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Franco’s family demands dictator be buried with military honors

His seven grandchildren want him to be interred in La Almudena cathedral, in the heart of Madrid

The tomb of Francisco Franco in the Valley of the Fallen.
The tomb of Francisco Franco in the Valley of the Fallen.

If the body of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco is finally transferred out of the Valley of the Fallen monument, his family wants him to be reburied with “military honors” at a major landmark in downtown Madrid.

Spanish Congress recently approved a plan by the Socialist Party (PSOE) government to exhume Franco’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen monument, located north of the capital. But the dictator’s seven grandchildren oppose the move and have filed a petition with the Ombudsman’s Office to stop the exhumation.

The family say Franco is entitled to a military funeral with the “complete national anthem, volley shots and a cannon gun salute”

If their petition fails, Franco’s family say they want the dictator to be buried inside La Almudena cathedral in the center of Madrid, and with full “military honors.”

According to the grandchildren, under a 2010 decree Franco is entitled to a military funeral with the “complete national anthem, volley shots and a cannon gun salute.” This decree states that military funerals are granted to the Spanish king, the royal family, the infantas of Spain, the prime minister, the defense minister, the chiefs of staff of the army, navy and air force, as well as general officers of the armed forces.

The government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has promised that the remains of the dictator will be removed with “dignity and respect,” but there was never any mention of a funeral with military honors. Indeed this would contradict the aim of the exhumation, which is to strip the dictator of his privileged position at the Valley of the Fallen monument. More than 33,000 victims of the Spanish Civil War are buried at the site but only Franco and José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the Falange, Spain’s fascist-inspired political party, have a marked grave.

Franco received a military funeral when he died on November 23, 1975. His coffin was taken on a military vehicle from the Victory Arch in La Moncloa in Madrid to the Valley of the Fallen monument north of the city. The then-king of Spain Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía attended a service in Franco’s honor and a military parade was held before his coffin.

The family’s request to have the dictator reburied at La Almudena cathedral also poses a challenge for the government, which wants to stop the new resting place from become a pilgrimage site for Franco followers. The cathedral is located in the heart of Madrid, in a popular tourist spot where there is the risk that it could turn into an attraction. The Franco family has a crypt at the cathedral which holds the remains of Franco’s daughter, Carmen Franco, as well as a vault at El Pardo cemetery, where Franco’s wife Carmen Polo is buried.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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