On this day in 1975: Spain's dictator General Francisco Franco died

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On this day in 1975: Spain's dictator General Francisco Franco died
Photo: Sergio Flores Andalu/Twitter

It was forty years ago today that General Francisco Franco died, ending a 36-year-long fascist dictatorship and ushering in a new era of democracy.


Just after midnight on November 20th 1975, General Francisco Franco died aged 82.

El Caudillo ruled Spain with an iron fist after his side, the Nationalists, won Spain’s 1936-39 civil war.

Friend of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, Franco allowed the Nazis use of Spain’s ports during he Second World War, but remained officially neutral in the conflict.

Here is how national and international media reported his death and the end of a 36 year dictatorship. 

La Vanguardia

Photo: Nacho Latorre/Twitter

Traditionally a newspaper related to Liberalism, La Vanguardia is the only Catalan newspaper to have survived all of Spain’s regime changes. It was one of the two main state newspapers, along with ABC during the Franco regime.

It added Española to its name during the Franco regime to better fit with the new state ideology. 

"Decisive crossroads for Spain - Francisco Franco has died" ran its headline on November 20th 1975. 

"News of the death of Francisco Franco, Spanish Head of State, has been received by the majority of Spaniards with a mixture of sorrow, worry and uncertainty," the paper wrote.

"The country is at a particularly critical crossroads, it realizes that a significant page has irreversibly entered the history books and that now we are at the beginning of a new era."

La Vanguardia ran two photogaphs on its front page, one of the deceased Franco and one of the youthful Juan Carlos, of whom it said Spaniards "had great expectations". 



The conservative Spanish daily was, along with La Vanguardia, one of the two major dailies under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Its front page covered Franco’s ailing health on November 20th and on November 21st ran with a photograph of Franco in his coffin with the headline "Vivo en la historia" (loosely translated as “History will remember him”).

The newspaper’s coverage called Franco’s death "no less painful for having been expected" and said that his death marked the end of "a glorious chapter in the history of Spain". 

La Marca

Photo: AFP

Spain’s sports newspaper, searching for a sporty angle on the story ran the headline "Franco has died" with the subheading "an exemplary sportman" and included a photograph of Franco astride a horse. 


Carlos Arias Navarro, Prime Minister of Spain since 1973, announced the death of Franco on national broadcaster RTVE.

His voice shaking, he says: "Fellow Spaniards. Franco has died."

"Spain feels now more than ever the infinite anguish of its helplessness," he said. 

"It is a time of pain and sadness, but it is not the time for dejection or despair."

He talked about how Franco has left Spaniards "his work" and "his example". 

"I can assure you that his last thought was of you and of Spain," he told viewers.

Arias Navarro would be ousted by King Juan Carlos in 1976. 

The New York Times 

The obituary in the American daily ran with the headline "Out of the crucible of civil war, Franco’s iron hand forged a modern Spain". 

Photo: AFP


"Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain with an authoritarian fist for 39 years, has died," ran the BBC headline.

"The Prime Minister, Carlos Arias Navarro, his voice trembling with emotion, announced the death at 1000 local time on radio.

"He said that on his deathbed General Franco had asked his enemies to forgive him.

"I ask pardon of all my enemies, as I pardon with all my heart all those who declared themselves my enemy, although I did not consider them to be so," the general had said.

The BBC reported that leaders of European countries had been "guarded" in their reaction the dictator's death and had expressed hope that the new king (Juan Carlos) would introduce modern democracy to Spain.


Time magazine was already looking to the future, even before Franco had died. Its November 1975 edition ran with a front page titled "Spain after Franco" and included a photograph of the then Prince Juan Carlos, who would be Franco's nominated successor to become King of Spain, a position he retained until he abdicated in favour of his son in June 2014. 


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