SPAIN'S new king, Felipe VI, has been sworn in at a relatively modest ceremony which monarchists hope will usher in a new era of popularity for the troubled royal household.

He called immediately for Spain to stay united but respect the cultural differences among its regions, ending a speech by saying "thank you" in several languages: Castilian Spanish, Basque, Catalan and Galician.

Felipe became king after his father Juan Carlos abdicated earlier this month following a series of scandals that led many Spaniards — especially younger generations — to question the role of the monarchy itself.

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One of the biggest challenges for Felipe will be whether he can use his symbolic role to spur dialogue between the leaders of Spain and the wealthy north-eastern region of Catalonia, where there is a growing independence movement.

The new king, who is 46, wore military uniform with a sash and swore loyalty to Spain's constitution before addressing dignitaries gathered in the lower house of parliament with a long portion of his speech dedicated to the issue of national unity.

"There is room for all of us in a united and diverse Spain," Felipe said in his speech.

He stressed respect for the diverse cultures and languages within Spain, a clear message to people in Catalonia and Basque Country, who want to break away from Spain

The multilingual gesture, however, got a cool response from the regional leaders of Catalonia and Basque Country, who were sitting in the parliament listening to the speech.