Felipe VI becomes Spain's king, calls for unity with diversity

Thu Jun 19, 2014 4:20pm EDT
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By Elisabeth O'Leary

MADRID (Reuters) - Felipe VI was sworn in as Spain's new king on Thursday and immediately sought to knit together a nation threatened by a growing separatist movement in Catalonia.

In a subdued ceremony, Felipe said there was room in Spain for both unity and diversity, ending a long speech by saying "thank you" in four of Spain's languages: Castilian Spanish, Basque, Catalan and Galician.

Although he holds a largely symbolic role as head of state, supporters hope Felipe will work to keep Spain together and usher in a new era of popularity for the troubled royal household.

Spain is also battling high unemployment, particularly among youngsters who are less monarchist than older generations.

"The monarchy definitely needs a breath of fresh air and I hope Felipe VI brings ideas that will calm those who have their doubts," said Miguel Angel Delgado, 39, an unemployed music teacher who travelled from Seville to join the celebrations.

Felipe, wearing military uniform with a sash and medals, became king after his father, Juan Carlos, abdicated earlier this month following a series of scandals that has led many Spaniards to question the role of the monarchy itself.

"There is room for all of us in a united and diverse Spain," Felipe, 46, said in his speech to dignitaries gathered in the lower house of Parliament. He stressed respect for the diverse cultures and languages within Spain.

The new king waved to well-wishers on the balcony of the royal palace alongside his wife, Queen Letizia, a former journalist, and their daughters, Leonor, age 8, and Sofia, 7, ahead of a reception attended by business leaders, politicians, bullfighters, athletes and comedians. [ID:nL5N0KW39G] [ID:nL6N0P020T]   Continued...

Spain's new King Felipe VI arrives to appear on the balcony of the Royal Palace in Madrid, June 19, 2014.   REUTERS/Javier Lizon