The couple's highly-anticipated balcony appearance was completed with a loving embrace
Photo: © AFP
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The radiant bride and her smiling groom appear on the balcony of the royal palace
Photo: © AFP

30 JULY 2004

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It was the day that Spain had awaited for nearly a century – Madrid’s first royal wedding in 98 years. And for many royal watchers, the ultimate fairytale moment would be the romantic kiss on the palace balcony that they were expecting to see after the newlyweds' spectacular procession through the city.

Thousands of cheering well-wishers lined the streets to catch a glimpse of Crown Prince Felipe and his bride, Crown Princess Letizia, as they were driven through the city in a glass-topped Rolls-Royce Phantom IV, surrounded by escorts on horseback.

While their guests gathered at the royal palace for the wedding banquet, Felipe and his bride wended their way through the colourful, music-filled streets to the Basilica of Atocha, where Letizia would offer her bouquet, in line with tradition, to a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Mingled with the cheers from the crowds, a variety of music could be heard – jazz, classical, modern flamenco and traditional Spanish tunes played by live orchestras at various points along the route. More than 150,000 springtime flowers had been used to deck the streets for the occasion.

During the procession, the royal couple passed by some of the city’s most famous landmarks, including the Prado, Puerta de Alcala and the famed throroughfare, Gran Via. However, with the city still mourning the March 11 terrorist attacks, Felipe and Letizia also paid homage to the victims, passing by a new monument consisting of 192 cypress and olive trees – one for each of the people who died in the tragedy – near the Atocha train station where the bombings took place.

After a brief sermon at the Basilica of Atocha, the Prince and Princess of Asturias, now accompanied by a motorcade, made their way back to the royal palace, where they were greeted by a traditional bagpipe band from the Spanish region of Asturias. And, as if on cue, just before the bride and groom appeared on the balcony of the royal palace for the first time as husband and wife, the clouds parted and the sun suddenly emerged, shining brilliantly in the Spanish skies.

But the crowds who shouted for the first public kiss between the couple would have to be satisfied with a somewhat more discreet gesture, as the shy crown prince coyly embraced his new bride, placing a kiss on her cheek. With well-wishers screaming for more, the couple gave a smile and a wave, re-entering the palace to greet their illustrious guests.