King Felipe VI of Spain has stripped sister Princess Cristina of her title as Duchess of Palma ahead of her tax fraud trial.
Infanta Cristina, who is to go on trial charged with tax evasion, was granted the Duchess of Palma de Mallorca title in 1997 when she married Inaki Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player who is also accused of tax evasion.
Princess Cristina had asked King Felipe to remove her title, her lawyer said.
However, the royal palace said the king made the decision before seeing her request. Princess Cristina denies the tax fraud charges.
In the year since King Felipe, 47, succeeded his father, King Juan Carlos, to the throne, he has excluded Princess Cristina de Borbon and her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, who faces a wider array of corruption charges in the case, from the royal family’s official functions.
Prosecutors in Palma de Mallorca have long been investigating the business dealings of Inaki Urdangarin.
Inaki Urdangarin stands accused with 15 others of embezzling 5.6 million euros ($6 million) of public money from the Noos Institute – a charitable sports foundation he ran with a business partner. Princess Cristina is accused of involvement in the alleged scam.
It is the first time in modern Spain’s history that a member of the royal family has faced court cross-examination in a major corruption scandal.
Princess Cristina, 50, is the youngest daughter of former King Juan Carlos, who abdicated last year.
An investigating judge recommended that Princess Cristina of Spain, sister of King Felipe VI, be charged in a tax fraud and money laundering case that has helped inflame opposition to the monarchy.
Infanta Cristina, 49, was questioned in court in February about the business dealings of her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, and could now face trial.
However, an appeal has been lodged against the decision.
The judge’s ruling will come as an embarrassment to Felipe VI, who came to the throne only six days ago.
The tax fraud case was one of several scandals that weakened the popularity of the Spanish monarchy and prompted the abdication of King Juan Carlos.
Princess Cristina’s appearance in court in Mallorca was unprecedented for the royal family and if she goes to trial, she could face up to 11 years in jail.
Princess Cristina’s appearance in court in Mallorca was unprecedented for the royal family and if she goes to trial
The investigating judge’s decision is a major development in this investigation and a huge embarrassment for the Spanish royal family.
Judge Jose Castro believes Infanta Cristina knew more than she has let on regarding the allegedly corrupt activities of her husband, Inaki Urdangarin.
This inquiry has now lasted more than three years and during that time it has heavily eroded the popularity of the royal family. Princess Cristina has already appeared in court to testify, but the door is now open for her to face trial, which would take the scandal to a new level.
Judge Jose Castro has been investigating allegations that the princess’s husband embezzled millions in public funds with a former business partner.
Inaki Urdangarin, who is the Duke of Palma, and Diego Torres were alleged to have received 5.6 million euros ($7.5 million) by overcharging regional governments for organizing sporting events as part of a not-for-profit organization called Noos.
Announcing his decision, Judge Jose Castro said the princess should be tried alongside her husband and other suspects.
Anti-corruption prosecutors had already opposed his decision to name Princess Cristina as a suspect, saying there was insufficient evidence against her. Prosecutor Pedro Horrach said on Wednesday an appeal was being lodged “because there is still no piece [of evidence] against” the princess.
A final decision on whether Princess Cristina should stand trial will be made by the provincial court at Palma de Mallorca.
Felipe VI has been proclaimed king of Spain after the abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos, in a ceremony in parliament.
Earlier, King Felipe VI received the royal sash from his father, Juan Carlos, at the Zarzuela Palace near Madrid.
He acceded to the throne at the stroke of midnight after Juan Carlos formally abdicated on Wednesday.
Correspondents say the ceremonies have been kept low key, at a time when many in Spain are suffering economic hardship.
The ceremony takes the form of a proclamation rather than a coronation. It is the first royal transition in Spain since democracy was restored in the 1970s.
Felipe VI has been proclaimed king of Spain after the abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos
King Felipe VI, 46, swore an oath promising to uphold the constitution.
Congress President Jesus Posada then proclaimed him king, declaring: “Long live Spain! Long live the king!”
In a speech to parliament, King Felipe thanked his parents and said he had “great hope” for the future of Spain.
“You will find in me a loyal head of state who is ready listen and understand, warn and advise as well as to defend the public interest at all times,” he said.
“The monarch wants to be close to citizens… ensuring it can preserve its prestige and dignity.”
“Now more than ever, citizens of Spain are rightly demanding fundamental ethical principles should govern our public life. The king should not only be a reference but who serves all citizens of Spain.”
No foreign leaders or royal families have been invited to the event.
King Felipe and his wife Letizia will later be driven through Madrid’s streets before appearing on the front balcony of the Royal Palace.
Correspondents say the new king faces a series of tough challenges if he is to restore the reputation of the monarchy.
Although King Juan Carlos won plaudits for his role in restoring democracy, his image suffered when he went on a luxurious African elephant-hunting safari in the midst of a recession.
His reputation suffered further damage because of tax fraud allegations made against his daughter, Infanta Cristina, who is reported not to have been invited to the succession party.
At the same time many Spaniards are demanding a referendum on whether to have a monarchy at all.
A demonstration is scheduled to take place in central Madrid on Thursday, the same day as the enthronement, despite a ban imposed by authorities.