The grandchildren of Francisco Franco do not give up their claim to be able to empty the Pazo de Meirás which, after 80 years of occupation, they had to return to the State in December 2020, after a historic sentence still pending an appeal before the Supreme Court . In the hearing held this Thursday before the Court of First Instance number one of A Coruña to determine what assets may or may not be taken from the monumental mansion located in Sada, the dictator’s family only confirmed their renunciation of five of the hundreds of objects and furniture that is disputed with National Heritage, given the technical impossibility of being able to remove them from the walls without causing irreparable damage, such as the coats of arms of the dukedom created by King Emeritus Juan Carlos I to honor Franco who wears the Meirás façade.
Disassemble a Roca sink, carpets and an old door: Franco’s plans for Meirás in the hands of the judge
But Franco’s heirs claim their right to take many other pieces no matter how old they are with the argument, put forward by his lawyer, of the dedication, affection and contributions that he lavished on the pazo “Doña Carmen”, the only daughter of the deceased dictator in 2017. “It was her home since she was a child, she felt it as hers for all purposes, she never stopped buying furniture and remodeling the house as she pleased for years”, after the mysterious fire of 1978 that, half a year before the Constitution was proclaimed Spanish, razed part of the property. For the Francos, all objects, works of art and furniture that they claim as their own are easily “removable” and can be replaced. “The country house would not lose its historical-artistic value if these assets are moved, because if that argument were valid, there would be no museums anywhere in the world,” argued the Franco’s lawyer.
On the contrary, the State, supported by the Xunta de Galicia and the municipalities of Sada and A Coruña, defends that almost all of the assets in dispute must be considered as part of the unique castle because they are the legacy of whoever had it built at the beginning of the 20th century, the writer Emilia Pardo Bazán, or were incorporated after 1938, in the midst of the Civil War, to reconvert it into the summer headquarters of the head of state during almost 40 years of dictatorship.
“They were placed with a vocation for permanence”, defended the representatives of the public administrations, endorsed by several expert reports. They also underlined the irreparable harm that the country house, after its return to the State, would be emptied of. It would lose, they insisted, much of its historical value and even, as historian Manuel Pérez Lorenzo testified before the judge, “its enormous didactic potential to understand the figure of Emilia Pardo Bazán and then how the Spanish political regime worked during the dictatorship.
The architects commissioned by the Xunta to carry out an exhaustive report on the value of 55 elements in dispute, most of them coats of arms and stone elements that adorn the garden, as well as valuable figures and ancient elements of the chapel designed by Pardo Bazán, emphasized this Thursday before the judge both in the legacy of the writer and in all the contributions that after 1938 were made to the Torres de Meirás, which were barely 30 years old at the time, to give it a status of nobility “and historical patina” so that it is a notable official residence of the Head of State.
The former guard of the manor, called to testify before the magistrate this Thursday as a witness for the Franco family, confirmed, to questions from the lawyers, that the stone figures, medieval sundials and the most outstanding elements of the Meirás chapel claimed by the family of the dictator were already there when in 2001 Carmen Franco began to restore and redecorate the mansion. She recounted that the family then brought multiple boxes with objects and furniture from Madrid for Meirás, although she did not cite anything of value. “There were clay vases, sofas, chests of drawers and beds.” He also cited, as an example of furniture provided by the coup general’s heirs, “aluminum chairs bought in Portugal” to decorate the garden or a lectern added to the chapel that “doña Carmen” had made during her object restoration classes. .
For the Franco’s lawyer, it is precisely those contributions and the dedication of the dictator’s only daughter that demonstrates that these assets should be considered as alien to the property once returned to the State. The historical or artistic value of many of the pieces and works of art in dispute, argued the lawyer, is “substitutable.” “These are decorative elements that were not put there for a permanent purpose,” she said.
In fact, the dictator’s family refused to provide the court with a report on the historical-artistic character of the assets that they intend to take from Meirás. He only delivered the report made by an architect on · the anchoring and fastening systems “of the sculptures and other objects, such as a sink in Franco’s private bathroom or corridor rugs on interior stairs, claimed by his heirs. A historian accompanied the architect and other professionals who came to Meirás, hired by the Francos, to carry out this expert report. But finally before the Court they only presented the technical conclusions of how to remove, without damage, the goods in dispute and the annex on its historical-artistic value was excluded. “The historian threw her hands in her head when she saw what the Francos wanted to take with them,” assured the Xunta lawyer.