King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofía, Felipe González, the Infanta Elena and Prime Minister Rajoy, among others in the chapel of rest on Monday. :: AFP
Adolfo Suárez has gone down in history as the politician who managed, along with King Juan Carlos, to put everyone to work together - Francoists, conservatives, socialists, communists and nationalists - to create a democratic Spain after the death of the dictator.
On Monday he managed to do the same thing: bring together politicians and institutions with their differences and quarrels, this time after his death.
All the political groups represented in the Spanish parliament (with the exception of Amaiur and Esquerra), the prime minister and his cabinet, the opposition leader, the three living former prime ministers of the democracy, Felipe González, José María Aznar and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the former Catalan president, Jordi Pujol, and even the current Calatan leader, secession advocate Artur Mas, respectfully filed past the coffin of the man whose example and courage in the face of political adversity they all praised.
Following his death at the Cemtro clinic in Madrid on Sunday, Suárez’s chapel of rest had been set up in the Congress parliament building in Madrid.
There, after the coffin had been carried in and escorted by members of the three armed forces plus the Guardia Civil, King Juan Carlos, who was accompanied by Queen Sofía and the Infanta Elena, sat in silence for ten minutes. He had explicitly asked for some silent time to pay his last respects to a “loyal friend” and “exceptional collaborator”, as the king had described the former prime minister.
On Monday afternoon the Prince and Princess of Asturias paid a visit to the chapel of rest, having represented the Head of State at the funeral of a former mayor of Bilbao that morning.
“It’s a great loss for Spain,” Felipe said on his way out, “We have everything to thank him for.”
However it wasn’t just royals and politicians who went to the Congress building on Monday. Thousands of ordinary people queued patiently in the cold and rain for their chance to file past the coffin of the man they hold responsible for Spain’s transition to democracy.
The first woman arrived at around 5.30 on Monday morning. “Suárez has managed to unite all generations; he has left us the best possible legacy, democracy,” she said, visibly emotional.
It wasn’t until seven hours later that she was able to go into the chapel of rest. by that time the queue stretched for two kilometres. Later on Monday evening the queue had reached four kilometres. It is calculated that some 40 or 50 people filed past the coffin a minute.
On Tuesday Adolfo Suárez’s body was taken to his home city of Ávila where he was buried in the cathedral cloisters alongside the remains of his wife, Amparo Illana.
His tombstone carries the epitaph: ‘La concordia fue posible’, referring to his ability to unite all sides in the name of democracy.