Spain's Crown Prince Felipe VI has been sworn in as the new king in a low-key ceremony which supporters of monarchy in the country hope will usher in a new era of popularity for the troubled royal household.

Earlier this month, his father Juan Carlos abdicated following a series of scandals that led many Spaniards to question the role of the monarchy itself.

The ceremony on Thursday, at Spain's lower house of parliament in Madrid, had little pomp and circumstance compared with royal handovers in other countries.

It is more of a legal process, attended by parliament members, high-level politicians and some members of the royal family. No foreign leaders have been invited.

The event was designed to chime with times of austerity, palace officials say according to Reuters, mindful that more than one in four Spanish workers is jobless despite an incipient economic recovery.

Royal sash was passed from father to son in a separate non-flashy ceremony at the Zarzuela Palace close to Madrid early on Thursday.

Hopes for the new king are high, and some believe that, despite his role being mainly symbolic as head of state, he will use his position to push dialogue over the challenge of a separatist movement in wealthy northeastern Catalonia.

Untouched by scandal

Felipe, who is 46, wore military uniform with a sash and swear loyalty to Spain's constitution before addressing the chamber.

After the ceremony he was to be driven through central Madrid with his wife, Queen Letizia, a former journalist.

Juan Carlos was not expected to attend the event to allow the spotlight to rest fully on the new monarch, according to the palace.

He and his wife, Queen Sofia, were expected to stay away from an afternoon reception at the Royal Palace with 2,000 guests from all walks of society.

However, Juan Carlos and Sofia were to greet crowds from a balcony at the Royal Palace alongside the new monarchs.

Felipe has remained untouched by a royal corruption scandal, in which his brother-in-law is charged with embezzling millions of euros of public funds in a case that shocked ordinary Spaniards.

Juan Carlos also lost favour after going on a secret elephant hunting trip at the height of Spain's financial crisis in 2012.

While polls show the decision to hand over to Felipe has boosted the popularity of the royals, almost two-thirds now also support the idea of a referendum on whether Spain should continue to be a constitutional monarchy, according to a recent poll by Metroscopia for El Pais newspaper.

Source: Agencies