Ramon Franco became world-famous in early 1926, after crossing for the first time by plane, together with a crew of three other members, the Atlantic from Palos de la Frontera to Buenos Aires. The feat of the Plus Ultra, the name of that plane, showed Franco’s great skills as a pilot, but also his extravagant tendencies and his natural rebellion. In Buenos Aires, he tried to return on the same plane in which he had gone, which was strictly forbidden by the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera, who demanded that the group return on a ship to avoid taking risks and being able to celebrate the feat in Spain in a big way.
As the historian, Gabriel Cardona tells us in his work “Alfonso XIII, el Rey de Espadas” (Planet), the slights between Ramon Franco and the Crown began to accumulate when, in the middle of the parade dedicated to the heroes of Plus Ultra, the pilot He decided to get off the honor caravan to go have a few drinks with some friends he saw in the audience. However, his desire for prominence and a high-profile letter against the Spanish ambassador in Buenos Aires led Primo de Rivera to arrest the pilot for a season in the castle of Badajoz, from which he left after inciting the international press to denounce the scandal.
The next air adventure sent the group of Plus Ultra pioneers to New York in July 1929, but this time bad weather left them without gas and they had to be rescued in the middle of the Atlantic. Upon his return, he and his companions would be investigated for using a different aircraft than the one that the Crown had approved for such an adventure and that it had presented worldwide as one hundred percent manufactured in Spain. Ramón Franco then attacked the general director of Aeronáutica, General Kindelán, another pioneer of Spanish aviation, an attack that ended with the discharge and arrest of the youngest of the brothers of the one who would be the dictator of Spain for forty years. Franco rose in the following years as an active Republican and one of the most dangerous enemies of the Crown.
Republicans sprout in the Army
Primo de Rivera, who left the country in 1930, and the Crown represented by Alfonso XIII did not stop growing dwarfs in the final phase of the Monarchy. In addition to aviation, insubordinate elements surfaced both among artillery officers and others. With less and less maneuverability, the King trusted his continuity in power almost exclusively to certain soldiers and, inevitably, also linked his fall to their support. In January 1930, 29 generals, 536 chiefs and officers, and 358 classes of troops held direct political positions, according to data collected by Gabriel Cardona. The very President of the Government who took command after the departure of Primo de Rivera was a military man, General Dámaso Berenguer, head of Alfonso XIII’s military house since 1924 and a man stained by his involvement in the Annual disaster.
During the so-called Dictablanda, the republican opposition, with strong military ties, managed to organize a first plan to evict the monarchy from the country. On August 17, 1930, a broad representation of Republican families met at the Republican Casino in San Sebastián and agreed on a roadmap to overthrow Alfonso XIII and mark the first steps of the future republic. The Pact of San Sebastián gave birth to a revolutionary committee, assisted in turn by a military committee headed by General Queipo de Llano and other openly republican soldiers.
The Director-General of Security, Emilio Mola, who years later would know the exact moment to change sides, helped reinforce Republican support in the army through a clumsy strategy of arrests. Republican figures of great popularity, such as Ramón Franco, recovered the public speaker thanks to their time in prison and were able to present themselves as martyrs of the opposition to the monarchists. From the military prison of Madrid, Franco kindled the spirits against the King with two articles published in “El Heraldo de Madrid”. Later, to honor his fame as an escapist, he escaped from prison and signed an incendiary letter against Berenguer, whom he directly accused of the Annual disaster. The fire in public opinion was not small.
Despite the danger, it does not seem that Alfonso XIII was aware at that time of how fragile the pillars on which he was holding were beginning to be, now that even part of the Army was denying him his hand. By the end of that same year, the revolutionary committee prepared a general strike followed by a series of military pronouncements. The date, around December 12, was postponed at the last minute, in part because it was an open secret. No one notified the garrison of Jaca in time.
Captain Fermín Galán, amnestied shortly before by Berenguer after an anarchist past, arrested the military authorities and decreed libertarian communism in the city. However, the coup failed due to the lack of preparations and the silence it received from other garrisons. After the initial success, Galán lost a lot of time organizing a column of republican soldiers and ended up falling into the trap of the captain-general of Zaragoza. The anarchist captain and other officers were shot after a summary trial, which took place in a matter of days.
The revolutionary committee tried to help the rebels in Jaca by precipitating their plans for social unrest but hardly achieved any results. His only success in Madrid came with the short-lived capture of the Cuatro Vientos aerodrome on December 15 by a group of eight officers, led by Queipo de Llano and Ramón Franco. The original idea of this group was to use the available planes to bomb the Royal Palace with the family of Alfonso XIII inside.
Ramón Franco took off with a bomb-laden plane with precisely that intention, but when he saw that the general strike had failed to start, he limited himself to throwing revolutionary proclamations through the streets of Madrid. According to the historian Francisco Alía Miranda, author of “History of the Spanish Army and its Political Intervention,” Franco changed his mind when he saw that the Plaza de Oriente was surrounded by women and children, which was pointed out by the anarchist forces as proof that this revolution was “led by certain soldiers who did not inspire confidence.” They lacked, in his opinion, the determination necessary to overthrow the Monarchy at all costs.
The anarchists did not join the uprising and the Socialists reneged on their promise to go on strike for fear that the military would not move more pieces on the board. The insurrection was finally in no man’s land. Most of the members of the revolutionary committee were arrested in those days. The fat brush story presupposes that the tenants of the Royal Palace, then the residence of the Royal Family, were completely unaware of the danger to their lives when the planes flew over the area. Nothing is further from reality. Researching to write his novel Baby y Crista. The daughters of Alfonso XIII ”(The Sphere of Books), the journalist and writer Martín Bianchi Tasso came across in an interview with“ Hola ”, on July 8, 1999, with the testimony of Infanta Beatriz, the eldest daughter of Victoria Eugenia and Alfonso XIII, confessing that they had been more afraid that day than when the Second Republic was finally proclaimed.
When asked if she was scared on April 15, 1931, the Infanta replied, recalling the Uprising of the Four Winds. Well, I think less than when the uprising of Cuatro Vientos, in December 1930, when Ramon Franco, the aviator, threatened to bomb the palace and we saw the plane pass overhead time and again without being able to do anything. The fourteenth of April was also tremendous. All night we were in Mom’s room, which overlooked Bailén Street, on the side where there is less height, hearing trucks, taxis, and people walking by shouting, “Two will fall, two will fall!” Because in December they had shot Galan and Garcia Hernandez, who had risen in Jaca. I have that refrain in my head! It was also terrible to see the Plaza de la Armeria, which was only used for the changing of the guard and military parades, with trucks circling, loaded with screaming men and women. Crista and I were very impressed to see a taxi with a huge portrait of Dad with a knife, this one stuck in the neck, Thank God Mom didn’t see it.
The Royal Family, on the way to exile, Martin Bianchi reconstructs in his novel those hours of tension and fear based on the stories of the Infantas, historical investigations, and pulling the newspaper library. The Jaca uprising coincided with the birthday of María Cristina, the other daughter of Victoria Eugenia, who spent a carefree day between ceremonies, family dinners, film sessions, and Russian opera.The same did not happen on December 15, when the residents of the palace woke up under the deafening noise of a plane that threatened to bomb the place. Beatriz and Cristina, who had planned to go to the Alabarderos barracks school to distribute gifts and clothes among the children of the royal guards, canceled the charity event and had to lock themselves up with their brothers in their mother’s room, on the second floor.
Alfonso always had a hint of a black or ironic sense of humor in these scenes, perhaps because he made surviving the attacks something every day. It was a way of transmitting calm to the Infants, who were locked in their mother’s room,Members of the Wad-Rás Infantry Regiment were deployed through the Plaza de Oriente, while the Plaza de la Armería was occupied by a section of machine guns. The author of Baby y Crista. The daughters of Alfonso XIII “describes the King looking out of the window in a calm attitude during all that agitation, I present the Monarch, following the testimonies and what I have been able to document, as defiant, with the cold blood that always characterized him in the life and death situations that he endured throughout his life. He always had a hint of a black or ironic sense of humor in these scenes, perhaps because he made surviving the attacks an everyday thing.
It was a way of transmitting calm to the Infants, who were locked in their mother’s room. On their return to the airfield, the conspirators decided to end the uprising and flee to Portugal by plane. The question will always remain as to whether Ramón had the real intention of committing the attack or if it was all a propaganda act, which in the end is what he stayed with. The only clear thing is that the confrontation that day was very true. The Infantas themselves say that they heard from the palace the subsequent combat in Cuatro Vientos, ”says Bianchi.
General Queipo de Llano and Commander Ramón Franco settled in Paris, where some Republican politicians were in exile and where they could continue with their political plans. All of Ramón Franco’s Republican dreams were completed only five months later, after simple municipal elections that Republican representatives presented as plebiscites. On the night of April 14-15, 1931, King Alfonso XIII left Madrid for Cartagena at the wheel of his Duesenberg car and from there set sail for Marseille on the Prince Alfonso cruise ship of the Spanish Armada to later move to Paris. The next day the Royal Family followed.
Alfonso XIII did not abdicate or renounce the Crown, only suspended his prerogatives. “I am and will be while the King of Spain lives,” he said abroad. His two daughters, then in their twenties, accompanied their parents in their sad fate. In the aforementioned interview with “Hello”, the Infanta Beatriz recounted what she remembered from those days that changed Spain, It was all very sad! But there is something that still, almost seventy years later, I remember as if I had seen it. On the fourteenth of April, we already felt that things were very bad. Dad was in a meeting with the government and former presidents and did not have lunch with us. To me, as it always happened to me when I had a big worry, it gave me a tremendous dream and I fell asleep.
But around eight o’clock, Mama called Crista and me through the Countess del Puerto and we all gathered in the little room where she had tea. Dad was downstairs, saying goodbye to my poor brother Alfonso, who had one of his seizures and was not doing well at all. When he got up, he told us “Look, I am the King of all Spaniards and I do not want to put the Army against each other. I cannot admit that because of me there is bleeding. The elections have gone badly and they tell me that since they are only against me if I leave immediately, they guarantee that nothing will happen to you and you will leave tomorrow. And I believe them. I still want to tell you one thing, now, brother-in-law, get out, I don’t want tears.
He tried to smile, he kissed us and went out to the gallery. The halberdiers were in line and when they presented their weapons, all in one, they threw their left arms towards their faces to cover their eyes. And they were all grown men, thirty or thirty-five years old because those who stood guard were sergeants! ! And my father, undaunted, without stopping, moving forward with his eyes full of tears, without looking to the right or left. I am counting it and I am moved because it is as if I had the image in front of me.
The King remained in this first stage of exile for long periods in Ireland and traveled to Austria, Egypt, and India. He had not been married for sixteen years with his wife, so their final separation was not traumatic. They lived in separate cities. Queen Victoria Eugenia first settled in England, visited the United States, and would only return once more to Spain, just at the christening of the current King Don Felipe.
The Infantas spoke very naturally about this issue, recognizing that their parents’ relationship was not the closest. They felt, despite everything, that they had a relatively happy and protected childhood in which they did not perceive that coldness between their parents, “says Bianchi, who points out that when the distancing really became evident was in exile, when everyone shed their a shared official agenda and his institutional commitments that he marked every day of his life. It was the daughters –as Bianchi recalls– who best adapted to exile, “much better than the Kings, without a doubt, and better than several of their brothers”. This new life was an opportunity to embrace certain normality and avoid “the suffocating life of the palace. They even thanked a little that that had happened, because they were able to marry the people they wanted,” he considers.
The Second Republic and the Francos
With the advent of the Second Republic, Franco was not only rehabilitated and restored to his job, but the Republican provisional government appointed him director-general of the Military Aeronautics. The pilot’s commitment to the Second Republic and his intense political activity in those years was not an obstacle for Ramon Franco to change sides once more in 1936.The outbreak of the Civil War, where his brother Francisco Franco soon rose as the head of the rebel military, surprised the Republican pilot in Washington (United States) as an air attaché in the Spanish embassy. Ramon Franco maneuvered to return to Republican territory at first, but finally, either due to family ties or disaffection towards the Second Republic, he ended up joining the cause of his middle brother. Now a “generalissimo”, Franco assigned his younger brother to the Balearic Islands, whom he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and appointed commander of the Pollensa seaplane base in Mallorca. In October 1938, the most rebellious and republican of the dictator’s brothers died during an air operation when the Italian-made seaplane he piloted crashed.