Archive for Sunday, May 23, 2004

Spain’s crown prince marries

Royals dedicate ceremony to Madrid terror attack victims

May 23, 2004


— Crown Prince Felipe married former TV journalist Letizia Ortiz on Saturday in a ceremony that the couple dedicated to the victims of a terrorist bombing two months ago. Afterward, tens of thousands of Spaniards lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the first commoner ever to be in line to be queen.

A driving rain fell as Ortiz, wearing a flowing off-white gown, entered the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid's scenic old quarter.

The congregation of some 1,700 royals and other dignitaries -- protected by security including fighter jets and 20,000 police -- included Britain's Prince Charles, former South African President Nelson Mandela and Jordan's Queen Rania.

The archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, thanked the couple for dedicating their wedding Mass to the 191 people killed in the March 11 train bombing in Madrid, blamed on Islamic militants.

"The people of Madrid celebrate your wedding, with gratitude for your tender gesture in memory of the victims of the despicable terrorist attack of March 11," Rouco Varela said.

He also 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."

Royal Guards sent by the couple also placed a bouquet of white roses at a grove of potted olive and cypress trees placed outside Atocha station, one of the main targets of the attack, with a note saying: "Always in our memory, Felipe and Letizia."

Despite the lingering sense of mourning, it was a festive day in a city brought to life with hundreds of thousands of geraniums, pansies and other flowers.

The cost of the wedding has been estimated at $24 million, although some planned events like a light and sound show Saturday night -- and the prince's bachelor party -- were scrapped to avoid looking frivolous in the wake of the bombing.

On Saturday, people crowded on balconies to catch a glimpse of the couple as they took a post-wedding ride in an armor-plated vintage Rolls-Royce, waving to tens of thousands of well-wishers holding small red-and-yellow Spanish flags and pink and silver fans.

"If I could, I would open a bottle of champagne and offer them a toast. I wish them lots of luck," restaurant owner Santos Sanchez said.

Returning to the Royal Palace, across a broad cobblestone courtyard from the cathedral, the newlyweds emerged on a now sun-drenched balcony for their first public kiss as husband and wife.

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

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, though polls suggest Spaniards don't mind that Ortiz is a divorcee and has no royal blood.

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, Greece. The bride's bouquet was an arrangement of white lilies of the valley.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.