Canalejas was murdered outside a bookshop. / SUR

12 November 1912: The assassination of a Spanish prime minister

Just two years after being appointed prime minister, José Canalejas Méndez was shot by an anarchist outside a bookshop in Madrid


On 12 November 1912, while window-shopping in front of the San Martín bookshop in central Madrid, Spanish prime minister José Canalejas Méndez was fatally shot by anarchist Manuel Pardiñas.

Canalejas Méndez came to office following a tumultuous time in the country's history.

In 1909 there was a series of violent confrontations between the Spanish army and anarchists, socialists and republicans of Barcelona and other cities in Catalonia in the last week of July.

This was known as Tragic Week, and after the events the prime minister at the time, Antonio Maura, resigned.

To replace Maura, José Canalejas Méndez became prime minister and leader of the Liberal party on 9 February 1910.

While in office, Canalejas (with the support of his sovereign, Alfonso XIII) introduced several electoral reforms that aimed to turn Spain into a true democracy.

These policies successfully faced the social turmoil that radicals had been creating within Spain (and which had led, in 1909, to the bloody unrest in Barcelona).

On the fateful November day of the assassination, the aggressor, who was reportedly from the town of El Grado in the province of Huesca, fired three shots.

Only the third bullet reached Canalejas Méndez, who died almost instantly after the bullet pierced his skull.

This was just two years and nine months after he was appointed prime minister.

Moments later, Manuel Pardiñas committed suicide by firing two shots with the same pistol from the attack.

It cannot be known with any certainty whether it was a premeditated attack or not.

It is theorised that Pardiñas' stay in the area could have been due to his intention to attack Alfonso XIII, since according to the police investigation, Canalejas Méndez's presence at the bookstore could not have been foreseen in advance.

A month later, a short film was released called Asesinato y Entierro de Don José Canalejas.

Directed by Enrique Blanco and Adelardo Fernández Arias, the film reconstructed the events of the attack and included footage from the burial of the prime minister.