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1975: Franco's 36-year reign ends

General Franco's dictatorship has effectively ended with the announcement heir designate Prince Juan Carlos will take over as provisional head of state for Spain.

The move comes as a result of the general's continuing illness. He has suffered a massive series of heart attacks and internal bleeding in the last three weeks.

The 37-year-old prince has been groomed for the role since he was named heir designate in 1969, continuing an agreement between General Franco and the Prince's father.

The urgent need of a leader for the country persuaded the prince to take over on a provisional basis, something which he had been reluctant to repeat.

Favourable option

He had previously been placed in charge last June when Franco was last ill but lasted a mere six weeks.

The prince will have to wait until the general dies, thought to be a matter of days, before he is officially sworn in as King.

The latest report on the health of General Franco said his condition remained grave. The onset of a mouth infection and an increase of liquid in the peritoneal cavity are said to be adding to the problems being faced by the semi-comatose dictator.

The placement of the Prince as King and commander-in-chief was deemed more favourable than other options, including a possible vote of incapacity by the Council of the Realm or getting the general to sign a transfer of power.

The first role for the new provisional leader will be to preside over a Cabinet meeting at Zarzuela Palace.

When sworn in he will become the first King of Spain for 44 years. After municipal elections in 1931 showed an overwhelming republican majority, the Prince's grandfather, King Alfonso XIII suspended the exercise of royal power and went into exile.

In Context
General Franco died on 20 November 1975. The decision was made by doctors who had been keeping him alive through 34 days of critical illness.

In his last message to the nation the dictator said: "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."

Prince Juan Carlos was sworn in as King of Spain on 22 November 1975. His first major role was to attend the funeral of the former dictator where he joined thousands of other mourners.


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