 2,000 guests at a reception.

Never mind the football 

The celebrations offered a distraction from the national gloom of Spain’s humiliating exit from the football World Cup on Wednesday in a 2-0 beating by Chile.

“We have lost the World Cup but that doesn’t matter. It is a new day and a new king. We have to celebrate,” said Eduardo Chaperon, 24, wearing a novelty inflatable crown in the street.

Not everyone joined in the party.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

Police blocked off Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square to prevent a rally by protesters who want Spain to be a republic.

“It is shameful. It is a breach of our freedoms. What kind of democracy is this?” said Juana Leon, a 69-year-old retiree wrapped in the red, yellow and purple Spanish republican flag.

Protesters have demanded a referendum on the monarchy’s future, but Felipe said in his proclamation speech that “the parliamentary monarchy can and must continue”.

Political leaders in the northeastern Catalonia region meanwhile are calling for a referendum on independence from Spain.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

In the central Catalan town of Cervera, bar customers sat reading with their backs to the television as Felipe’s speech came on.

“Here in Catalonia, we are not monarchists, nor fans of the Spain football team,” said the bar’s owner, Josep Clos, 66.

“This king is just another one who is going to live off our money.”

Tearful handover 

In tough economic times, celebrations were relatively restrained compared to other European royal coronations.

The palace offered drinks and nibbles at the reception, but no sit-down banquet.

No foreign leaders or royals were invited to the ceremonies.

US President Barack Obama sent a note congratulating Felipe and the “valued ally” Spain. He said he looked forward to “working closely” with the new king.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

Yesterday, a teary-eyed Juan Carlos ended his reign by signing his act of abdication.

He won respect for helping guide Spain to democracy after the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975 and for thwarting an attempted military coup in 1981.

But he has suffered from a scandal over an elephant-hunting safari he took in 2012 and fraud allegations against his youngest daughter Cristina, 49, and her husband.

By abdicating, Juan Carlos lost immunity from prosecution that notably saved him from answering two paternity suits by people claiming to be his illegitimate children.

Rajoy’s government said it was drawing up measures to extend his protection after his reign.

Source: Emilio Morenatti//AP/Press Association Images

Felipe praised his father for achieving the “reconciliation of the Spanish” after the decades of dictatorship that followed the 1936-1939 civil war.

Analysts warned Felipe had less of a chance than his father did to shape history in today’s Spain.

Source: Andres Kudacki//AP/Press Association Images

“He is a big breath of fresh air,” said Cote Villar, a royal specialist at El Mundo newspaper. “But there is a big risk of disappointment.”

- © AFP 2014.

Read: King Juan Carlos is giving up his throne, but maybe not his immunity>

Read: “No more kings!” – Huge crowds gather to protest against the monarchy in Spain>

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