Meet Spain's Young Royals

The princess' entrance into the royal household was welcomed as a breath of fresh air. A so-called commoner yet well-known enough, she was an unexpected choice of bride for the prince. First off, she was a divorcee. But because her previous marriage was only a civil one, the royal wedding was able to take place in the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, in a traditional Roman Catholic ceremony.

Secondly, while it was obvious that she was hardly going to be the bashful virgin bride, there were those who were slightly taken aback by her boldness. During her engagement interview, for instance, she firmly put the prince in place when he interjected during her answer and gently admonished him for doing so, a slightly awkward moment in terms of royal protocol.

Little mistakes aside, the couple are seen as a force for good in Spain. Some of people who were relaxing recently in Oriente Square, in front of the Royal Palace of Madrid, said they remain positive.

"They're a source of pride for us," said vacationer Armando Gonzalez, who hails from the Canary Islands. "They're very modern and very much of the people -- we love them."

Taxi driver Paco de Conde agreed. "They're hardworking and great ambassadors, wherever they go."

The marriage between Princess Letizia and Prince Felipe was endowed with national significance: It was the first "proper" royal wedding in the country in 100 years. But there is a more poignant element -- their wedding took place two months after the Madrid train bombings, the worst terrorist attack ever to hit Spain. It provided the country with a much-welcomed national holiday, coming after the fallout from the tragedy.

The Spanish royals have only been in a position of power for three decades, making them, for all their tradition and history in the country, a younger and more modern monarchy. The memory of banishment has never been far enough away for them to forget their duty or neglect to earn the affection of their people.

The significance of their return to Spain in 1975, after spending 37 years in exile, has not been forgotten. After Gen. Francisco Franco's dictatorship ended, King Juan Carlos assumed the throne as the country's constitutional monarch. After an unsuccessful coup attempt in the early-'80s, the Spanish people praised the new king for upholding and protecting the fledging democracy.

Balancing Tradition and Progress

"Spain has also a great amount of respect for the Spanish royal family," Luke of Hola! said. "Particularly for the king, Juan Carlos for his role in the democratization of Spain which is very, very significant, not only for a democracy but also for putting down a coup d'etat in favor of maintaining the democracy. A lot of people think that the time has come for the monarchy to be disbanded but there is a great respect for that family, for Juan Carlos and for his son, Prince Felipe, because of his political implication in the democratization of Spain."

As for the future king and queen of the country, Felipe and Letizia continue to earn respect and kudos for successfully capturing the very essence of modern royalty.

The balance between tradition and progress in a country that has been a fully functioning democracy for a relatively short time has not always been an easy one to straddle. But in the case of this couple with their young daughters, the perception of what is "royal' and what is "common" in the country has become further blurred and, to an extent, less relevant.

To a degree, the Spanish royal family's popularity proves the adage that often what preserves a monarchy is not its rigid, blinkered attachment to the past and to tradition but rather its ability to change with the times as well as maintain a sense of national pride and heritage.

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