The Royal Family wave from the balcony of Madrid’s Royal Palace. :: EFE
Felipe VI has taken over the throne from his father Juan Carlos and has promised to head "a new monarchy for a new time" during the proclamation
The first royal transition in Spain since democracy was restored in the 1970s took place last week as Felipe VI, 46, was sworn in as Head of State.
The country has begun a “new era” in its history as the King promised “a renewed monarchy for a new time”, the only phrase that he repeated twice. He then expressed his “faith in the unity of Spain”, a Spain in which “there is space for the distinct forms of feeling Spanish”.
During his speech inside Congress on Thursday, Felipe VI continued: “We will work together, each one of us with our own personality to enrich the collective project. We will do it with loyalty and face the common objectives that the 21st century confronts us with. Because a nation is not just its history, it is also an integrating project, felt and shared by all, that looks to the future.”
As the new King’s brother-in-law is facing embezzlement and money laundering charges, Felipe now aims to improve the public image of the monarchy. “Today more than ever citizens demand that our public life be exemplary to others,” he said.
During his extensive speech he spoke of victims of terrorism, the role of women in modern society, the economic crisis and new technologies as well as international relations.
“I feel proud of the Spanish people and nothing would honour me more than, with my hard work and daily effort, the Spanish population feeling proud of their new King,” he said.
The process of the first abdication in post-Franco Spain began on 2 June when Juan Carlos announced his decision to give up the throne. Then, on 11 June Congress endorsed the King’s abdication by 83 per cent following a three hour debate.
Last Wednesday, King Juan Carlos officially abdicated in the Royal Palace in the presence of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the opposition and the majority of regional presidents.
Juan Carlos, 76, could barely contain his emotion as he received a standing ovation for more than two minutes by those in attendance. The Royal Guard then paid their respects for the last time with a 21-gun salute.
On the stroke of midnight the throne was officially handed over, and a day of official activities took place on Thursday. At 9.30am Felipe was handed the sash by his father that signifies his role as Chief of the Armed Forces.
Then, accompanied by the new Queen Letizia, the Princess of Asturias, Leonor, and Sofía, Felipe travelled to Congress to make his speech - but not with Juan Carlos.
He paid his respects to the “exceptional reign” of the former monarch. “Forty years ago my father stated that he wanted to be King of all the Spanish people, and he has done exactly that.” He also showed his gratitude to his mother who “all her life has worked in the service of Spain’s population”.
After the speech, the new royal family left Congress and presided over their first military parade that was made up of more than 800 members of the Armed Forces and the Civil Guard.
At 11.30am the royal family made their way through the streets of central Madrid in an open-top Rolls Royce Phantom. A cavalry division of the Royal Guard accompanied them to the Royal Palace as thousands lined the streets, chanting “¡Viva España!”
Upon reaching the Plaza de Oriente, where the Royal Palace is located, King Felipe VI greeted the 10,000 people present placing his hand on his heart. The official ceremony ended at 1pm as the King and Queen entered the palace to greet more than 2,000 guests, including representatives of various parts of society.
Change of an era
Juan Carlos was one of the world’s most popular monarchs as he coordinated the country’s transition to democracy following the death of Franco. However in recent years his popularity has diminished, as has his health.
The new King, however, has managed to escape the problems that have affected other members of his family and he begins his reign as a proportion of the population are discontented with the monarchy. A pro-republican protest took place in the centre of Madrid at the same time as the coronation was happening.
Yesterday’s events were not attended by other royal families or foreign leaders in an effort to reduce its cost. Indeed, one of the challenges that Felipe will face as his reign begins will be the growth of the economy as it recovers from the financial crisis.
Another challenge that the new King will face is the issue of Catalonia’s call to carry out a referendum on independence. Felipe VI ended his speech by saying thank you in the four main languages of Spain: Castilian, Catalan, Basque and Galician.