Crown Prince Felipe of Asturias and journalist Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano became formally engaged on Thursday in a huge ceremony at Madrid’s La Zarzuela palace.

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Ms Ortiz, 31, and the 35-year-old prince surprised Spain over the weekend by announcing their engagement.

During the ceremony, a visibly happy King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia greeted the anchorwoman’s relatives, a middle class family from Asturias. The families then exchanged gifts: gold-and-sapphire cufflinks for him, a white gold and diamond-studded ring for her.

Some 300 journalists from 14 countries packed the ornate courtyard of another royal palace, El Pardo, later Thursday, as the fiancées appeared to show their gifts and answer press questions.

“The first time we met was just over a year ago,” Prince Felipe said. “But it was a casual encounter and nothing came of it.” He later added he plans to have between two and five children with Ortiz, who is “intelligent and has a great spirit of responsibility as well as courage”.

Ms Ortiz, dressed in a white suit, said the prince is “an exceptional human being, very sensible and a great reader, something which is very important to me”. She added she would stop working for TVE to assume duties in her new life.

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

Journalists have already started to offer huge amounts of money for the balconies facing the Almudena Cathedra, where the couple will marry.

A huge majority of Spaniards followed the TV broadcast of the engagement, with many expressing their satisfaction with the Prince’s choice.

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