308. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Meeting with Don Juan


  • Don Juan, Count of Barcelona (Pretender to the Throne of Spain)
  • Mr. Joseph J. Jova, WE
  • Mr. Herbert B. Thompson, WE

Don Juan had arrived last night and had spent the night at the Spanish Embassy. This morning Ambassador Areilza telephoned to say that Don Juan had indicated that he would like to see Mr. Jova and would be prepared to receive him at 12:15 p.m. at the Embassy residence. Mr. Jova said that he would be delighted to go, he also requested permission to introduce Mr. Thompson to Don Juan.

At the Embassy the Ambassador brought us in to Dun Juan and then discreetly left the room. After a few moments of conversation on Don Juan’s trans-Atlantic crossing and after he had expressed his appreciation for the courtesies extended to him by the Immigration and Customs authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard on his arrival in South Carolina, Mr. Jova remarked on the great success which the visit of his son Don Juan Carlos has had.1 Don Juan indicated that it was most flattering and expressed his appreciation for the hospitality which Washington had shown his son. He remarked on how pleased he had been at the way his son had handled himself and observed that he was a very straight-forward and a very loyal boy. Mr. Jova remarked that the Prince had demonstrated his loyalty to his father during the course of this visit. Mr. Jova expressed regret that it had not been possible to arrange a call at the White House for Don Juan and Don Juan Carlos, but said that he was sure that Ambassador Areilza had described the background and had explained the Department’s position that if a call were made, it should be a joint one. Don Juan understood perfectly and said that he had been very touched by the consideration which President [Page 708] Eisenhower had shown towards his position. It was his intention to write a personal letter to President Eisenhower expressing his appreciation.

Don Juan said that he desired to make it quite clear that the fact that he was staying at the Spanish Embassy in no way changed his position in regard to the Franco regime. I am the same as always, he said. It had been his intention to by-pass Washington and proceed directly to New York, but Ambassador Areilza had so arranged things that it had been necessary for him to spend the night in Washington. It was his first intention to spend the night at a hotel but he had decided that this would have led to all sorts of gossip and comment and would have placed everyone in a difficult position, particularly as his own son was staying in the Embassy.

In New York Don Juan intended to attend various festivities that had been organized in connection with his son’s visit. The most important of these was a banquet which was being given at the Union Club with some 200 persons present on Wednesday evening. He would preside at this banquet and intended to make a speech. He would utilize this occasion as well as others which might arise in order to make himself better known to important American opinion leaders. After his son’s departure for Spain on the 16th Don Juan would spend several more days in New York and hoped to get in touch with various bankers and other important members of the financial world. The New York Times had indicated an interest in doing something in his honor. He would also see Mr. and Mrs. Luce who he understood were giving a dinner party for him. He knew Mrs. Luce from Rome and also from her visit to Lisbon on the Niarchos yacht and considered her to be a good friend.

As regards General Franco he said that he sometimes believed that he meant to stay in power for life. This was the last thing desired by the Spanish people or by their friends abroad. Discontent had increased greatly in Spain and he felt that events were exerting a much greater pressure towards a change in the situation. Franco would make an important policy speech in the next few days and everyone was on edge awaiting to see what he would announce. It was possible that his announcement might be that he would retain power for his lifetime, and this, he said, would have a very bad effect on the whole country and might serve to hasten a denouement. As regards Mrs. Franco’s visit to Estoril,2 he said that news of her imminent arrival had at first dismayed him since he was on the point of departing on his cruise but feared it [Page 709] would be said that he had left deliberately to avoid her. He decided to delay his departure for a day and had invited Mrs. Franco to tea. She had accepted and this had gone off very well as had their visit together in Madeira where Mrs. Franco had come aboard the Saltillo, in spite of the bad weather in order to see the boat on which Don Juan was crossing the Atlantic. Undoubtedly Mrs. Franco’s visit had made a good impression on the Caudillo.3 He was very much of a family man and had long been reported to fear that a restoration would mean slights and discourtesies to Mrs. Franco and their daughter from the Royal Family; the visit had at least been able to reassure him on this score. Don Juan pointed out that in spite of the fact that there were basic divergences between himself and Franco, the latter had always treated him correctly even courteously —as far as their personal relations went.

Don Juan inquired whether we read the reports submitted by Mr. Xanthaky from Lisbon. He said that he had long followed the practice of keeping Mr. Xanthaky informed as to developments in the Monarchist movement and as to his own thinking on this subject and hoped that they were reaching the Department. Mr. Jova assured him that Mr. Xanthaky was a faithful reporter and that his despatches were read with the greatest interest in the Department. Don Juan said that he also had close and cordial relations with Ambassador Bonbright but did not wish to burden him with details as to developments within the Monarchist movement. On an occasion when he might wish to say something of a more solemn nature, however, he might speak directly to the Ambassador himself.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 752.11/5–1258. Confidential. Drafted by Jova, who had become acquainted with Don Juan while serving as First Secretary of the Embassy in Lisbon, 1954–1957.
  2. The visit of Don Juan and Don Juan Carlos to the United States had occasioned discussions among the Spanish Embassy, the Department of State, and the White House concerning a visit to President Eisenhower. After various possibilities had been raised, the Department of State decided that neither Don Juan nor his son should call at the White House. Documentation on this decision is ibid., Central Files 752.11 and 711.11–EI.
  3. Mrs. Franco and Foreign Minister Castiella visited Don Juan on his yacht at Estoril on March 14 during a 10-day visit to Portugal. Brief reports on the meeting were transmitted in telegram 1028 from Madrid, March 24 (ibid., 752.00/3–2458), and in despatch 799 from Madrid, May 5 (ibid., 752.00/5–558).
  4. General Franco.