Relationship between Spanish King Juan Carlos I and Franco´s dictatorship

Juan Carlos Borbón and Francisco Franco, 1973.

PhD Candidate at the University of the Basque Country

Good afternoon, my name is Sara Hidalgo. I am a PHD candidate at the University of the Basque Country. I am doing a research about working class movement in some industrial areas of the Basque Country from the beginning of the XXth century to the II Republic period.
First of all I would like to thank the organization of this event for inviting me to give this speech. I am going to speak about the relationship between the Spanish monarchy and Franco dictatorship. I would like to note that I am not going to speak about the repression and the lack of democracy happened during the dictatorship, even if they happened. However, I´m going to analyze the different laws that allowed Prince Juan Carlos become King of Spain.
Let me begin with the Civil war era, 1936-1939, when the so-called National Front held a coup d´état against the Legitimate republic. The Republic was proclaimed on 14th April 1931, and consequently the Royal Family was exiled, with the King Alfonso XIII and his son, Prince D. Juan. The connections between the monarchy and the dictatorship began at this point. Monarchs have had a long relation with Franquismo. Juan de Borbon, the heir of the Spanish monarchy, wanted to enroll in the “National” Army during the Civil War, because he didn´t agree with the Republic. But, Franco did not allow the monarchy to interfere with his plans.
During the II WW, relations between Don Juan and Franco cooled. Then, monarchists started their relationship with Socialist Party and others. On the 19 of March 1945, the monarchy led by Juan de bourbon wrote the Lausana Manifesto. In this Manifesto Don Juan said that he, and the Borbon family, was opposed to Franco´s regime and he proposed for Spain the constitutional Monarchy. This opposition came because Don Juan in 1945 saw the defeat of Mussolini and Hitler, some Fascist and Nazi regimes. But Franco didn´t care about this manifesto.
In 1947 Franco approved the Law of Succession for the head of state (this law is one of the so-called “eight fundamental laws of franquism”). According to this law, Spain became again Kingdom, but without King, and with Franco in the role of head of state. Also, Franco would name his successor when he chose to, who would then have to be approved by the courts.
When this law was approved, Don Juan made a second manifesto. On April 7, 1947, the Estoril Manifesto was written, in opposition to this Succession law. According to this manifesto Don Juan was claiming himself as the legitimate heir of Borbon, and he was rejecting the alteration of the monarchy´s nature, that means, name the heir without continue with the so consider, natural succession.
So these manifestos were ideologically broking with Franco, and they were reclaiming the throne for the Bourbon family. Neither manifesto, however, had any impact on Franco´s internal policies. Furthermore, at this time, many national and international events of great importance occurred: first, there was a conspiracy against Franco by his own generals, like Aranda. Also, some of Franco´s own political allies pressured him to reinstitute the monarchy. There was also the communist invasion led by Carrillo through the Valley of Aran; and condemnation from the UN. All of these events provoked the internal forces to support Franco even more. These internal forces were the military, the church, the political party called Falange, and the popular support.
1948 was a key year for Franco. His internal support is strong and his extreme anti-communism helps give his regime a better image, especially in the eyes of the United States. In this context, the cause of the monarchy becomes even more isolated, and many monarchies begin to think that instead of opposing Franco, they should seek to negotiate with him.
In August of 1948 the important meeting between Franco and the Don Juan, the heir of the Borbon dynasty, occurred in the city of San Sebastian. Franco y Don Juan decided that Juan Carlos, the son of Don Juan, would come to Spain to be educated both in school and Franco´s ideology. Meanwhile, in San Juan de Luz (France), the socialist leader Indalecio Prieto and some Spanish monarchs attempt to form a unified anti-franquist front. But when priest realized that the monarchs were negotiating with Franco, he broke the pact and stopped negotiations.
In November of 1948 Juan Carlos arrived in Spain for his education. He was educated in the principles of the movement, through his father Don Juan was allowed to select some of his professors, as was agreed to by Franco.
In 1951 Franco suggested that D. Juan should renounce to his rights to the throne in favor of Juan Carlos. This suggestion consequently broke the relationship between Franco and D. Juan. However, D. Juan didn´t remove his son Juan Carlos from Spain.
Between 1953 and 1955 very important events occurred for Franco and Spain. In 1953 Spanish government signed the Concordat with the Vatican. Consequently, it appeared to indicate great international support for Franco´s regime. But, the most important moment was in 1955, when Spain became member of the UN. At this moment, Franco´s regime became absolutely consolidated internationally, and the opposition couldn´t do anything. The main reason for this international recognition was the regime´s huge anti-communist ideology, and the allies wanted to face the Soviet Union, so they thought that was good to have that regime in Spain.
Returning to the Monarchy, in 1955 Juan Carlos swore allegiance to the at that time current Spanish flag, the regime´s flag. His position improved greatly within the regime.
At this point, I have to explain that inside the dictatorship there were the so-called “Political factions”: Falange (fascists); monarchists (most of them the so-called Carlistas, the heirs of the XIXth century dynastic civil war, very conservative and monarchist), the militaries, and the Church.
In 1957, one of these “factions”, the carlistas went to D. Juan and said that they would recognize him as the legitimate heir of the Borbon family if Don Juan accepted their ideological principles. Don Juan agreed, and in 1958, in Lourdes (a holy place in France), D. Juan spoke in favor or the carlistas, recognizing their ideological principles and said that he was supporting the traditional, catholic, social and representative monarchy. One of the families of the regime, then, supported D. Juan instead of Juan Carlos.
In 1962 Juan Carlos married Sofía de Grecia. At the beginning the new couple didn´t know where to live, but they finally set their home in “Zarzuela Palace”, in Madrid. Juan Carlos was now better situated to be the next King of Spain.
In this same year, 1962, an important European event occurred, the Munich Conference. There, most of the forces opposed to the regime, included monarchists, participated. The Communist Party didn´t participate. At this conference, negotiations between the Socialists and monarchists began again, something very important for future events during the “transition” period in the 70s and 80s. The socialist leader, Rodolfo Llopis, said that even the socialists would compromise with the republic, and would support the monarchy if it would result in a peaceful transition to democracy.
In 1966 Franco´s regime sets the so-called “Ley Orgánica del Estado”, which implied a so-called “democratic” law, but it was not democratic. This law pursued an ideological “cleaning” of the regime and hoped for greater international recognition. We have to pay attention to the social changes that were happening in Spain in this moment, the modernization of the society, the “opening” of the regime, and the great influence of tourism, with the arrival of European people with different ideas and ways of life. Spanish society was at the center of these changes, and at the same time was changed by them. This law was fundamental to open the possibility of Juan Carlos to become king, as we will see in 1969, when he became the official heir of Franco.
In 1968, an important event happened for the Royal Family. Juan Carlos had a son, Prince Felipe, so a new heir appeared. The baptism of Prince Felipe had some political implications: the last Queen of Spain, Queen Victoria Eugenia (Alfonso XIII´s wife) and D. Juan, returned to Spain from exile, and many monarchists welcomed them. And, acting in a polemical way, D. Juan went to pray to Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera´s grave, one of the Falange´s leaders during the Civil War.
In 1969, Franco´s succession enters a decisive phrase. The new Franco´s government of technocrats, Rodó and Carrero Blanco, supported Juan Carlos, and so Juan Carlos was better situated within the regime. This event created a new period of tension between Don Juan and Juan Carlos. Don Juan represented the dynastic legitimacy (he was the son of the last Spanish King, Alfonso XIII), but Juan Carlos had the support of the franquist regime and represented almost the only possibility of the restitution of the
Borbons to the throne. In fact, D. Juan continued defending his legitimacy to the throne until the last moment, even facing his son, but, finally he realized that the Spanish military was supporting Juan Carlos, so he had no chance.
On 21 July 1969, Franco, using the Ley de Sucesión a la Jefatura del Estado (Law for the Heritage to the head of state), made, at the end, Juan Carlos his heir. Juan Carlos accepted the dictatorship, and its ideological principles. Franco had to skip a generation, Juan de Borbon, naming Prince Juan Carlos as his personal heir. To become the heir, Juan Carlos had to swear loyalty to Franco´s Movimiento Nacional. Moreover, Juan Carlos met Franco many times and consulted him, as well as took part in official state functions alongside the dictator. The photograph of Juan Carlos near Franco is used by republicans and liberals to criticize his role in this period. In this period Juan Carlos acted as head of state, due to some of Franco´s temporary incapacity.
In 1971 even if Juan Carlos was the official heir, Franco didn´t have absolute confidence in him. A proof of this, is that he encouraged the marriage between his granddaughter, Carmen Martínez-Bordiu, and Alfonso de Borbon (Juan Carlos´s cousin, and son of the supposed legitimate heir, who renounced through the throne in favor of Don Juan), in an attempt of creating a Franco-Borbón dynasty. But it didn´t work, and Juan Carlos continued being the heir.
In 1975 Franco was very ill. In this year Juan Carlos had to become the head of State due to Franco´s illness. So, we can say that current King Juan Carlos was head of state during the dictatorship.
Then Spain entered a period of “Restoration of the Monarchy” under the democracy.
Franco died on 20 November 1975, and two days later, Juan Carlos became King of Spain and swore loyalty to the “Movimiento”. Juan Carlos recognized that it was due to the support of the Army he could became King. But then he started to make reforms, and he appointed Adolfo Suarez, a former leader of the Movimiento Nacional as Prime Minister of Spain. I will not speak about Adolfo Suarez, but he´s an important person who led the transition, the last dictatorship prime minister, as well as first democratic prime minister. He founded the UCD (a party attempting being the center of the Spanish political spectrum).
In June of 1977, Spain held its first post-Franco democratic elections and in 1978 its new Constitution was promulgated, which acknowledged Juan Carlos as King of Spain, as well as his heirs. The Constitution was passed by the democratically elected Courts, and ratified by the people. However, not everybody agreed with this new Constitution, especially in the Basque Country, where it was not completely ratified.
At the conclusion of the dictatorship, we can say that, the Monarchy was not something that appeared suddenly from nowhere, and led the transition from dictatorship to democracy, but it was an institution that was inside the dictatorship, even with different opinions, but inside. In 1975 Juan Carlos realized that, within the international community, and the social and political situation inside Spain, nobody was going to support another dictatorship. So, becoming democrat, or pragmatic, as some may say, he led the transition. He was supported by the Army (which had its own evolution to democratization), and most importantly, he has the support of the Socialist and later the Communist Party.
Role of democratic parties: PSOE, PCE.
The role of the democratic parties I think is one of the keys that explain the actual situation of the monarchy.
Let´s start with the Socialist Party, one of the most powerful opposition parties. As mentioned, throughout the dictatorship, the Socialist Party had contact and negotiations with the Monarchists. In the very important Sureness Conference in 1974, an important ideological change in the party occurred. This was led by Felipe Gonzalez and some other young members who represented the new generation of the party that didn´t live during the republic era. In the first democratic elections, the socialist party became an important political force in Spain. But, the party made some very sensitive changes, like the republican tradition, considered a great betrayal by some people, though for some others, it was considered a reform that brought better results, like the 1978 Constitution. In 1977 Socialist Party was seen as the real left alternative, displacing the Communist Party. In fact, in 1979 Socialist Party renounced Marxist thought, as well as the republic, and supported the monarchy. Since this moment, Socialist Party became the hegemonic party which led the transition and next years, being in the Government since 1982 to 1996. I think that its support of the Monarchy or, at least, to Juan Carlos has been key for this institution.
Let´s pay attention now to the other important left party, the Communist Party. This party became legal on April 1977, and went to the elections this year, led by Santiago Carrillo. Unlike the Socialist Party, most of the leadership of Communists came from the exile, and this group had accepted in the 50´s the euro-communist ideas (unlike the party in the secrecy, which was more revolutionary and didn´t want a transition, but a rupture with Franco´s regime). When the communist party decided to support the Monarchy, a great internal debate occurred, but in the end, they supported the Monarchy, and this support was very important for popular support of Juan Carlos.
Another important point for the survival of the Monarchy is the “political stability” that came with the bipartisanship, which was made in this moment of the transition. The current polemical electoral law, (D´Hont law) had his roots in this moment, and was signed by most of the parties in the transition because they wanted stability, also for the monarchy, because in the practice, no other party but the socialist or the Popular will have real possibilities to reach the government.
We will have also to pay to the Constitution of 1978, our current democratic constitution. They made a referendum for being approved. They say that, as far as the King appears in that Constitution, that is the referendum has been in Spain about the Monarchy. In some Spanish regions the opposition to the Constitution was great, for example in the Basque Country.
Juan Carlos held the coup d’état in 1981 and it continues to be controversial today. The Coup d´état of 23 February 1981 happened when some Army members wanted to kidnap the democratic court members. It was 8 hours before the King of Spain publically appeared to rejecting this act, but finally, at 1.30 am of 25 February he said on television that, as a Commander in Chief of the Military, the coup d´état should be terminated. Today, some revisions of this “official version” claim that this coup d’état was an act of propaganda to reinforce the image of the King as a democrat. Recent information has appeared in some German diaries with some diplomatic letters saying that King had “some sympathy” with the militaries implicated in the coup d’état. At any rate, we can´t deny the fact that the coup d’état was rejected and all political parties condemned it, including the King of Spain.
This last idea ties in to the general situation in Spain today, where it has opened a great debate around the Monarchy, especially related with the latest discourses about the political transition or the dictatorship. According to some scholars this has been possible because now the generation which we are the grandsons of the people who lived the civil war, we are putting in question all the “official” narrative about the transition. This can be explained due to our deeper democratic culture, due to the revulsion over the “Ley de Memoria Histórica” (with all the controversies it carried), or just the need of know what happened with the people our grandparents are telling us about in the civil war (the civil war as a topic was not told by them to their sons or daughters, but was told to their grandsons). These are some of the factors that can explain the great debate around the Monarchy nowadays.
Of course, the King and Royal Family have their own responsibility: the Urdangarin Affaire, the last King hunting in Bostwana (April 2012), and the government and courts rejection of making the Royal Family´s fund more public, all contribute to an increasingly worse image of the Royal Family and the King. But this bad image, as said, is more widespread among young people, so, we can suppose that as the older generation passes, a deeper and larger debate around the role of the Royal Family in Spain will occur.
The Urdangarin affaire is being important for the discredit of the Monarchy. Urdangarin is Infanta Cristina´s husband, member of the Royal family. He was president of “Noos Institute”, which supposed made some illegal business with the autonomic governments of Valencia and Baleares. The polemic came when they suppose to exist proofs that Urdangarin take in advantage his status as member of the Royal Family for making this business, (and according to some proofs, King knew this), and it supposed to stole the money he was receiving in order to use for the Institute. Another polemic point is that Infanta Cristina has not been imputed, even if she is also member of the Institute, so it supposes she´s being protected for the King or the Royal Family.



5 pensamientos en “Relationship between Spanish King Juan Carlos I and Franco´s dictatorship

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