Parade, balcony-wave to start new Spanish king's reign

Parade, balcony-wave to start new Spanish king's reign
Spanish King Juan Carlos (Left) stands as Spain's Crown Prince Felipe waves during a military ceremony marking the bicentenial of the Royal and Military Order of Saint Hermenegild.

MADRID - Spain plans a relatively low-key start on Thursday to the reign of its new king, Felipe VI. There will be no gala coronation but he and the new Queen Letizia will wave to the masses after he is sworn in by parliament.

The ceremonies were organised in just a couple of weeks after Felipe's father King Juan Carlos on June 2 announced his abdication. No visiting foreign dignitaries are invited. Here are some of the scheduled highlights: - On Wednesday at Madrid's old Royal Palace - a historic ceremonial venue, not a residence - King Juan Carlos signs the act of parliament formalising his abdication in front of 150 invited dignitaries.

Felipe, 46, then technically becomes king at midnight on Wednesday. The publication of the abdication in Thursday's edition of the official state journal formally marks the start of his reign.

On Thursday morning at their Zarzuela Palace residence on the outskirts of Madrid, Juan Carlos hands Felipe the red sash of captain general, the highest rank in the army.

Felipe, his wife the new Queen Letizia and their daughters Leonor and Sofia then head to the centre of Madrid to the lower house of parliament, the Congress. He receives military honours outside the building.

The new royal family pass go through the Lions Gate into the Congress, where Felipe will be sworn in on a specially built platform draped in red.

Hundreds of Spanish deputies and senators will attend the swearing-in. Juan Carlos says he will not attend so as not to draw attention away from his son.

Felipe will swear "faithfully to fulfil his duties, to safeguard the constitution and the laws, to respect the rights of citizens and the autonomous regions" of Spain. The national anthem will then be played.

After a military parade in front of Congress, the new king and queen will be driven through the wide avenues of central Madrid to the old Royal Palace in the west of the city.

Felipe and Letizia, along with Juan Carlos and Felipe's mother Queen Sofia, will wave to the crowds from the palace's front balcony, which overlooks the park on the Plaza Oriente square.

A reception will be held inside the Royal Palace for 2,000 guests, including foreign ambassadors to Spain, though no foreign delegations have been invited over specially.

In early July the new king and queen are due to begin a tour of Spain and abroad. The first foreign stops are likely to be neighbouring France, Portugal and Morocco.


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