06.19.14 10:22 AM ET
King Felipe and Queen Letizia Kiss As They Formally Take Power In Spain
The kiss says it all.
Europe's most glamorous new young royals—Queen Letizia and King Felipe VI of Spain—formally acceded to the throne today after Felipe's father, the scandal-hit King Juan Carlos, tearfully signed the official instrument of abdication at midnight last night.
It was a sad end to a 39-year reign for King Juan Carlos. He took over the throne in 1975, two days after the death of longtime dictator General Francisco Franco, and halted an attempted military coup in 1981.
But he fell out of favour when it was revealed he had been on a big-game hunting safari.
The new monarch and his wife, Letizia, and their two daughters are being ferried through Madrid in a low-key affair after a brief military parade to their first official engagement.
The coronation is a deliberately low-key ceremony in recognition of the austerity experienced by Spaniards during the economic crisis.
The ceremony, at Spain's lower house of parliament in Madrid, has little pomp and circumstance compared with royal handovers in other countries.
The new Queen of Spain, 41-year old Letizia Ortiz, was not just born a commoner, but she was also divorced. For the Crown prince to marry a divorced commoner was a paradigm shift that deeply divided the fiercely Catholic country at the time.
Even more shockingly for many conservatives in Spain, a book recently published by a disloyal cousin—who openly admitted he was seeking to cash in on his connections—claimed that the new Queen had an abortion when she was a young woman.
Spanish newspapers devoted front pages to the allegations.
At the time of the alleged termination, the procedure was tightly regulated and permissible only in cases of risk to the mother’s life. The cousin claimed that Princess Letizia asked him to destroy paperwork detailing the abortion.
The book also sought to portray the Princess as an “obsessive” person who is suspicious of her relatives, claiming that the Princess, when pregnant with the couple’s first child, Leonor—born in October 2005—told certain family members that she was carrying a boy and that he was to be named Pelayo. The cousin said she did this to see whether the story would appear in the press.
The daughter of a nurse and journalist herself, she worked for CNN and Bloomberg and was named winner of the Madrid Press Association’s Larra Award for most accomplished journalist under 30. During the Iraq War, she was embedded with a unit of fighters and broadcast live from the frontlines.
Ortiz met Felipe in November 2002 on assignment, covering a story about an oil spillage in northern Spain. Felipe—who had met Letizia before at a dinner party—was also there, offering support, and the two started a romantic relationship.
In 2003, just months after she had been promoted to the position of anchor on the national news channel, she quit her job and days later the royal engagement was announced.