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Wedding keeps Spaniards indoors

May 22, 2004 at 11:13 AM

MADRID, May 22 (UPI) -- The wedding of Crown Prince Felipe to TV newscaster Letizia Ortiz in Madrid Saturday achieved the almost impossible: it emptied the streets of Spain.

From Algeciras in the deep south to Barcelona close to the border with France, cities and towns were deserted as millions of Spaniards stayed indoors to watch the marriage ceremony on national television.

For a country with a street life that extends well into the night, that was no mean feat.

From the start, the prospect of the heir to the Bourbon throne in Spain marrying a television personality captured the imagination of Spaniards. Nearly 5,000 journalists were accredited to cover the wedding, two thirds of them from Spanish media.

Commentators said the marriage ushered a new age in the history of the Spanish monarchy. They said it had given a modern dimension to the world's oldest form of government.

Before Prince Felipe, no Spanish crown prince had married outside the circle of royal, or on rare occasions, aristocratic families. But now Spaniards faced the prospect of one day having a future queen who was born as a commoner.

The prince had "placed love above tradition, which reflects the world in which we live," said writer Martin Ferrand. "Letizia comes from the world of television which, considering its influence, constitutes a new concept of democracy."

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