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Spain celebrates glittering royal wedding

Spain's Crown Prince Felipe married former TV anchorwoman Letizia Ortiz Saturday in a glittering royal wedding, Spain's first in 98 years.
Spanish Crown Prince Felipe and his new bride Princess Letizia wave to well-wishers after their wedding ceremony in Madrid on Saturday. Dani Cardona / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Crown Prince Felipe married former TV anchorwoman Letizia Ortiz Saturday in a glittering royal wedding, Spain's first in 98 years.

The archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, pronounced the couple husband and wife at Almudena Cathedral in Madrid's old quarter in a ceremony attended by royals and dignitaries from around the world.

Ortiz, 31, whose title is now Princess Letizia of Asturias, became the first commoner in more than five centuries of almost uninterrupted monarchy to be in line to be queen.

Royal family's weighty role
In his homily, Rouco Varela urged the couple not to be intimidated by the enormous responsibility of being heirs to the Spanish throne.

"Fear not these extraordinary demands," he said. "You are not alone in your path. Their majesties the king and queen of Spain, the royal family, your relatives and loved ones, the good people of Spain are with you."

A driving rain fell outside as Ortiz entered cathedral, wearing an off-white gown with a flowing silk veil and a 15-foot train embroidered with heraldic symbols. On her head, she wore the same diamond and platinum tiara that Greek-born Queen Sofia wore at her wedding to King Juan Carlos in 1962 in Athens.

Ortiz's bouquet was an arrangement of white lilies of the valley.

Prince Felipe, 36, wore a crisp navy blue uniform reflecting his status as a Spanish army major, with braided epaulets, a light blue sash and medals of honor from the army, navy and air force.

A symphony orchestra and 70-member choir performed behind the altar.

Dressed as royal pages in gold jackets, the prince's five nieces and nephews -- aged 2 to 5 -- served as flower-bearers as the wedding party filed into the church.

Later, they scampered about during the ceremony, and at point the prince's oldest nephew, Felipe, kicked one of the other children playfully.

The 19th-century neoclassical church was brimming with white roses and carnations, and the walls adorned with centuries-old tapestries depicting biblical and mythological scenes.

Thunder rolled through the skies during the wedding Mass.

Heavy security
Outside in the rain, thousands of police lined streets chosen for a post-wedding procession in which the couple will ride in a 1948 Rolls-Royce Phantom IV inside a bulletproof glass box.

Police sharpshooters watched from atop buildings and helicopters hovered in overcast skies.

The congregation of some 1,400 royals and other dignitaries included Britain's Prince Charles, former South African President Nelson Mandela and Jordan's Queen Rania.

Some 5,000 onlookers gathered in the square outside the church, many camping out since before dawn.

"I've come here just for the wedding," said Manuela Lopez, who was draped in a the blue and yellow flag of the northern Asturias region from where the bride hails.

"I've spent between 200 and 300 euros getting here but it doesn't matter. I'm 60 and I wouldn't miss this for the world," she said.

Spain still shaken
Security for the wedding has been described as the tightest since Madrid hosted a Mideast peace conference in 1991. An estimated 20,000 police patrolled the streets, and F-18 fighter jets and two AWACS planes on loan from NATO monitored the skies.

The city was festooned with thousands of geraniums, tulips and other flowers and a sea of red and yellow Spanish flags as it seeks a respite from mourning the 191 people killed in the March 11 terrorist attacks.

At a state funeral at Almudena Cathedral following the bombings, Prince Felipe, Ortiz and other members of the royal family went from pew to pew, trying to comfort sobbing mourners.

Just a year after she started dating the prince, Ortiz has traded the glare of television cameras for the limelight of royalty.

The ceremony was the first royal wedding in Spain since that of the prince's great grandfather, King Alfonso XIII, in 1906. The prince's father, King Juan Carlos, and grandfather, Juan de Borbon, married in exile during the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco.

The prince met Ortiz at a dinner party in late 2002 and they started dating secretly the following spring. Word of their engagement in November took the country by surprise.

Sociologists say many Spaniards would actually prefer their country were once again a republic, as it has been twice, albeit briefly, with a head of state elected by voters. The Franco regime restored the monarchy.

Polls suggest Spaniards don't mind that Ortiz is a divorcee and has no royal blood, although she and the prince have large shoes to fill because King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia are wildly popular.