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Royalty

Spain's King Juan Carlos signs abdication, paving way for son Felipe's rise to throne

King Juan Carlos has signed legislation that set out the legal framework for his son to replace him as King of Spain. The abdication and swearing-in ceremonies were kept frugal in response to Spain's economic woes.

The formal abdication by 76-year-old King Juan Carlos paved the way for his 46-year-old son to be crowned King Felipe VI. The King stepped down in a short, solemn ceremony at Madrid's old Royal Palace in front of 150 guests on Wednesday evening.

Both the King and the country's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy signed the document during the ceremony attended by other members of the royal family including Felipe. There was prolonged applause from the guests for the former king, who became monarch at the stroke of midnight going into Thursday.

King Juan Carlos made his surprise announcement on June 2. He said he was stepping aside to allow his son to rally the country mired in a double-dip recession with a 26 percent jobless rate.

The King had been on the Spanish throne since 1975 and was held in high esteem as he helped the country make the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Juan Carlos became King just two days after the death of longtime dictator General Francisco Franco.

But more recently the King and some members of his family came in for criticism over their lifestyle and business dealings. In 2012 the King was photographed standing in front of an elephant he had shot while on safari in Botswana. Earlier this year, his youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, was in court testifying in a fraud and money-laundering case involving her husband.

The new king was to be sworn in on Thursday morning in parliament, dressed in a military uniform and wearing the red silk sash of the forces' commander in chief. After a brief military parade, the new King Felipe VI and his wife, Queen Letizia are to drive through the capital, past landmarks such as the Prado Museum and the Cibeles fountain.

jm/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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