Spain relocates remains of Franco ally behind death of thousands

The remains of a Francoist general who is believed to have ordered the shooting of Spain's most famous poet were relocated on Thursday from a Seville church following a new law which bans the glorification of key figures of Spain's dictatorship.

queipo de llano remains franco ally
Gonzalo Queipo de Llano y Sierra (5 February 1875 – 9 March 1951) was a Spanish military leader who rose to prominence during the July 1936 coup, the Spanish Civil War and the period of political repression and violence known as the 'White Terror'. Photo: Public Domain/Wikipedia

A small group of family members applauded as a van containing the remains of general Gonzalo Queipo de Llano, his wife and his right-hand man emerged from Seville’s iconic Macarena basilica at 2:20 am, television images showed. Some people chanted “Viva Queipo!”.   

Queipo de Llano ran a military campaign in the south during Spain’s 1936-39 civil war and is believed to have given the green light to the shooting of thousands of people, including celebrated Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca.

As his remains were being driven away from the church, Paqui Maqueda, an activist who campaigns to restore the memory of victims of the Franco regime, recited the names of family members who were executed by the rightist dictatorship.

“Honour and glory to the victims of Francoism!” she shouted.

The Macarena brotherhood, the Roman Catholic association that looks after the basilica, said the exhumations were carried out with the consent of the family members of the three people.

They were done to comply with the Democratic Memory law that came into effect last month, it added in a statement.

The law, which tackles the legacy of Franco’s 1939-1975 dictatorship and the three-year civil war that preceded it, says leaders of the 1936 military coup that triggered the civil war may not remain buried in prominent public spaces other than a cemetery.

The brotherhood did not say to where Queipo de Llano’s remains would be moved.

He was a member of the brotherhood and was buried in the Macarena basilica when he died in 1951.

Between 1936 and 1951, repression at the hands of Franco’s forces claimed the lives of some 50,000 people in the southern region of Andalusia where Queipo de Llano operated, according to the regional government.

Spain’s leftist government welcomed the exhumations.

“This is what we have to do as a democratic and civilised country,” Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz told public television TVE.

But the leader of far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal, accused the government of “profaning graves”.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has made the rehabilitation of the victims of the Franco era one of his priorities since coming to power in 2018.

In 2019 he had Franco’s remains removed from a vast mausoleum near Madrid and transferred to a discreet family plot.

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Spain’s Emperor Charles V’s secret code cracked after five centuries

A team of researchers has cracked a five century-old code which reveals a rumoured French plot to kill the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain Charles V.

Spain's Emperor Charles V's secret code cracked after five centuries

Charles was one of the most powerful men of the 16th century, presiding over a vast empire that took in much of western Europe and the Americas during a reign of more than 40 years.

It took the team from the Loria research lab in eastern France six months to decipher the letter written in 1547 by the emperor to his ambassador in France.

The tumultuous period saw a succession of wars and tensions between Spain and France, ruled at that time by Francis I, the Renaissance ruler who brought Leonardo da Vinci from Italy.

The letter from Charles V to Jean de Saint-Mauris had languished forgotten for centuries in the collections of the Stanislas library in Nancy.

Cecile Pierrot, a cryptographer from Loria, first heard of its existence at a dinner in 2019, and after much searching was able to set eyes on it in 2021.

Bearing the signature of Charles V, it was at once mysterious and utterly incomprehensible, she told reporters on Wednesday.

‘Snapshot of strategy’ 

In painstaking work backed by computers, Pierrot found “distinct families” of some 120 symbols used by Charles V.

“Whole words are encrypted with a single symbol” and the emperor replaced vowels coming after consonants with marks, she said, an inspiration probably coming from Arabic.

In another obstacle, he also used symbols that mean nothing to mislead any adversary trying to decipher the message. The breakthrough came in June, when Pierrot managed to make out a phrase in the letter, and the team then cracked the code with the help of historian Camille Desenclos.

“It was painstaking and long work but there was really a breakthrough that happened in one day, where all of a sudden we had the right hypothesis,” she said.

Another letter from Jean de Saint-Mauris, where the receiver had doodled a form of transcription code in the margin, also helped.

Researcher at the French National Institute for Computer Science Research (INRIA) Cecile Pierrot (L) and senior lecturer in modern history Camille Desenclos (R) explain the decoding process of an encrypted letter from Charles V, known as Charles Quint, the Holy Roman Emperor and Archduke of Austria, dated back to 1547, at the Stanislas library in Nancy, northeastern France, on November 23, 2022. – Researchers in computer science, a cryptographer and a historian decrypted the letter from Charles V dating back to the 16th century. (Photo by Jean-Christophe Verhaegen / AFP)

More discoveries to come

Desenclos said it was “rare as a historian to manage to read a letter that no one had managed to read for five centuries.”

It “confirms the somewhat degraded state” in 1547 of relations between Francis I and Charles V, who had signed a peace treaty three years earlier, she said.

But relations were still tense between the two, with various attempts to weaken each other, she said.

So much so that one nugget of information revealed was the rumour of an assassination plot against Charles V that was said to have been brewing in France, Desenclos said.

She said “not much had been known” about the plot but it underlined the monarch’s “fear”.

The researchers now hope to identify other letters between the emperor and his ambassador “to have a snapshot of Charles V’s strategy in Europe”, she said.

“It is likely that we will make many more discoveries in the coming years,” the historian said.