Spain's royal family gathered Thursday to comfort grief-stricken Crown Princess Letizia and her relatives at the cremation of her youngest sister, who was found dead in her Madrid apartment.
Letizia, dressed in black, broke down in tears as she spoke briefly to a crowd of reporters after leaving the funeral home a day after the death of her 31-year-old sister, Erika Ortiz.
"Thanks to all who have felt sadness over the death of my little sister," said Letizia, who is expecting her second child, clinging to the arm of her husband, Crown Prince Felipe.
King Juan Carlos, Princess Elena, Princess Cristina and their husbands were among those who attended a prayer service at the funeral parlor. They hugged Letizia at the entrance of the funeral parlor.
Ortiz was found dead in the bedroom in her apartment by her boyfriend.
Her death was front-page news in all major papers Thursday and dominated radio and television talk shows in a country used to feasting on harmless gossip about their largely respected royals.
The nation's top-selling daily, El Pais, quoted Globomedia, the TV production company where Ortiz worked, as saying she had been on sick leave for stress and anxiety.
The paper said Ortiz, who recently returned to her post, had asked for two days' leave this week and was due to return to work Wednesday. El Pais said she had suffered from stress in the past.
The cause of her death was not revealed. Her family issued a statement shortly after her death asking for "prudence and respect".
In an obituary, El Mundo said Ortiz had spent years trying to establish herself professionally amid the success of her two elder sisters Letizia was a well-known TV anchorwoman before marrying Felipe and her other sister, Telma, was an overseas aid worker and had a troubled relationship with Antonio Vigo, a struggling artist who was the father of her 6-year-old daughter, Carla.
The obituary was entitled "the fragile, youngest sister."
Queen Sofia, who cut short an official visit to Indonesia, was returning to Madrid later Thursday. Media reports said she burst into tears upon learning of Erika Ortiz's death.
Letizia married Felipe, heir to the Spanish throne, in 2004. They are parents of a 1-year-old daughter, Leonor, and Letizia is due to give birth to their second child in May.