Bells pealed and onlookers cried out good wishes as Prince Felipe and Letizia Ortiz the future king and queen of Spain married yesterday in rainy Madrid. Despite downpours, the ceremony was followed in the streets by hundreds of thousands who restored the fiesta spirit to a city traumatised by terrorist bomb attacks in March that killed 192.
The prince and his bride, a divorced former television presenter, rode through the capital in an armour-plated Rolls-Royce flanked by motorcycle outriders and lancers on horseback. Jazz bands, flamenco guitarists, military drums, string quartets and Asturian bagpipers accompanied the royal couple.
Earlier, 1,400 crowned heads and political leaders from around the globe, including Prince Charles and Nelson Mandela, plus Spain's political and social elite, filled the Almudena cathedral beneath glowering skies more reminiscent of El Greco than Velazquez.
It rained stair rods "jugfuls", they say here throughout the city's first royal wedding in 98 years. The bombings of 11 March were fresh in everyone's minds yesterday, and nervous authorities mounted a formidable security operation. Every member of the public underwent bag and body checks and surveillance aircraft and fighter planes patrolled the airspace for 50 miles around.
Yesterday's wedding confirmed the consolidation of the Bourbon monarchy under Spain's parliamentary democracy. Their reign was interrupted through two generations by the 1931 republic, the civil war and Franco's 40-year dictatorship. Prince Felipe's father, King Juan Carlos, and his grandfather Don Juan, both married in exile.
Juan Carlos was installed on the throne at Franco's wish after the dictator's death in 1975. He is revered for helping to steer Spain from dictatorship to democracy, and for fending off a military coup attempt in 1981.
Most Spaniards don't mind that Letizia, Princess of Asturias, has humble origins and is divorced. They believe the influx of fresh blood into an ancient dynasty will bring the throne closer to the people.