Former journalist Letizia Ortiz becomes Spain's first commoner queen

Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:39am EDT
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By Raquel Castillo

MADRID (Reuters) - A divorced former journalist, Letizia Ortiz, became Spain's first commoner queen on Thursday when her husband, Felipe VI, was sworn in as king.

With a background contrasting deeply with the royal privileges of her husband, many see in the 41-year-old former TV anchor the survival of the monarchy because of her down-to-earth middle-class roots.

Felipe, 46, became king after his father, Juan Carlos, abdicated earlier this month following a series of scandals and a period of poor health.

Ortiz, daughter of a journalist and a nurse and the granddaughter of a taxi-driver, dated Felipe in secret before their engagement was announced in November 2003. They met at a dinner organised by a journalist friend.

Spain's most conservative factions expressed opposition to the prince's choice, underlining her lineage as a commoner, or one outside the nobility.

But others saw a possible regeneration of the monarchy's archaic ways for a new era.

"I think (their marriage) was a very positive thing," historian Charles Powell of Real Instituto Elcano told Reuters TV. "What she brings to the marriage is basically that she grounds him. She makes him aware of everyday issues, everyday problems."

José Antonio Fernández, a 71-year-old pensioner, appeared to agree.   Continued...

Queen Letizia (R) touches the cheek of Spain's new King Felipe VI as they sit in their car while leaving the Zarzuela Palace to the Congress of Deputies in Madrid, June 19, 2014. EFE/Zipi/Pool