- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 22, 2004

MADRID — Spain’s Crown Prince Felipe married former TV anchorwoman Letizia Ortiz yesterday as tens of thousands of people lined the streets outside to catch a glimpse of the new princess — the first commoner in line to be queen in Spanish history.

The archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, pronounced the couple husband and wife at Almudena Cathedral in what was Spain’s first royal wedding in 98 years. Previous weddings took place abroad.

Just one year after she started dating the prince, the 31-year-old divorcee now has the title of Princess Letizia of Asturias.

In his homily, Cardinal 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.”

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.

The prince met Princess Letizia 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, though polls suggest Spaniards don’t mind that the new princess is a divorcee and has no royal blood.

Torrential rain fell as she entered the church, and thunder sounded during the wedding Mass. She wore an off-white gown with a flowing silk veil and a 15-foot train embroidered with heraldic symbols. Her diamond and platinum tiara was the same one Greek-born Queen Sofia wore at her wedding to King Juan Carlos in 1962 in Athens.

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

The rain stopped in time for the newlyweds’ procession through the streets of Madrid in a vintage, black armor-plated Rolls-Royce. They waved to tens of thousands of well-wishers holding small red-and-yellow Spanish flags.

The motorcade rode past the “Forest of the Absent,” a grove of potted olive and cypress trees honoring those killed in the March 11 terrorist attack in Madrid — 191 in the bombing and a policeman killed trying to arrest Islamic militant suspects.

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 fighters and two AWACS planes on loan from NATO monitored the skies.

The city was festooned with Spanish flags and thousands of geraniums, tulips and other flowers. It was welcome relief for a country still mourning the victims of the March train bombings.

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 abroad during the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco.

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