Spain's new King Felipe aims to inspire his people

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Spain's New King
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By HAROLD HECKLE and BARRY HATTON

MADRID (AP) -- Taking the Spanish throne on Thursday, King Felipe VI sought to inspire his beleaguered countrymen amid troubled economic times and lift patriotic spirits a day after the national team's humbling exit from the World Cup.

"We are a great nation. Let us believe and trust in ourselves," Felipe said at his swearing-in ceremony.

Felipe, 46, became monarch after his father Juan Carlos announced his surprise decision to abdicate. The 76-year-old said he was stepping aside after a four-decade reign so younger royal blood could energize the country.

Felipe, and Spain, face plenty of problems. The country is struggling to shrug off a double-dip recession and drive down its 26 percent jobless rate. Scandals have tarnished the royal family and fueled campaigns to abolish the monarchy, while influential groups in some Spanish regions continue to push hard for independence.

Appearing self-assured in a dark military dress uniform, Felipe sought to draw a line under Spain's recent past, promising "a reinvigorated monarchy for new times."

Felipe made clear that he intends to restore public trust in the monarchy.

"Today, more than ever, the people rightly demand our public lives be guided by ... moral and ethical principles," he told lawmakers, who shouted "Viva el Rey (Long live the king)!"

Saying he felt the suffering of those whose living standards were hurt by the economic crisis, Felipe urged Spaniards to shun resignation and unleash their ambitions. He said finding jobs for the unemployed was "a priority for society and the government."

In an oblique reference to separatist groups, Felipe insisted, "We all have our place in this diverse Spain." He ended his speech by saying "thank you" in three regional Spanish languages - Catalan, Basque and Galician - where independence movements are strongest.

Thousands of people lined the streets of Madrid streets as Felipe and Queen Letizia drove from parliament to the royal palace in an open-topped Rolls-Royce, waving to the crowds. The royal couple's daughters, Princesses Leonor, 8, and Sofia, 7, accompanied them for most of the day.

Authorities prohibited a demonstration by groups seeking to abolish the monarchy.

The cheering crowds and pageantry provided a welcome distraction as Spaniards reeled from the embarrassment of the national team's shock defeat by Chile in the World Cup, which ended Spanish hopes of winning a second consecutive title.

Felipe's inaugural speech came at a ceremony in the country's parliament, where the 18th-century Spanish crown and 17th-century scepter were on display. Later, a reception for 2,000 guests at the royal place featured finger foods instead of an elaborate banquet, a deliberately modest touch that acknowledged the financial hardships being endured by many Spaniards.

Juan Carlos, who for most of his reign was held in high esteem for helping steer Spain from a military dictatorship to democracy, drew fierce criticism when he went on a luxurious elephant-hunting safari in Africa two years ago while many Spaniards were losing their jobs.

In another scandal, Juan Carlos' youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, testified this year in the fraud and money-laundering case engulfing her husband, Inaki Urdangarin.

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Princess Letizia - Spain
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Spain's new King Felipe aims to inspire his people
SEVILLE, SPAIN - MAY 20: Princess Letizia of Spain attends a dinner with members of Sevilla Businessmen Confederation on May 20, 2014 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Europa Press/Europa Press via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 30: Princess Letizia of Spain visits the Maria Moliner school on April 30, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)
TOLEDO, SPAIN - MAY 22: Princess Letizia of Spain poses for the press on the 10th anniversary of their wedding during a visit to the art exhibition 'El Greco' on May 22, 2014 in Toledo, Spain. (Photo by Europa Press/Europa Press via Getty Images)
SAN MILLAN DE LA COGOLLA, SPAIN - MAY 28: Princess Letizia of Spain attends the inauguration of the IX International Seminary about Language and Communication Media 'El Espanol del Futuro en el Periodsimo de HoyÓ at the Monastery of Yuso on May 28, 2014 in San Millan de la Cogolla, Spain. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)
SAN MILLAN DE LA COGOLLA, SPAIN - MAY 28: Princess Letizia of Spain attends the inauguration of the IX International Seminary about Language and Communication Media 'El Espanol del Futuro en el Periodsimo de Hoy' at the Monastery of Yuso on May 28, 2014 in San Millan de la Cogolla, Spain. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 22: In this handout image supplied by Casa de S.M. el Rey, Their Royal Highnesses, Prince Felipe of Spain and Princess Letizia of Spain pose for a photograph with their daughters the Princesses Leonor and Sofia on May 22, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. Prince Felipe of Spain and Princess Letizia of Spain celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. (Photo by Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotografos via Getty Images)
SEVILLE, SPAIN - MAY 27: Princess Letizia of Spain and Maria Jose Sanchez Rubio, Health Counselor of Andalusia region attend the AECC Scientific Foundation Annual Symposium at the Biomedicine Institute of Seville (IBIS) on May 27, 2014 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Niccolo Guasti/Getty Images)
SEVILLE, SPAIN - MAY 20: Princess Letizia of Spain attends a dinner with members of Sevilla Businessmen Confederation on May 20, 2014 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Europa Press/Europa Press via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 08: Princess Letizia of Spain attends audiences at Zarzuela Palace on May 8, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Europa Press/Europa Press via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 30: Princess Letizia of Spain visits the Maria Moliner school on April 30, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 30: Princess Letizia of Spain visits the Maria Moliner school on April 30, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 22: Princess Letizia of Spain attends the lunch in ocassion of the '2013 Cervantes Award' at the Royal Palace on April 22, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Jose Luis Cuesta Pool/Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 22: Princess Letizia of Spain attends the lunch in ocassion of the '2013 Cervantes Award' at the Royal Palace on April 22, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Jose Luis Cuesta Pool/Getty Images)
Spain's Princess Letizia (R) waves to the crowd after the traditional Mass of Resurrection in Palma de Mallorca on April 20, 2014. AFP PHOTO / JAIME REINA (Photo credit should read JAIME REINA/AFP/Getty Images)
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