The Proclamation of Juan Carlos I

November 22nd 1975

This second article on Spain's Transition to Democracy covers The Proclamation of Juan Carlos I on November 22nd 1975, two days after the death of General Franco.

In his acceptance speech, the King made his commitment to democracy clear and although he retained Carlos Arias Navarro as president of the government, he managed to get the key reforming figure of Torcuato Fernádez Miranda as president of the Cortes and the Council of the Realm.

The Proclamation of Juan Carlos I

After the death of Franco on November 20th 1975, power was temporarily assumed by the Council of the Regency, comprising a lieutenant general, an archbishop and a member of the Movimiento Nacional. Two days later, Prince Juan Carlos, who had been designated successor by Franco "with the title of King" in July 1969 was proclaimed with the title of Juan Carlos I before the Francoist Cortes.

After a speech "full of emotion in memory of Franco" by the President of the Cortes, Alejandro Rodríguez de Valcárcel, Juan Carlos I swore the Fundamental Laws of the Realm. In his acceptance speech, Juan Carlos he avoided mentioning the Francoist victory in the Spanish Civil War and after expressing "respect and gratitude" to Franco, confirmed that he wanted to reach "an effective consensus of national concord".

The complete sentence was "Everybody must understand with generosity and breadth of vision that our future will be based on the effective consensus of national concord". In this way, Juan Carlos made it clear that he wasn't backing the pure "ultraconservative continuism" favoured by the Bunker.

The far right wanted the continuation of Francoism under a monarchy installed by Franco, following the model established by the Organic Law of the State of 1967, but his message to the army to face the future with "serene tranquility" suggested that the reforms would be made from the regime's own institutions.

The most enthusiastic applause wasn't for the King, though, but rather for Franco's family, who were present at the ceremony. The anti-Francoist opposition received the King's speech coldly. PSOE affirmed in a note that "it hadn't surprised anybody and has fulfilled its commitment to the Francoist regime".

A symbol that the young King's reformist project had international support was that the ceremony was attended by a number of important heads of state, including the presidents of France and Germany and the vice president of the United States. This didn't happen at Franco's funeral, which was only attended by the Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet and Imelda Marcos, the wife of the Philipino dictator.

It was also clear that the Catholic church backed the transformation of the political system. When Cardinal Tarrancón's gave a sermon at a religious ceremony attended by the royal family on November 27th at the church of San Jerónimo el Real in Madrid, the cardinal made reference to the "exceptional already historic figure" of General Franco. Tarracón harked back to the Civil War and asked Juan Carlos be to "the King of all Spaniards" without distinction between winners and losers.

However, the ratification of Carlos Arias Navarro as president of the government caused a great deal of disappointment. The clandestine newspaper PCE Mundo Obrero said that it was "Francoism with a King" and the Carlist pretender Carlos Hugo de Borbón Parma said the government was "a fascist monarchy".

This decision was hardly palliated by the naming of Torcuato Fernández Miranda, the King's former tutor, as new President of the Cortes and of the Council of the Realm, key institutions in the the Francoist dictatorship's complicated legacy. The new government also included Manuel Fraga Iribarne, José María de Areilza and Antonio Garrigues y Díaz Cañabate, who were all important members of Francoist reformism. In the government there were also Catholic reformists, such as Alfonso Osorio, and falangist reformists, such as Adolfo Suárez y Rodolfo Martin Villa. In reality, the members of the government were imposed on Arias Navarro by the King, and in the case of Suárez had been suggested by Fernández Miranda. The press frequently called it "the Arias-Fraga-Areilza-Garrigues government".

By naming of Torcuato Fernández Miranda as president of the Council of the Realm and the Cortes, King Juan Carlos I was abiding by the Organic Law of the State. The shortlist of three candidates proposed by the Council of the Realm Apart included Torcuato Fernández-Miranda, Licinio de la Fuente and Emilio Lamo de Espinosa y Enríquez de Navarra.

The King managed to situate his loyal collaborator as president of the Counciol of the Realm and the Cortes. Fernández Miranda was an old Francoist, who shared the King's opinion that Spain needed to evolve a democratic system and would bring solid legal knowledge to the project.

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