Spanish Dictator Franco's Daughter, Carmen, Dies at 91 in Madrid

(Bloomberg) -- Maria del Carmen Franco y Polo, the only child of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, died in Madrid, according to the family’s foundation. She was 91 and had been suffering from cancer.

Born in Oviedo, Spain, Carmen as she was known, was the only daughter of Franco and his wife Maria del Carmen Polo. As honorary chairman of the National Francisco Franco Foundation and Duchess of Franco, she played a role in protecting her father’s legacy following his death in 1975.

Spanish Dictator Franco's Daughter, Carmen, Dies at 91 in Madrid

“She was one of the promoters of the idea that the Franco dictatorship was in some ways a benign and mild affair,” said Giles Tremlett, a historian and journalist. “Let’s just say that there is still lots left to do in working through what happened and how that particular family made its mark on Spain.”

While Carmen Franco shunned the limelight, she told the story of her upbringing in a book called “Franco, My Father” co-written with the historians Jesus Palacios and Stanley George Payne, and published in 2008. Her family heritage made her a divisive figure in Spain, where the legacy of the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939 remains deeply contentious.

“In contrast to other children of dictators, in the case of Carmen she has been remarkable for her discretion,” Nieves Herrero, her biographer, said in an interview with Onda Cero radio. “She saw herself as a normal person when in fact there was nothing normal about her.”


Carmen married Cristobal Martinez-Bordiu, a heart surgeon from a noble background, in 1950, according to ABC newspaper. They had seven children. Martinez-Bordiu died in 1998.

Carmen “walked on tiptoes for 91 years, leaving fabulous memories for everyone who knew her,” Luis Alfonso de Borbon, one of her grandchildren, said on his Instagram page. “You will always be my super-granny, my second mother, one of my pillars and my example to follow.”

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