Spanish general, statesman, and dictator (1939–75).
Born in Galicia, the son of a naval paymaster, Franco was educated at the Toledo Infantry Academy before entering the army in 1910. Serving mainly in Morocco (1910–27), he achieved the rank of general and was appointed director of the Saragossa Military Academy in 1927. He became chief of staff in 1935 and governor of the Canary Islands in 1936. Joining General José Sanjurjo (1872–1936) in a military revolt against the Republican government, which began the civil war, he became the undisputed leader of the insurgents following the death of Sanjurjo.
Franco became leader of the Falange (Fascist) Party in 1937. He proclaimed himself ‘caudillo’ (leader) of Spain and took control of the government in 1939, after the surrender of Madrid and the defeat of the republic. During World War II he sympathized with the Axis powers but declined to enter the war, preferring to concentrate on the establishment of a corporate state under the Falange (the single political party). Reorganizing the government in 1947, he enacted a law of succession making Spain a monarchy, himself head of state for life, and his successor anybody he chose to name king. In 1969 Franco nominated Prince Juan Carlos to succeed him, which the Prince did ‘provisionally’, three weeks before Franco's death in 1975.
Subjects: History — Politics.