285. Telegram From the Embassy in Spain to the Department of State1

3101. Subject: Succession—Chief of State.

1. At his invitation, I called today on Prince Juan Carlos at Zarzuela Palace. Meeting lasted 45 minutes. I found Prince candid, eager to talk about matters relating to his being named Prince of Spain, and plans for immediate future. I presented Prince model of Apollo XI “Eagle” and [Page 885]an F–100 model in name of President Nixon. Prince will write President directly.2

2. Juan Carlos said many monarchists have said to him that Don Juan was their first choice to which Juan Carlos replies “he was mine too.” Prince then recounted following chronology: he had asked for audience with Franco in April but had not been received by time he went to see his parents in Estoril in June. At Estoril he told his father that Madrid was buzzing with rumors Franco planned to name him, Juan Carlos, heir to throne. These rumors reinforced by certain Cabinet ministers inquiring of Juan Carlos about his plans for the summer. Prince told his father that both of them, in his opinion, would know Franco’s intentions at about the same time. Juan Carlos said to me, parenthetically, that Franco would not have embarrassed him by telling him early and making him keep a secret from his father. Juan Carlos told his mother when she visited Madrid in late June that he still had no hint of Franco’s plans. Juan Carlos praised his mother to me and talked of her help and influence in Juan Carlos’ relationship with his father. On July 14, according Juan Carlos, Don Juan telephoned him. Juan Carlos reported to Don Juan that he still had heard nothing from Franco but rumors were thickening. On the morning of July 15 the Pardo called Juan Carlos for an audience that afternoon. Franco told Juan Carlos at that audience that he would name him Prince of Spain and successor on July 22. On July 16 Franco’s letter was delivered to Don Juan reporting the Caudillo’s decision.

3. Juan Carlos said his father was deeply hurt now, but as a realist would in time accept the situation. Juan Carlos attributes part of Don Juan’s problem as being Motrico’s failure keep Don Juan up to date on rumors and happenings in Madrid. Also Don Juan believes, according to son, that latter knew of Franco’s intentions all along. This Juan Carlos denies.

It is obvious that Juan Carlos dislikes Motrico and believes him to have given bad advice to his father. Prince told of Motrico departing Spanish Embassy in Paris about five years ago telling everyone he was promised high post (perhaps Premier) in GOS. Only when appointment failed to materialize did Motrico, then bitter at regime, contact Don Juan in Estoril with offer to work for him. Juan Carlos makes no secret his feelings that Don Juan would have been well advised to have rejected Motrico’s offer.

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4. Prince said he feels he must look to future not to past, that he knows monarchy not “popular”, and that it is his job to build a workable modern monarchy with popular support. I strongly endorsed need popular support from my own experience in U.S. politics. I respectfully added that I thought Juan Carlos should concentrate on gaining support of Spanish youth and working class. Juan Carlos drafted his speech to Cortes—first speech he had ever made before an important group—with look to future, not past. He regards ovation to Princess Sophia, after he had left Cortes, as indication of support for him more telling than ovation directly after his speech when he shared platform with Franco.

5. Juan Carlos candidly stated that Spain’s image abroad too long has been centered on person of Generalissimo. He and Princess plan to make trips to major capitals—hopefully including Washington, to project image of new Spain. I mentioned importance of his wife traveling with him to underline family image.

6. Prince’s immediate plans are to go to La Coruna, where Franco is vacationing, next week and stay until August 9. He said he does not yet know what he will do at La Coruna and that he has not yet been asked to sit in on Council of Ministers meeting there. He doubts he will come to San Sebastian so he plans to sail at Mallorca August 14–16 and August 24 with trials before each race. Juan Carlos said he has been in touch with Bob Mosbacher, brother of the Chief of Protocol, who will also be at the Mallorca races.

7. Juan Carlos appears eager for contact with U.S. He told me to call on him whenever I liked on substantive matters without asking permission from MFA. If you ask, he said, they will only tell you they don’t know and if they disapprove they will simply tell me (Juan Carlos) not to discuss such matters with you the next time. In this connection, the Prince asked to be included in any briefing given GOS on President Nixon’s trip (septel).3

8. I discussed my schedule over next two months with Prince and mentioned I would be in Washington for policy-level discussions on U.S.-Spanish bases in early September. I said that this is particularly sensitive period for bases issue and hoped that any statements by high GOS officials would be made with that in mind. Prince took the point and agreed readily.

9. Comment: I was again impressed by Juan Carlos’ interest and intelligence as well as by how sensitive he is to the political limitations of his present situation. He is somewhat naive but I take that to be a function of his youth and lack of practical political experience. Juan Carlos [Page 887]may or may not survive the stresses of post-Franco Spain, but I am sure he intends to try, by his own lights, to modernize Spanish politics and hopefully govern Spain.

10. I was accompanied by Harry Bergold4 who was in the room during most all of the conference.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–1 SP. Confidential; Immediate. Repeated to Lisbon.
  2. Reference is presumably to a reply to the congratulatory message that Nixon sent to Juan Carlos following his July 23 investiture as “Prince of Spain” and legal successor to Franco. No copy was found; however, its contents are summarized in telegram 2993 from Madrid, July 24. (Ibid., RG 84, Madrid Embassy Files, POL 7 Visits)
  3. Telegram 3097 from Madrid, August 1. (Ibid.)
  4. A member of the Political Section of the Embassy.