In a simple ceremony of less than twenty minutes, held in the Hall of Columns at the Royal Palace at Madrid at 6 p.m. today, King Juan Carlos signed into law the so-called organic law authorising his abdication. The bill was passed by the Congress of Deputies last Wednesday and by the Senate yesterday. It will come into effect when published in the official gazette, which will happen at midnight.
After the law had been read aloud, King Juan Carlos walked, with some difficulty because of his many recent operations on his hip and back, over to an ornate table of inlaid marble where he signed the act, which was thereafter countersigned by the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy of the Conservative Party.
Returning to his seat, King Juan Carlos gave Prince Felipe one of his characteristic big hugs and thereafter guided his son to the slightly elevated chair he had himself occupied until then. The 150 guests gave the outgoing King a standing ovation, which lasted for several minutes until he could no longer remain on his feet.
While King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía were seated with Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia in the centre of the room, Princess Leonor and Princess Sofía sat with their aunt, Princess Elena. Princess Cristina remains persona non grata and did not attend. Also present were King Juan Carlos's two sisters, Princess Pilar, Duchess of Badajóz and Princess Margarita, Duchess of Soria, the latter accompanied by her husband, Carlos Zurita, the King's aunt-by-marriage, 96-year-old Princess Alicia, and his cousin Prince Carlos, Duke of Calabria with his wife Ana.
Ex-King Simeon II of the Bulgarians and ex-King Konstantinos II of the Hellenes, accompanied by ex-Queen Anne-Marie, were present in their capacity as Knights of the Golden Fleece. The Greek ex-King is of course also Queen Sofía's brother, while ex-King Simeon is a childhood friend of King Juan Carlos.