Fabiola and Franco – The Queen and the Dictator

(public domain)

When Fabiola de Mora y Aragon married King Baudouin of the Belgians in 1960, the Belgian people were immediately informed that the future Queen had nothing to do with the Spanish civil war and had no relations with General Franco. Surprisingly, it was General Franco’s daughter who did attend the wedding. Could Fabiola truly be apolitical?

Fabiola’s family is anything but apolitical. Her mother Blanca de Aragon y Carrillo de Albornoz is from an old noble family. In 1931, Fabiola’s family accompanied Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain into exile and Fabiola visited the exiled Queen several times in Switzerland. 1 Her father was Gonzalo de Mora Fernández Riera del Olmo, Marqués de Casa Riera but not much is known about his role in the Spanish Civil War. Her eldest brother Gonzola was a volunteer for Franco in the province of Guipúzcoa. He received several medals for his time in the army.

Before the wedding, Franco sent Baudouin a telegram of congratulations which mentions that this new bond will strengthen the traditional friendship bond and common regard between the two countries. 2 Meanwhile, the Spanish civil war is dividing opinions in Belgium, and this royal wedding would portray the good qualities of Franco’s Spain. More importantly, it would divert the attention from the serious political, economic and social problems in 1960. From the day of the engagement until the day of the wedding, the Spanish people were fed trivial facts of the “wedding of the century.”3 Fabiola was the ultimate example of a good Spanish woman.

Upon her return to Spain after the engagement, Fabiola was met by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a volunteer who once fought on the side of Hitler, and the Mayor of Madrid, a former Director-General of Security of Franco and the man who probably let Léon Degrelle, a Nazi collaborator, escape.4 Fabiola and her family are invited to dinner, where Fabiola was also made a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic for exceptional public service.5 On 5 December 1960, Fabiola received a tiara from the hands of Carmen Polo, Franco’s wife. Rumour has it that the jeweller feared that he would not be paid and that he replaced the precious stones with fake ones. 6

Before leaving for Belgium, Fabiola attended the opening of an institute that would carry her name. She declared that she would do everything she could to make the Belgians love Spain.7 Once again, those attending the opening are of questionable character. Among them was Muñoz Grandes who was suspected of war crimes and even charged by the Nuremberg war tribunal.8 Luckily, the question of Franco himself attending the wedding was quickly dismissed. Instead, he was represented by his daughter and son-in-law.

But while the Fabiola-mania hit the mainstream press in both Belgium and Spain, the socialistic press did manage to criticise the upcoming nuptials and the explaining away of the Franco-regime, and they become the figurehead for the Spanish exiles.9

Despite the troubles leading up to the wedding, on the day of the wedding, “the country was calm.”10 But now indeed a bond existed between the countries which would last until the death of Franco in 1975. Letters now located in the Spanish archives between Baudouin and Franco become more personal after the engagement and more frequent.11 Documents in the Fundación Nacional Francisco Franco, founded by Franco’s daughter to showcase the “successes of his regime”, show a growing friendship between the couple and Franco. 12 The couple often visited Spain, even for their honeymoon,  and Franco showered the couple with attention. In a propaganda film celebrating 25 years of “peace”, Franco appeared with both Baudouin and Fabiola. From them, he tries to build a good reputation and a good name.13

Franco died on 20 November 1975. Fabiola was widowed in 1993, and it wasn’t until a book published about the fascist past of the new Queen Paola, that people began to question the bond between Fabiola and Franco. 14 The widowed Queen, who had appeared in white at her husband’s funeral, was no longer free from criticism. Her generous allowance of 1,5 million euro is criticised, while Philippe and Laurent, who both have families, received 940,000 euro and 318,000 euro respectively. Fabiola appeared in public just a handful of times, and so the necessity of the allowance was questioned as well. 15 The fairytale and the Franco induced Fabiola-mania was over. Queen Fabiola died on 5 December 2014.

  1. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p. 38
  2. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p.23
  3. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p. 54
  4. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p. 57
  5. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p. 58
  6. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p. 60-61
  7. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p. 62
  8. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p. 63
  9. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p. 83
  10. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p. 117
  11. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p. 122
  12. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p. 122
  13. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p. 127
  14. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p. 131
  15. Anne Morelli – Fabiola en Franco p. 133- 134

About Moniek Bloks 2595 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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