- NAME: Francisco Franco
- OCCUPATION: Dictator
- BIRTH DATE: December 04, 1892
- DEATH DATE: November 20, 1975
- EDUCATION: Infantry Academy at Toledo
- PLACE OF BIRTH: El Ferrol, Spain
- PLACE OF DEATH: Madrid, Spain
- Full Name: Francisco Paulino Hermenegildo Teódulo Franco Bahamonde
- AKA: Francisco Franco Bahamonde
- AKA: Francisco Franco
Best Known For
Francisco Franco led a successful military rebellion to overthrow the Spanish democratic republic in the Spanish Civil War (1936—1939), subsequently establishing his lasting dictatorship.
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Franco intended to restore Spain to its former glory once the Civil War came to an end, but he soon discovered his country to be as economically damaged and politically divided as ever, and the outbreak of World War II only five months later made his government’s grasp on the country even more tenuous. Franco was ideologically sympathetic to the Axis cause, but he initially declared Spanish neutrality in the war. In June 1940,
he met with Adolf Hitler and said he would bring Spain into the war on Germany’s side in return for certain concessions. Hitler was either unable or unwilling to meet Franco’s terms, and Franco’s government thenceforth tentatively sided with the Axis powers while cautiously avoiding direct diplomatic and military commitment to their war effort.
Spain again declared complete neutrality in 1943, but the declaration came too late for the Allies to treat with any amount of significance. While the Allies weren’t impressed and the newly formed United Nations ostracized the Franco government, Franco’s calculated wartime diplomacy did manage to keep his regime and possibly Spain from being toppled along with the Axis powers. And the ostracism came to an end when tensions between the Soviets and the West ramped up at the height of the Cold War, and Franco was then seen as one of the world’s foremost anticommunist figures.
After the war came to an end, Franco, traditionally pro-monarchist, found himself under pressure to restore the monarchy. So in 1947, Franco announced a referendum to establish Spain as a monarchy while at the same time confirming himself as lifetime regent. The following year, Franco began supervising the education of Juan Carlos, the future king of Spain, at the age of 10 (in 1969, Franco would officially name Carlos as his successor upon his death).
Franco ruled at arm’s length, but with total self-confidence, and he began liberalizing domestic policies and softening some of the powers that would normally be associated with a police state. Also, in 1943, Franco changed the status of Falange Española Tradicionalista (the state party) from a “party” to a “movement,” and with the switch much of its original quasi-fascist identity was lost. These changes, paired with his strong anticommunist image, made him popular with the government of the United States, and in 1950 Spain was asked to join the United Nations. Further, in 1953, Franco signed an agreement that brought his regime under NATO protection from foreign invasion. (That same year, the Vatican confirmed the church's recognition of Franco's legitimacy.)
By the 1960s, Spain was experiencing a period of expanded economic development and further advancement in progressive domestic policy, and Franco was viewed more as an elder statesman than as a fascist dictator. The 1960s also marked a decline in Franco’s health, and he announced that after his death, Prince Juan Carlos, the grandson of Spain’s last ruling king, would be his successor and would maintain the basic structure of his administration.
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