Yesterday evening in the Hall of Columns at the Royal Palace of Madrid, King Juan Carlos signed into law the special legislation passed by both chambers of the Spanish parliament (Cortes Generales) that enabled him to abdicate the throne for his son Felipe.
The signing ceremony was a simple and poignant affair, at times with a melancholic and bitter-sweet feeling. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia approached the palace by car as the Spanish national anthem was played and an honorary salute was fired. It was King Juan Carlos’ last car-ride to the palace as the reigning monarch. One can only imagine the emotions of voluntarily giving up the duty as king after overseeing so much development and change in Spain and Europe; being at the helm of a democratic development since the death of Franco in 1975.
Around 160 guests from official Spain were invited to oversee the historic signature. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia were seated at the front centre, in front of the gathered guests, together with the (then) Prince and Princess of Asturias. The closest family was seated together on the right side: the (then) future king’s children Infanta Leonor and Infanta Sofia with their aunt Infanta Elena, the sisters of King Juan Carlos, Infanta Pilar and Infanta Margarita with husband. Also present were Infanta Alicia, Dowager Duchess of Calabria, and her son Infante Carlos, Duke of Calabria, with his wife Anne. In the audience of guests one could spot King Simeon of Bulgaria and King Constantine of the Hellenes together with his wife Queen Anne-Marie.
A seemingly tired and frail King Juan Carlos left his walking stick to an aide and made his was to a table on the left side of the room. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy read out the legislation and the King subsequently signed it, with a counter-signature by the PM. Back at the royal seats King Juan Carlos greeted his family, especially his son Felipe with whom he exchanged a big bear-hug, before receiving a standing ovation lasting for several minutes. The signature ceremony ended with the Spanish national anthem, less than twenty minutes before the event started.
At midnight, 00:00 hours, the legislation came into effect as it was published in the official official state gazette (BOE, Boletín Oficial del Estado), and this the Prince and Princess of Asturias became King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain and their eldest daughter, Leonor, the new Princess of Asturias.
Today, on the morning of a public holiday in Madrid, the formal investiture and proclamation ceremonies for the new king started. At 9:30 AM in the audience room of the Zarzuela Palace, King Juan Carlos handed over the sash of the captain general of the Spanish armed forces; signifying that they have a new leader. This was another short ceremony were King Juan Carlos simply tied the red sash around his son’s waist while Queen Sofia, Queen Letizia, the Princess of Asturias, Infanta Sofia, Infanta Leonor, Infanta Elena and her oldest child Froilán, stood behind watching.
About an half an hour later, a car cortège transporting the royals to the centre of Madrid started; a journey that took them to the palace of the lower house of the Spanish parliament. There the new King and Queen together with their children were met by a military honour guard and the national anthem. After an inspection of the guard, King Felipe VI and his family briefly posed for photos on the palace stairs before entering the building.
On a large podium in front of the seated politicians and balcony of guests, the new royal family were seated. Jesús Posada Moreno, Speaker of the Congress of Deputies of Spain, held an introductory speech to mark the occasion. Queen Sofia, seated above on the balcony of guests together with her daughter Infanta Elena, received long standing ovations – all while her granddaughter Infanta Sofia noted her grandmother up there and told her sister the Princess of Asturias before they gave her a little wave.
Also seated on the balcony of guests, near Queen Sofia and Infanta Elena, were the sisters of King Juan Carlos, Infanta Pilar and Infanta Margarita with husband, King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, Infante Carlos, Duke of Calabria, with wife Anne, and Infanta Elena’s oldest child Froilán.
With the Spanish crown and sceptre from the eighteenth century placed on a stand just next to the seated royals, King Felipe VI rose and made his solemn proclamation. His two young daughters, whose feet didn’t touch the ground when seated on their chairs, did their best to listen to their father’s long following speech. After standing ovations and the national anthem, the ceremony was over. The proclamation ceremony was followed by a military defilé outside the palace of the congress.
At around 11:30 AM the new king and queen took their places in an open Rolls Royce which was then escorted, with the royal horse guards, to the Royal Palace. King Felipe VI stood up in the car during the whole cortège route and Spaniards lined the whole route.
As King Felipe and Queen Letizia arrived at the palace they received a gun salute from the gardens of the palace and people standing at the drive near the palace shouted “Viva El Rey” and “Felipe, Felipe”. The bells of the Almudena cathedral tolled and thousands of people stood with flags and cameras in the front park of the Royal Palace where.
Shortly after noon King Felipe and Queen Letizia and their daughters stepped out on the balcony for a very rare balcony appearance (in Spain this isn’t as common as in other countries). A considerably moved King Felipe received the ovations of the people with his wife and their two daughters who were both squinting their eyes at the strong sun as they waved and look out onto the crowds. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia joined them for a short while.
The afternoon was concluded by a private reception for two-thousand guests from various sectors of Spanish life at the Royal Palace of Madrid.
Videos from the above events can be watched at the official royal Spanish YouTube account.