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Spanish prince to wed journalist

By Associated Press
Published November 7, 2003

MADRID - Crown Prince Felipe formally proposed to his TV-anchorwoman girlfriend Thursday, riveting Spain as a thoroughly modern couple enacted a centuries-old tradition.

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia greeted relatives of journalist Letizia Ortiz at the Zarzuela Palace in a ceremony known as the peticion de mano, in which the groom formally asks his beloved's parents for her hand in marriage.

The families then exchanged gifts: gold-and-sapphire cufflinks for him, a white-gold, diamond-studded ring for her.

Ortiz, 31, and the prince, 35, surprised Spain over the weekend by announcing their engagement. Few knew that the heir to the Spanish throne had been dating a woman who was one of the country's best-known television personalities, a divorcee without royal or aristocratic links.

Some 350 journalists packed the ornate courtyard of another royal palace, El Pardo, later Thursday as the couple appeared to show off the gifts and talk about their rapid-fire courtship.

Prince Felipe said he likes "her intelligence, her spirit of responsibility, her courage."

Ortiz praised the prince, saying, "He is an exceptional human being, very sensible and a great reader, something which is very important to me."

The wedding will be next summer at the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, but no date has been announced.

Ortiz, an anchorwoman for Spanish National Television, said she will gradually stop working and prepare for the wedding and her duties as a princess. Once married, Ortiz will become the crown princess of Asturias.

"It is clear that from now on, I will gradually join and dedicate myself to this new life, with the obvious responsibilities that it entails, with the support of the king and queen," Ortiz said.

When the prince tried to interject, Ortiz cut him off saying, "Let me finish."

The prince was also asked how many children he and Ortiz are going to have.

"We don't really have say over that, do we? But our intention is maybe more than two but fewer than five," Prince Felipe said.

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