20 November 1975: The death of General Francisco Franco

Franco's funeral cortege on 23 November 1975.
Franco's funeral cortege on 23 November 1975. / EFE
  • The military dictator was controversially buried in the Valle de los Caídos after his death in 1975 but his remains were moved to a municipal cemetery in 2019

On 20 November 1975, Spain's military dictator, General Francisco Franco, died aged 82 in Madrid.

On 19 July 1974, Franco fell ill from various health problems, and Juan Carlos I took over as acting head of state. Franco recovered and on 2 September he resumed his duties as head of state.

A year later he fell ill again, afflicted with further health problems, including a long battle with Parkinson's disease.

Franco's last public appearance was on 1 October 1975 when he gave a speech to crowds from the balcony at the Royal Palace of El Pardo in Madrid.

On 30 October 1975 he fell into a coma and was put on a life support machine. Officially he died a few minutes after midnight on 20 November. However, historian Ricardo de la Cierva claimed that he had been told around 6pm on 19 November that Franco had already died.

Juan Carlos was proclaimed King two days later.

Franco's funeral took place on 23 November and his body was interred at Valle de los Caídos, a memorial built by the forced labour of political prisoners during the Civil War.

This made Franco the only person interred in the valley who did not die during the Civil War and as such, his place of burial caused great controversy in Spain.

On 24 October 2019, Franco's remains were moved from the Valle de los Caídos to lie alongside his wife, Carmen Polo, who died in 1988, at the Mingorrubio-El Pardo cemetery, near Madrid.

The move had been a long-standing pledge of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the ruling socialist PSOE party.

Despite efforts by Franco's family and supporters to block the reburial, Spain's supreme court ruled in favour of the government and allowed it to go ahead.

The family had wanted to rebury General Franco in Madrid's cathedral, where the family has part of the crypt, but their request was turned down.