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Daughter of Spain's king marries Basque commoner Princess Cristina weds pro handball player in a multilingual rite


BARCELONA, Spain -- Princess Cristina, the third in line to the Spanish throne, married a Basque commoner who is a professional athlete yesterday in a ceremony that acknowledged Spain's regional differences.

The Roman Catholic service in the 13th-century cathedral was principally in Spanish, but also used Catalan, the regional language spoken in Barcelona, where the bride lives, and the Basque language, the groom's native tongue. Crowds lining the 10-mile procession route waved little blue flags that read "Best Wishes" in the three languages.

Princess Cristina Federica de Borbon y Grecia, 32, is the first member of the Spanish royal family ever to hold a salaried job; she prepares photographic exhibitions for a savings bank foundation. The groom, Inaki Urdangarin, 29, is a professional handball team player. They met last year at the Atlanta Summer Olympics.

The wedding of the middle child of King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia was in step with the royal family's efforts to strengthen links to all the country's regions. It is a style that has helped make the royal family enormously popular since the monarchy was restored in 1975 after the death of the right-wing dictator, Gen. Francisco Franco.

But the televised images from the Catalonian capital of the smiling princess in a long white gown did not show a growing undercurrent of political tension between Spain's regions and Madrid.

The conservative government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar controls Parliament thanks to support from the Barcelona-based Catalonian nationalist coalition, which in return has extracted concessions for greater control over the regional budget. The Catalonian political leader, Jordi Pujol, was seated one row behind the prime minister in the cathedral yesterday.

The Catalonian and Basque regions have been the traditional economic powerhouses of Spain, attracting job-seekers from poorer Spanish regions. They are also the two regions that have voiced support loudest for independence.

The history of the regions made the match of the Spanish princess, who has lived in Barcelona for five years, and the tall Basque athlete all the more engrossing for ordinary Spaniards.

The king's oldest daughter, Princess Elena, also married a commoner, in Seville in 1995. That leaves only Crown Prince Felipe, 29, unmarried.

Pub Date: 10/05/97

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