Spain delighted by royal wedding plans

Elizabeth Nash,Madrid
Wednesday 30 April 1997 23:02
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To the delight of a nation of Hello! readers (or Hola! as it is known here), Spain is to celebrate a royal wedding in October. Princess Cristina, 31, youngest daughter of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia and third in line to the Spanish throne, yesterday became engaged to a Basque handball star, Inaki Urdangarin, 29.

The announcement by the Zarzuela palace concludes weeks of feverish speculation that has filled gossip columns, since their relationship became public in March.

Princess Cristina, a keen sportswoman, met her fiance at the Olympic Games in Atlanta last August, when Urdangarin won a bronze medal as a member of the Spanish handball team.

The son of a prosperous Basque father and an aristocratic Belgian mother, Urdangarin lives in Barcelona and is a member of the reigning national champion handball team attached to mighty Futbol Club Barcelona.

Princess Cristina moved to Barcelona in 1992 for six months, and stayed. She learned Catalan and worked as an exhibitions organiser for the cultural foundation of La Caixa savings bank. She has a political science degree from a Madrid university and a Masters from New York.

Cristina shares the easy, open manner of her elder sister, the Infanta Elena, whose marriage two years ago in Seville to the gangling sprig of one of Spain's most blue-blooded families captivated the country in a nationwide fiesta.

Urdangarin, tall, blue-eyed and handsome, is no mere upper-class beefcake. He plans to finish a business studies degree and retire from professional handball within three years.

Cristina's marriage will take place in Barcelona, and leaves only Prince Felipe, 29, heir to the throne, unmarried. Madrid is earmarked for his eventual wedding, but, despite being linked to a number of young women, his choice of bride remains unknown.

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