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General Franco and the Spanish Succession

July 15th, 1957

The days of Bourbon rule in Spain seemed to be at an end when King Alfonso XIII left the country in 1931. He had survived five assassination attempts and republican feeling had become too strong for him to resist. Spain became a republic and Alfonso spent the rest of his life in Rome, where he died in 1941, a month after abdicating in favour of his third son Don Juan, Count of Barcelona.

The Civil War of 1936-39 left Spain a fascist dictatorship run by General Franco as El Caudillo (the Leader). Franco himself was by temperament a monarchist and a pious Roman Catholic – he kept the hand of St Teresa of Avila close by him as a holy relic – but he enjoyed being dictator and had no intention of giving way to any monarch. In addition he regarded Don Juan as a dangerous liberal and was thoroughly irritated in 1946 when Don Juan moved from Lausanne in Switzerland to Estoril in Portugal, to be closer to Spain.

In the following year Spain was officially proclaimed a monarchy with Franco as head of state and the power to choose his successor.

In 1948 Franco met Don Juan and persuaded him to let his ten-year-old son, Juan Carlos, be educated in Spain. The announcement made in 1957, when Juan Carlos was nineteen, officially confirmed to the Spanish Parliament that the monarchy would be restored on General Franco’s death or retirement, but without saying who the monarch would be. ‘The destinies of Spain will be directed,’ the parliament was told, ‘by a monarchy which is neither liberal nor absolute, but traditional, popular and Catholic.’ 

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