Crown Prince Felipe says he wants to promote Spain as a "united and diverse" nation when he takes over as king of the country that struggles with 25 percent unemployment and Catalonian secessionist fervor.

Felipe received a standing ovation from sympathizers in an ancient monastery church, where he spoke Wednesday for the first time since he was tapped to become king.

Felipe attended the ceremony to award a cultural prize to a Franciscan friar-historian. His wife Princess Letizia, a glamorous former television journalist dubbed the nation's first "Middle Class Queen" in Spanish media, also attended.

The crown prince will become King Felipe VI as early as June 18 following Monday's announcement by King Juan Carlos that he will abdicate because the country needs new royal blood to lead it.