Generalissimo Francisco Paulino Hermenegildo Teódulo Franco Bahamonde (4 December 1892 – 20 November 1975) was a dictator who ruled Spain from 1939 until his death. He came to power through the Spanish Civil War, during which time he was supported by both Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. He wisely chose to keep his distance from them, however, when the dress rehearsal ended and the big show began (in no small part because the Civil War had left Spain devastated by that point). Not to mention that, to the day he died, there were Republican Spanish strongholds that resisted him.
Originally third in command of the Spanish rebels, Franco rose to power after his superiors, José Sanjurjo and Emilio Mola, died in a pair of rather convenient plane crashes. It is worth noting that, while he enjoyed support from fascists both abroad and within Spain (most notably the "proto-fascist" Falangists), Franco did not fully subscribe to their ideology, instead choosing to shun its revolutionary aspects in favor of Catholic traditionalism, which won him support from the monarchist factions and the Catholic Church itself and further cemented his power in Spain. Despite the remaining similarities, and popular perceptions that bunch the ideologies together, it's generally agreed that his system differed enough from fascism to merit the rather perfunctory name of Francoism.
Franco's personalist ways made his relations with fascists harder than they desired, to the point of being basically The Friend Nobody Likes. Notably, Hitler hated him, considering the Spanish dictator an ungrateful, inflated pansy that had ended in a privileged position by dumb luck, and this didn't improve when Franco weaseled out of supporting Germany militarily, only allowing logistic support and volunteering units like the Blue Division. Mussolini was less extroverted, but he still considered Franco lame and a political slacker. Ultimately, Franco only made nebulous promises of entering the war in the future before basically sitting to wait to see who would win.
Since obtaining power, Franco brutally cracked down on political opponents to solidify his reign. The Blueshirts, his paramilitary secret police and equivalent to the Nazi Einsatzgruppen or SS, killed scores of people in Spain both on the streets and through means such as concentration camps. Unfortunately, any international scrutiny over these actions faded when the Cold War began. This shift in international politics, combined with Franco's opposition to Spanish communists during the civil war and his functional neutrality in World War II, led to something of an Enemy Mine situation with the Western world. NATO and the United States quietly supported his regime and overlooked his crimes, and Franco in turn moderated some of his stances and policies over the years to maintain their support.
At this point of his career, Franco was essentially an artifact of pre-WWII Europe that had earned a place in the Cold War chessboard through political maneuvering and sheer convenience. Shocking to modern readers might be the bare fact that he was literally a former comrade of Hitler who had managed to become a comrade of the Allies without actually making amends or even abandoning the core of his ideology. Those notions have generated entire books and a lot of debate, and are considered somewhat of a low point in Western history.
Never a skilled orator, especially due to his funny voice and overly ceremonious discourse, Franco was better with the pen, being a decent writer who published books under different pseudonyms. He was also something of a film aficionado, and wrote the novel on which Raza, a film set during the Spanish Civil War, was based. Daniel Kalder writes in The Infernal Library, a book about books by dictators, that Franco wept when he saw the movie, which holds credibility on the basis that, according to biographers, he was surprisingly Prone to Tears in his personal life.
He died relatively peacefully in 1975, after which King Juan Carlos I, previously assumed to be Franco's protégé, dismantled the regime and restored Spain's constitutional monarchy via a 1978 referendum. Three years later, supporters of Franco raided the Spanish parliament in a bid to restore the Falangist dictatorship, but the coup quickly fizzled out after the king denounced it on national television. In 2019, Franco's body was moved from his gargantuan Valley of the Fallen mausoleum to a private family gravesite, to much controversy.
As of 2024, he is still dead.
Appears in the following works:
- Mine Were Of Trouble: The author, Peter Kemp, meets him at the end of the book, becoming one of the few foreign volunteers to do so. This is shortly before the war's end.
- In the fanfic Sister Floriana, Franco is strongly supported by the main characters, who see him as their defender against the Red Terror. They regularly bless and prayed for him and the Nationalist Army.
- In the Alternate History timeline Fight and Be Right, Franco becomes a famous director after a successful career in the Spanish Navy.
- Given the penchant of the Spanish film industry for making movies about the Civil War, he's appeared in several:
- Espérame en el Cielo (where the protagonist is his body double)
- Dragon Rapide
- "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead" was one of the first Catch Phrases of Saturday Night Live. On "Weekend Update", Franco's continuing death was repeatedly reported as "news" by Chevy Chase. This was a parody of earlier real news coverage, which had constantly reported on Franco's declining health during slow news days, in particular NBC's own Today Show. The obvious joke was that Today had spent so much time assuring viewers he was about to die that it was only natural that it would spend equal time assuring viewers he was still dead, but Today's bizarre taping schedule added an extra layer to the joke.note
- Franco was referenced twice in Fawlty Towers. In "Basil the Rat", Basil explains to the Barcelona-born waiter Manuel that a local "hamster" is in fact a rat. Under his breath, John Cleese mutters: "You do have rats in Spain, or did Franco have 'em all shot?" In another episode, a hotel guest asks where the Generalissimo is (referring to Basil), to which Manuel incredulously replies, "In Madrid!"
- Monégasque singer-songwriter and anarchist Léo Ferré wrote "Franco la muerte" (1964). In this highly confrontational song, he directly shouts at the dictator and lavishes him with contempt. Ferré refused to sing in Spain until Franco was dead.
- Portrayed by Pep Miràs on the third episode of Spanish science fiction series The Ministry of Time, as the mission is related to his meeting with Hitler in Hendaye.
- Franco appeared in the classic Danish children's cartoon Cirkeline (1967–71) as a sneaky, evil cat, who wore black riding boots and loved to trap Spanish mice in cages. He was voiced by a popular folk singer, and had a great, creepy Villain Song: "I'm the sneakiest of cats".
- In Hearts of Iron, where the start date is 1936, has Franco lead Nationalist Spain during the Civil War, but Republicans can win the war, or another leader may take over the Nationalist side if ahistorical focuses are taken.
- French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo mocked Franco's long agony with a cover saying "Franco gets better — he walked to the cemetery", illustrated by a drawing of a walking coffin.
- In the Dreamhounds of Paris campaign frame for Trail of Cthulhu, from 1936 on, a sea squirt-like monster becomes the dominant creature of the Underground Sea in the Dreamlands. With searching tendrils, it tries to snatch up anyone passing the shores of the lake. Anyone who knows earthly politics intuitively associates the creature with Francisco Franco, as envisioned by one of Pablo Picasso's surrealist protest poems.
Tropes as portrayed in fiction:
- Asshole Victim: In The Last Circus he tries to comfort the main character Javier while he's being treated like a dog by one of his colonels, but since Javier's whole life has been plagued by the Civil War, the least he can do when he's in front of the man who's the true main culprit of his misery is savagely biting his hand.
- Body Double: In his second appearance on The Ministry of Time, the season 4 premiere, he employs at least two of them to corner a would-be murderer, and after they're done with him, he asks one of the doubles to fill in for him at a reception while he goes hunting.
- Enemy Mine: Despite his staunch anti-Communism, he developed a fairly cordial relationship with one Fidel Castro. Both were descended from people from Galicia, were very socially conservative, were quite Christian in their own way each, had a significant anti-American streaknote and disliked Fulgencio Batista — he once called for Franco's overthrow, and was of course Castro's Arch-Enemy. There is also an element of Everyone Has Standards here — Franco and Castro were both repressive dictators with five- to six-figure body counts, but on issues to do with money and sex the evidence is that they were for the most part actually quite prim and straight-laced — completely the opposite of Batista in that respect. (Even today, Spain and Cuba are usually ranked among the least corrupt countries in Southern Europe and Latin America respectively.) Furthermore, it is also alleged that Franco admired Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia and Ho Chi Minh of North Vietnam for their patriotism and self-sacrifice, and the regime even came to a reconciliation of sorts with the Soviet Union itself by the 1960s.
- The Generalissimo: His ceremonial title as head of the armed forces for Nationalist Spain. Interestingly, while many during his lifetime and after his death referred to him as such, this was actually not the official title of head of state during his reign. He styled the office of 'El Caudillo', an equivalent rank to Mussolini's 'Il Duce' or Hitler's 'Der Führer'. The title already had negative connotations applied to it in Latin America and elsewhere, connotations which Franco would cement during his rule as he wore the title proudly at home, which is why its usage was downplayed in the West. After all, it was easier to stomach working with a run-of-the-mill military dictator than a remnant of fascism.
- Greater-Scope Paragon: In the fanfic Sister Floriana he is blessed and praised by the inhabitants of the Cristo el Rey Monastery, as their noble defender against the Red Terror.
- Greater-Scope Villain: In The Shadow of the Wind he is constantly mentioned and explained that the current situation is due to his government.
- The Napoleon: In his portrayal on The Ministry of Time: tiny, fat, with a high-pitched voice, but cruel.
- Not Quite Dead: In 1975 Franco fell ill and for quite some weeks there was a lot of media buzz that he was dying. Spanish officials denied the story for a long time, but eventually they had to admit the undeniable. The rumors led to a Running Gag in Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" sketches, particularly when Chevy Chase was the anchor.
Chevy Chase: Our top story tonight: Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.
- Rebel Leader: He led a military uprising against the Second Spanish Republic which started in 1936.