Spain’s new King Felipe VI was proclaimed monarch at a formal ceremony in the country’s Parliament on Thursday, a deliberately low-key occasion for austere times and tarnished royal reputations.

King Felipe swore an oath of allegiance to democratic principles in front lawmakers and senators, who shouted “Viva el Rey!” (Long live the king!).

Although the 18th-century Spanish crown and 17th-century sceptre were displayed next to the new monarch, authorities shunned an opulent coronation ceremony. The option for a relatively low-key proclamation was chosen out of sensitivity to the financial hardship endured by many Spaniards after a double-dip recession.

Even so, the cheering crowds and the pageantry provided a welcome distraction as Spaniards were reeling from their national team’s shock defeat by Chile in the World Cup in Brazil, which ended their hope of winning a second consecutive title.

Earlier, in his first official act since ascending to the throne after midnight, King Felipe received the red sash of Captain General of the Armed Forces from his father Juan Carlos, who signed his abdication decree in favor of Felipe on Wednesday.

“We have a great country. We should all be proud of being Spaniards,” King Felipe said at his swearing-in ceremony.

King Felipe acknowledged a need to restore the monarchy’s image after recent royal scandals.

The monarchy was rocked when Juan Carlos went on a luxurious elephant-hunting safari Botswana as Spaniards endured financial hardship, and his youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, was obliged to testify in a fraud and money laundering case engulfing her husband, Olympic handball medalist turned businessman Inaki Urdangarin.

King Felipe also sought to inspire a country where a quarter of the population is unemployed and many have emigrated in search of work.

After a brief military parade, King Felipe VI and his wife Queen Letizia drove through Madrid in an open-top vintage Rolls Royce with the king standing, before appearing in front of crowds on a balcony at the royal palace. The royal couple’s daughters, Princesses Leonor, 8, and Sofia, 7, accompanied them throughout.

(Spain’s newly crowned King Felipe VI waves next to Queen Letizia from an open-top Rolls Royce in the streets in Madrid on Thursday. Photo: AP)

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