Spain’s princess Letizia becomes mother

Spain's Crown Princess Letizia early Monday gave birth to her first child, a girl who becomes second in line to the throne after her father Crown Prince Felipe and may some day become the future queen of Spain.

"The Prince and Princess of Asturias are delighted to announce that today their first child has been born in Madrid," the Royal Palace said in a statement. It added that name of the girl would be Leonor. "Their Majesties the King and Queen wish to express their great happiness at this joyful announcement," it added. The baby is the seventh grandchild of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia.

Letizia gave birth at 2:09 a.m. (0109GMT) Monday about seven hours after she entered the Ruber International Clinic in northern Madrid, accompanied by her husband, where she went on advice from her gynecologist after having contractions. Spanish news reports said Letizia had given birth two weeks before her due date. Both mother and child were doing fine, a Royal Palace spokesman said. He added that Felipe would appear before the press at the clinic's parking lot around 5a.m. (0400 GMT) to give more details about the birth.

The new princess is second in line to the throne after Prince Felipe, who is the third and only son of King Juan Carlos.

Her place in the royal succession could drop if Felipe and Letizia have any sons. The Spanish constitution now allows a female heir to the throne only if she has no brothers.

However, the girl could become the first Spanish princess to have the same right as a boy to accede to the throne and become queen.

The Socialist government is looking into changing the law under which the eldest male is automatically heir to the throne even if he has an older sister.

It was not immediately clear whether the government would press on with that constitutional change after the birth of the princess.

Letizia Ortiz, 33, became Spain's crown princess in May 2004 when she married Felipe, 37, in a glamorous royal wedding ceremony.

Letizia and Felipe surprised Spaniards on Nov. 1, 2003, by announcing their engagement. Few knew that the heir to the Spanish throne had been dating a woman who was one of the country's best-known television personalities, a divorcee without royal or aristocratic links.

The tall, dashing prince met Letizia at a dinner party in late 2002 and they started dating secretly the following spring, reports the AP. I.L.