What Really Happened To Francisco Franco's Corpse?

Controversy always seems to arise when it comes to what to do with the remains of terrible authoritarian leaders. Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini's body was desecrated by the people he had oppressed in the days after his execution. It was later snatched by grave robbers, pilfered of brains, blood, and other lifeless material by the U.S. government, and finally laid to rest in a family mausoleum. Joseph Stalin's body was embalmed and put up on display next to that of Vladimir Lenin, then everyone in Russia started to remember how the Soviet dictator killed millions of his own people, so his body was whisked away to an unostentatious grave nearby.

Spain's 20th-century authoritarian leader was Francisco Franco. According to History.com, after starting a civil war and ruling Spain with an iron fist for decades, Franco found himself rather unimpressed with the life of a tyrant in his old age. By the 1970s, he was doing more fishing and hunting than worrying about secret police and press censorship. Several heart attacks ended his life on November 20, 1975, and despite his reign of terror in Spain, there were still those who supported his cause that late in the game, and who gave a fascist salute at his funeral. He was initially buried in a place that honors those who died in the Spanish Civil War, but as time went on, people started to rethink having given him such a hero's farewell.

Francisco Franco's corpse was finally moved decades later

Franco's remains were buried in a mausoleum called Valley of the Fallen, which was meant to memorialize the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards who died in the civil war. But as The Guardian reports, people understandably had a problem with his body being honored there. So in 2019, the Spanish government came to the decision that his remains did not belong "in a public mausoleum that exalts his figure," and had his body exhumed. In a move the government said would "symbolically close the circle of Spanish democracy," it was taken to a family mausoleum, where it remains today.

Rather than denounce the tyrant's bloody legacy, his descendants unsurprisingly opposed the move, but Spain's supreme court ruled that it was pretty messed up to honor him in the public mausoleum. He was largely responsible for the deaths of everyone entombed in it, after all. The Valley of the Fallen is the largest mass grave in Spain. Over 33,000 people from both sides of the war are buried there.