General Francisco Franco, the 81-year-old Spanish leader now lying ill in hospital, today handed over as head of State to Prince Juan Carlos of Bourbon.
General Francisco Franco, the 81-year-old Spanish leader now lying ill in hospital, today handed over as head of State to Prince Juan Carlos of Bourbon. The move was officially described as a temporary one, but it paves the way for the permanent retirement of Franco after nearly forty years as undisputed leader of the Spanish nation.
It was the Spanish civil war which began in 1936 and lingered of until 1936 - which brought Franco to international fame. Leading the Nationalist forces against the Republicans, he made his reputation first as a military leader and, later, as a political rallying point. As the war progressed, he emerged as unchallenged leader of the victorious Nationalists and of Spain itself.
In 1939, Franco established his first government in Madrid. When World War Two broke out shortly afterwards, it seemed probably that Franco - who had enlisted the help of German and Italian military forces during the civil war -- would throw in his lot with the Axis. But, despite a personal meeting with Hitler soon after the Nazis had occupied most of Europe, he remained aloof from the conflict and kept his country neutral throughout the war.
After the defeat of Germany, the Allied powers were slow to advance recognition to Spain. It was 1947 before most of them established diplomatic ties with Madrid and 1955 before Spain was admitted to the United Nations.
But throughout, Franco himself remained unchallenged as Spain's national leader and figurehead. The early days of his regime were characterised by the strictest repression of any opposition. In later years, it became less harsh but throughout Franco's regime, complete freedom of the individual has never been allowed.
Franco turned his mind to the problem of his successor almost two decades ago. His negotiations for the return of the monarchy in Spain began with a meeting with the exiled Don Juan of Carlos, son of the late King Alfonso. Franco agreed then that Don Juan's son, Prince Juan Carlos would succeed him, and in 1969, his nomination as Franco's successor was officially approved.
Opposition to his regime has been evident inside Spain for some years and came into the open when the man Franco appointed as Prime Minister, Admiral Carrero Blanco, was assassinated earlier this year.
Even so, Franco's personal hold on Spain and its politics was such that no overt move was ever made to replace him. At 81, he was still capable of ruling his country and it was not until he become seriously ill and was admitted to hospital earlier this month that he was prepared to hand over power.
Today's announcement of the accession of Juan Carlos, 36, as Head of State is qualified as a temporary move. But is seems probable that this does, indeed, signal the end of the road for Franco, the most durable of all Europe's nation leaders.
SYNOPSIS: General Francisco Franco was a little over forty years of age when he sprang to world prominence as leader of the Nationalist forces against the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. The war began in 1936 and lingered on until 1939, when Franco's Nationalists emerged victorious. When the war began, Franco was already well known as a military leader, but, by the time it ended, he was the political rallying point for the new Spain.
Having entered Madrid, Franco set up his first government. But only a few months later, World War Two began. Franco met Hitler shortly after the Axis powers had occupied Europe, but Franco resisted Hitler's attempts to bring him into the war and Spain remained neutral throughout. When the war???anded in 1945, the allied powers were slow to recognise Franco and Spain was not admitted to the United Nations until 1955.
In his private life, Franco was always very much a family man who enjoyed nothing better than the opportunity to play with his five grandchildren. His rule of Spain, however, contrasted harshly with his private life, and was characterised by harsh repression of all opposition.
Franco, who rarely missed a mass rally or a military parade, was only rarely pictured off official duty. These pictures show him at one of his favorites recreations...hunting deer in the Spanish mountains.
Another of his off-duty pursuits was fishing. Here, in 1963, aboard his yacht, he goes hunting for big fish - whales. But even at such times, he remained firmly in control of his country.
It was not until 1969 that Franco officially announced his solution to the problem of his successor, choosing Prince Juan Carlos, grandson of the former King Alfonso to be head of state in his place when the time came for him to step down. But it was not until today - July 19, 1974 - that Franco made the decision. He has announced that Juan Carlos now succeeds to the position as Spain's nominal leader...although even now, the decision is officially said to be temporary.
But, whatever the official wording, it seems more than likely that the changeover is permanent. Franco, who was last seen in public at the funeral of Spain's Prime Minister, Admiral Carrero Blanco - assassinated by insurgents -- is now ill in hospital. He has been leader of Spain for nearly forty years and has been the most durable of Europe's leaders. Today, however, it seems he has come to the end of his power.