The reign in Spain is over: Juan Carlos signs his own abdication into law
as country prepares to welcome King Felipe and Queen Letizia on the stroke of midnight
Spanish King Juan Carlos signed his own abdication into law today as the country prepared to welcome King Felipe to the throne at the stroke of midnight.
This afternoon, the King signed the constitutional law allowing his abdication during a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain.
Spanish Queen Sofia, Princess Letizia - soon to be Queen - and Infantas Leonor, Sofia and Princess Elena were all in attendance.
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(from left) Spanish Queen Sofia, Crown Prince Felipe, King Juan Carlos and Princess Letizia attend the ceremony where the King signed the Constitutional law allowing abdication
King Juan Carlos, left, embraces Spanish Crown Prince Felipe after signing the abdication law in Madrid
Princess Letizia smiles at Prince Felipe as they arrive at the ceremony this afternoon
King Juan Carlos signs the constitutional law as Queen Sofia looks on
Princess Letizia looked glamourous at the ceremony in a simple black and cream outfit
The economic crisis that has left a quarter of Spaniards out of work has compelled Europe's newest king to be relatively frugal at his proclamation.
The crown prince's father, 76-year-old Juan Carlos, misjudged public anger at financial hardship when he went on an elephant-hunting safari in Africa. Felipe, 46, appears keen to show he's more in tune with his countrymen - and avoid the mistakes of his abdicating predecessor.
The landmark occasion is perhaps most notable for what it won't include: no state banquet, no foreign royals or heads of state, no ostentatious ceremonies or parades.
The King speaks with Princess Leonor and Princess Sofia as Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia watch on
Queen Sofia, King Juan Carlos, Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia stand to honour the ceremony. The landmark occasion will not be a particularly lavish affair to reflect the country's economic crisis
The new royal couple will ascend the throne when the clock strikes midnight
By royal standards, it's humble: reception guests will be served hot and cold tapas-style nibbles, which they will eat while standing and there will be no champagne, just sparkling cava wine from Spain's Catalonia region.
'More than anything this is a message. What they want to say is, We're in a moment when sobriety in spending shows a certain sense of solidarity in a time of economic difficulty,' Navarra University Modern History Professor Pablo Perez Lopez said.
Felipe is to be formally proclaimed monarch and swear an oath at a ceremony with lawmakers in Parliament on Thursday.
Today is Spanish King Juan Carlos' last day on the throne before his son ascends and already the shops are packed with memorabilia to celebrate Prince Felipe's coronation
His son Prince Felipe ascends to the Spanish throne at midnight, but there won't be any ritzy official celebrations
Spanish Crown Prince Felipe (second left) at his last event before his proclamation as King Felipe VI
It will be a no-frills event, though the 18th-century Spanish crown and 17th-century scepter will be on display.
After a brief military parade, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia will take a drive through expected crowds along some of Madrid's most emblematic streets and monuments - such as the Prado Museum and the Cibeles fountain.
The palace acknowledged that the customary pomp had been eliminated 'in keeping with the criteria of austerity that the times recommend.'
MADRID, SPAIN - JUNE 16: Prince Felipe of Spain coronation souvenirs are displayed at stores today
Prince Felipe is to be formally proclaimed monarch and swear an oath at a ceremony with lawmakers in Parliament on Thursday
A woman holds a mug depicting Spanish Princess Letiza at a shop ahead of the proclamation
Souvenirs depicting Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia are on sale across the country
The reasoning behind that choice is easy to understand, says Emilio de Diego Garcia, Modern History Professor at Madrid's Complutense University.
'In a time when every expense is examined with a magnifying glass, particularly public money, any ostentation would have been criticized,' he said.
Juan Carlos announced his surprise decision to abdicate on June 2, saying he was stepping aside after a four-decade reign to allow for younger royal blood to rally the country that is still trying to shrug off a double-dip recession and a 26 percent jobless rate.
During most of his reign, the 76-year-old monarch was held in high esteem for his role in helping steer the country from military dictatorship to democracy.
Pins with a picture of Spanish Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia are seen in a souvenirs shop in Madrid
Souvenirs depicting future King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia
The palace acknowledged that the customary pomp had been eliminated 'in keeping with the criteria of austerity that the times recommend'
Royal fans can be mugs with the photo of the new king plastered across them
The royal family's image was tarnished by Juan Carlos's 2012 Botswana hunting trip
A girl wearing a T-shirt depicting Spanish Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia in Madrid
He took over the throne in 1975, two days after the death of longtime dictator Gen. Francisco Franco, and then endeared himself to many by making army rebels stand down during an attempted military coup in 1981.
More recently, however, the royal family's image was tarnished by Juan Carlos's 2012 Botswana hunting trip.
Another scandal saw Juan Carlos' youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, testify this year in the fraud and money-laundering case engulfing her husband, the Olympic handball medalist turned businessman Inaki Urdangarin.
Juan Carlos won broad support for his handling of Spain's 20th-century challenges. Felipe VI must now address Spain's 21st-century difficulties.
Keeping the bill down for taxpayers is just one of the challenges facing the new king.
Much more pressing will be whether he can keep the country united as separatist movements, such as those in Catalonia and the Basque region, try to pull the country apart.
The Lower House ahead of the proclamation ceremony of the new Spanish King Felipe VI, in Madrid
Workers make final preparations ahead of the proclamation ceremony tomorrow
The statue of King Carlos III at the Puerta del Sol where balconies have been decorated with Spanish flags
Tourists pose for a selfie with Angel, a Bulgarian man dressed as a bullfighter, in front of the Royal Palace
Such an unraveling could place the monarchy itself in danger.
The abdication announcement initially triggered widespread demonstrations calling for a referendum on reinstating a republic.
But a recent poll found that while 62 percent of respondents said they wanted a referendum on the monarchy 'at some point,' 49 percent said they favored a monarchy with Felipe as king, while only 36 percent wanted a republic.
Others did not answer or expressed no opinion.
Felipe holds a law degree from Madrid's Autonomous University and obtained a master's in international relations from Georgetown University in Washington.
His wife is a former television journalist.
A woman hangs a Spanish flag on her balcony in front of the Royal Palace in Madrid
:A woman crosses the road at Gran Via as Spanish flags hang from lampposts the day before Prince Felipe's coronation
Many people feel that record will help make Felipe more attuned to the public mood.
Diego Garcia, the Complutense professor, believes Spain is going to see 'a more austere monarchy, one closer to the people and the reality of the country.'
The 2,000 guests at the royal reception will be from a wide range of Spanish society, including Madrid ambassadors as well as representatives from the business, cultural, media and sports sectors.
Authorities have prohibited a planned demonstration in Madrid on Thursday by people demanding an end to the monarchy.
The palace said it had no information on the overall cost of the events, which will be overseen by some 7,000 police.
Workers place a banner depicting future King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia at a store
Soldiers rehearse outside the Royal Palace in Madrid today
Two firemen take part in the preparation works at the Lower House ahead of the proclamation ceremony
The chairs set at the Lower House ahead of tomorrow's ceremony. During the ceremony, Crown Prince Felipe will be sat with his wife, Letizia, and his daughters Leonor and Sofia on the red chairs
The table where Spanish King Juan Carlos will ratify later on the day the Constitutional law that allows his abdication, at the Royal Palace in Madrid
Crown Prince Felipe of Spain and Princess Letizia of Spain visited a students' residence in Madrid last week
Statesman who restored democracy to Spain after decades of Franco's dictatorship dies aged 81
Adolfo Suarez, Spain's first elected prime minister after General Franco's dictatorship, has died aged 81
Adolfo Suarez, Spain's first democratically elected prime minister after decades of right-wing dictatorship under General Francisco Franco, has died aged 81.
Suarez died yesterday afternoon in Madrid's Cemtro Clinic hospital, after a decade suffering from Alzheimer's disease for a decade.
The cause of death was 'chronic obstructive pulmonary disease made worse within the context of Alzheimer's disease,' said Dr Isabel de la Azuela.
Suarez had been admitted to the hospital on Monday with pneumonia. On Friday, his son Adolfo said his condition had deteriorated and that he was expected to die within days.
King Juan Carlos, in a televised address, expressed his gratitude to Suarez for his 'loyalty to the crown' and sadness over his death.
'Suarez was a statesman who put the whole of the Spanish nation ahead of his personal and party interests,' the king said.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said 'one of the great men of our era has left us,' and declared three days of national mourning.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron added his own tribute, saying: 'Saddened to hear that Adolfo Suarez has died. He was a great leader who led Spain on the difficult path from dictatorship to democracy.'
At the start of the 'El Clasico' football match between Real Madrid and Barcelona last night, the players observed a minute's silence in honour of the statesman's historic achievements.
Suarez became secretary-general of the National Movement, which was Spain's only party during Franco's rule, and also was director-general of state television broadcaster TVE.
He was 43 when he was chosen in 1976 by King Juan Carlos to lead the country toward a democratic parliamentary monarchy after Franco's death a year earlier. Suarez had the king's trust and the two were close.
'King Juan Carlos chose Suarez because he knew him, had followed his career since he was Civil Governor, knew how he thought, knew his daring, his loyalty and because Suarez had hit the nail on the head by including the words democracy and monarchy in the same broadcast package,' said Fernando Onega, a who served in Suarez's cabinet.
During his term, which lasted from 1976 until 1981, he introduced a democratic constitution, legalised political parties, and brought back trade unions
Despite opposition to his appointment from many centrist and leftist politicians, Suarez and the Democratic Center Union party he had founded won the first post-Franco elections the following year.
Under Suarez's leadership the new Parliament approved a democratic constitution in 1978, a milestone that caused a surge in popularity which swept him and his party to election victory the following year.
During his time in office, Suarez surprised his critics and antagonised the army and church by legalising political parties and trade unions and calling for an amnesty for political offences. Suarez was considered a skilled and determined crisis manager during the transition to democracy, but proved to be less successful as a day-to-day organizer.
Eventually - after becoming increasingly reclusive - he lost the support of his party and resigned as leader in 1981.
Suarez, however, had one more dramatic moment to play.
Suarez had been suffering with Alzheimer's since 2005, and was taken into hospital with pneumonia on Friday. After being admitted to hospital his condition worsened and he died this afternoon
Suarez (seen here taking office in 1976) was put forward for the position by King Juan Carlos (rear, centre) who praised his 'loyalty to the crown' during a televised address earlier today
About a month after his resignation, during a Parliamentary debate on swearing in a successor, paramilitary Civil Guard police backed by army generals nostalgic for Franco's hard-line rule stormed the ornate chamber in an attempted coup.
When some of the officers started firing submachine guns at the ceiling - the bullets have been left there as a reminder of that day - most lawmakers scrambled for cover, diving to the floor or hiding under the seats.
Suarez was one of a handful of politicians who remained seated, upright and defiant. The coup bid soon collapsed.
Suarez ran for election again in 1982 and lost. He eventually formed another centrist party, but it remained marginal and he retired from politics in 1991.
Adolfo, one of Suarez's sons, revealed in 2005 that his father had Alzheimer's disease.
A minute's silence was held for Suarez at the start of this evening's Real Madrid v Barcelona match
Suarez' son, Adolfo Suarez Illana (second left) and current prime minister Mario Rajoy (right), leave the clinic following the former leader's death
Born on September 25, 1932, Suarez studied law at Spain's prestigious Salamanca University and went into politics after graduating.
He held several government posts during the Franco regime.
The king granted him the title of Duke of Suarez in 1981. He was awarded Spain's highly regarded Prince of Asturias prize in 1996 for his contribution to democracy.
Suarez is survived by daughter Sonsoles, a former TV news anchor, and son Adolfo, a politician with the conservative Popular Party, and two other children.
His wife, Amparo Illana, and eldest daughter, Marian Suarez Illana, died of cancer in 2001 and 2004, respectively.
Thousands of anti-monarchist protesters take to streets of Spain calling for a republic after King Juan Carlos abdicates after 39 years
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Spain to demand a referendum on the future of the monarchy after King Juan Carlos announced plans to abdicate and pass power to his son Felipe.
More than 20,000 demonstrators rallied in Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, Spain, in support of the end of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic. Thousands more descended on Barcelona's Catalunya square.
Petitions have appeared online with one collecting 113,000 signatures calling for Spain's political parties to take advantage of this 'historical opportunity to promote a public debate that will help regenerate democracy and determine the future of the monarchy.'
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Thousands of people participate in a rally in support of the end of the Monarchy in Spain and the establishment of a Republic in Puerta del Sol square in Madrid
More than 20,000 demonstrators rallied in Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, Spain, last night after the announcement of the abdication
However, today the cabinet of Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy approved a proposal for emergency legislation that allows King Juan Carlos to abdicate and hand over his duties to Crown Prince Felipe.
The proposal will be fast-tracked by the Spanish Parliament and is expected to pass easily because Mr Rajoy's centre-right Popular Party has the majority of seats and the leading opposition Socialist Party also supports the legislation. Jesus Posada, who leads the Parliament's lower house, predicted the law will take effect by June 18, meaning Felipe would be proclaimed king before lawmakers shortly after that.
The 76-year-old king and Felipe, 46, participated today at a military ceremony outside Madrid as Mr Rajoy met his cabinet.
More than 20,000 demonstrators rallied in Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, Spain, in support of the end of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic
Time to go: In a study, support for the king fell to 41 per cent while those wanting him to abdicate in favour of Felipe surged to 62 per cent
Calls for change: A protester rallies during a demonstration in Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, Spain after the announcement the king will abdicate
Juan Carlos appeared frail as he emerged from a car with his son, pacing slowly with a cane to a podium where the two watched soldiers parading decked out in dress uniforms.
As Juan Carlos and Felipe arrived, people shouted 'Long Live the King' and 'Long Live the Prince'.
Hours after the prime minister broke the news yesterday, the king explained his decision on television.
He said: 'When I look back, I can only feel pride and gratitude to all of you.
'Pride for the many good things we have achieved together. And gratitude for the support you have given me throughout my reign.'
A day after King Juan Carlos announced he is ending a 39-year reign that guided Spain from dictatorship to democracy, the government has begun the process of replacing the monarch for the first time in its post-Franco history.
It will clear the throne for his son, Crown Prince Felipe, a six foot six inch tall former Olympic yachtsman, and for his future queen Letizia, a glamourous former television news presenter.
In a televised address to the nation, Juan Carlos said the economic crisis had awakened a 'desire for renewal, to overcome and correct mistakes and open the way to a decidedly better future'.
Petitions have appeared online with one collecting 113,000 signatures calling for Spain's political parties to take advantage of this 'historical opportunity
'Today a younger generation deserves to step into the front line, with new energies,' said the monarch, looking relaxed in a grey suit and green tie.
Juan Carlos was widely respected for smoothing Spain's transition to democracy after the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975, most famously facing down an attempted military coup in February 1981.
But gaffes and family scandals later slashed his popularity.
In a study by pollster Sigma Dos published in January 2014, support for the king fell to 41 per cent while those wanting him to abdicate in favour of Felipe surged to 62 per cent.
Most worryingly for royalists, the same survey found only 49 per cent approved of the monarchy itself.
A man flies a flag in Madrid's Puerta del Sol as part of a large rally demanding a referendum on the future of the Spanish Monarchy. An estimated 20,000 attended the rally
Thousands rally in Madrid's Puerta del Sol demanding a referendum. It comes after King Juan Carlos announced plans to step down in favour of son Felipe
In a recent study support for king fell to 41 per cent while those wanting Felipe to take power surged to 62 per cent
Alejandro Ricas, a 19-year-old student, said: 'I would like for us Spanish people to be able to choose whether we want a monarchy or a republic. The monarchy is obsolete'
Three small leftist parties - Podemos, United Left and the Equo green party which together won 20 per cent of the vote in May 25 European Parliament elections - called for a referendum on the monarchy.
Pro-republican activists also called for rallies in Spanish squares.
'There will be tension, there will be difficult times, but the prince just has to demonstrate that he is capable, because he is. He has a clean record, is fair, hard working. You can't ask for more,' said royal biographer Cesar del al Lama.
A woman in Barcelona holding a republican Spanish flag during a celebration that King Juan Carlos' plans to abdicate
Protestors wave republican flags and shout slogans as crowds of people gather in the main square of Madrid in Spain
Hope: A woman cries after singing Catalonia's anthem during the republican celebration in Barcelona, Spain
A couple hug each other with Catalonia's independent flag during the republican celebration in Barcelona, Spain, following news of the abdication
Catalan separatist flags flying in Barcelona's Plaza Catalunya. Thousands rallied in the Plaza calling for Catalan independence
Thousands rally in Madrid's Puerta del Sol demanding a referendum on the future of the Monarchy. An estimated 20,000 took part in the rally in Madrid, with similar rallies held in over 60 towns and cities across Spain
Protesters take photos in Madrid's Puerta del Sol square during a rally demanding a referendum on the future of the monarchy and the establishment of a referendum
'He will not be weighed down like the king by having a corrupt son-in-law. He will not make a mistake like the Botswana hunting trip.'
Felipe will come to the throne as the government of the wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia is pushing to hold an independence referendum in November - a vote that is fiercely opposed by the central government in Madrid.
The king has called Felipe, who was schooled for his future role as monarch in the three branches of the armed forces and during studies abroad, the 'best prepared' heir to the Spanish throne in history.
He kept him at his side on the night of February 23, 1981 when soldiers firing shots over the heads of lawmakers seized parliament in a bid to re-establish a military regime.
Juan Carlos appeared live on television in military uniform and ordered the coup plotters back to their barracks, a move that cemented his image as the guarantor of Spain's young democracy.
An anti-monarchist protester speaks into a megaphone at Barcelona's Plaza Catalunya while another holds a banner calling for independence
'It is a difficult time but the prince has had the best preparation since the day he was born to lead at this moment,' said Fermin J. Urbiola, a journalist who has written several books on the king.
Juan Carlos decided to step down on his 76th birthday and hand the throne to his son Prince Felipe, 46, and his glamourous wife Letizia, a former award-winging newsreader and divorcee.
His is the third European monarch to abdicate in just over a year after King Albert II of Belgium gave his crown to son Philippe last July, three months after Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands made way for her firstborn, Prince Willem-Alexander.
Juan Carlos, who oversaw his country's transition from dictatorship to democracy, has seen the twilight of his monarchy blighted by scandal and health problems, including five operations in the last two years.
An anti-monarchist protester speaks into a megaphone at Barcelona's Plaza Catalunya. Thousands rallied in the Plaza calling for Catalan independence
Anti-monarchist protest in Barcelona's Plaza Catalunya where they are calling for independence following the abdication of the king
His popularity nosedived in the face of a string of corruption scandals and gaffes in recent years, including the infamous photograph of him posing - gun on hip - next to a dead elephant in Botswana while his homeland wallowed in its 2012 financial crisis.
Today a source at the royal palace said the king was abdicating for political reasons - rather than due to failing health - as the country faces up to the worst economic crisis in memory.
Seated in front of a Spanish flag, the King told his subjects: ‘I have decided to end my reign and abdicate the crown of Spain. A new generation is quite rightly demanding to take the lead role.’
Juan Carlos came to power in 1975, two days after the death of longtime dictator Francisco Franco.
An anti-monarchist protester speaks into a megaphone at Barcelona's Plaza Catalunya (left) while another holds a flag (right)
Known - like his namesake, the great lothario Don Juan - as a prolific seducer, he is said to have bedded more than 1,500 women, among whom is rumoured have been Princess Diana.
And as Spain's new democracy matured over the years, the king played a largely figurehead role, travelling the globe as an ambassador for the country, and was a stabilising force in a country with restive, independence-minded regions such as the Basque region and Catalonia.
Juan Carlos has melded the trappings of royalty with down-to-earth, regular-guy charm. The king is an avid sports fan and after the Madrid terror bombings of March 11, 2004, showed he could grieve like anyone else.
At an emotional state funeral for the 191 people killed in the train bombings by Islamic militants, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia slowly went row-by-row through Madrid's Almudena Cathedral, clasping the hands of sobbing mourners or kissing them on the cheek.
Thousands rallying in Barcelona's Plaza Catalunya calling for Catalan independence after Spanish King Juan Carlos announced his abdication from the throne
But his patient work nearly came undone during the financial crisis by the now-infamous elephant shoot in Botswana that resulted in him being pilloried across Spain and removed by conservation group WWF as its honorary president.
Despite his apology to the Spanish people for the hunting trip, which only came to light when he was flown home from Africa after breaking a hip, an online petition calling for his resignation from the WWF post accumulated almost 85,000 signatures.
The controversy prompted Spanish newspapers to publish a photo of the king on a previous safari, in which he is seen standing with a gun beside a dead elephant.
'Although this type of hunting is legal and regulated, many members consider it to be incompatible with the position of honorary patron of an international organisation that aims to protect the environment,' WWF said at the time.
King Juan Carlos and Prince Felipe attend a ceremony marking the bicentennial of the creation of the order of Saint Hermenegildo today
King Juan Carlos waves during a military ceremony marking the bicentenial of the Royal and Military Order of Saint Hermenegild today
King Juan Carlos (left) plans to abdicate and pass over power to his son Crown Prince Felipe (right) a former Olympic yachtsman
In a recent study support for king fell to 41 per cent while those wanting Felipe to take power surged to 62 per cent
King Juan Carlos (right) and Spain's Crown Prince Felipe (centre) arrive to a military ceremony today a day after the king announced his abdication
But his monarchy has also been heavily blighted by an investigation into his son-in law, Inaki Urdangarin.
The Olympic handball medalist turned businessman has been questioned in connection with a corruption scandal involving claims that he embezzled public funds to organise sports events.
Sensationally, his daughter, Princess Cristina, was forced to testify in the fraud and money-laundering case in January, making her the first Spanish royal to be questioned in court since Juan Carlos took the throne.
Footage shows Spain's King Juan Carlos addressing the nation following his abdication, at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid yesterday
The abdication of King Juan Carlos (left) will clear the throne for his son, Crown Prince Felipe and for his future queen Letizia, a former television news presenter (right)
A judge in Palma de Mallorca is expected to decide soon whether to put Urdangarin on trial on charges of embezzling 6 million euros in public funds through his charity.
The 76-year-old king, whose health is failing and has had five operations in two years, had a reputation as a fun-loving ladies' man who slept with over 1,500 women.
Among them, was alleged to be Princess Diana herself, according to Barcelona-based author Pilar Eyre who has written six books about the Spanish royal family.
Prime minister Rajoy said his cabinet would meet very soon to set out the steps for Prince Felipe to take over as Felipe VI.
HISTORY REPEATING AS SPAIN IS TORN BETWEEN MONARCHISTS AND REPUBLICANS
In the 1930s, Spain was a deeply divided country that was politically torn between right-wing Nationalist and left-wing Republican parties.
The Nationalist party was made up of monarchists, landowners, employers, the Roman Catholic Church and the army.
The Republicans consisted of the workers, the trade unions, socialists and peasants.
Economically, the country had been deeply hit by the Great Depression after the Wall Street Crash.
In the 1930s, Spain was a deeply divided country that was politically torn between right-wing Nationalist and left-wing Republican parties
Partly due to this turmoil, in 1929 the military dictatorship that had ruled Spain since 1923 collapsed. In 1931 the King abdicated after the Republicans came to power.
There followed a period where the two political rivals had periods in power as the elected government.
The country was so divided and unstable that in 1936 the army rebelled and forcibly removed the Republicans from power. Civil war ensued.
If Spain fell to the Nationalists, France would be surrounded by Fascist powers (Germany and Italy).
If France was invaded by Fascist nations, the alliances between other anti-Fascist nations would be weakened.
In effect, there would be one less nation to resist Fascist plans to expand their borders - one less army to stand up to them.
Spain also had strategic naval bases on the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean that could be used by the Fascists to control shipping and for setting up submarine bases. These could be used to put military and economic pressure on other European nations.
Hitler and Mussolini (Italy's Fascist leader) both sent thousands of troops and weapons to Spain to aid the Nationalist forces.
They both had similar aims and a common desire to see Spain fall to the right-wing Nationalists.
As Fascist allies, it was in both Germany's and Italy's interest to fight the spread of Communism.
General Franco's army tanks passing through Torrelavega in 1937. Hitler and Mussolini both sent thousands of troops to Spain to aid Nationalist forces
They did not want Spain, a near neighbour to both nations, to become a Soviet-backed stronghold.
If Spain came under right-wing control it could be an important ally to the two countries in any future conflict.
Furthermore, if yet another major European nation were to adopt the Fascist creed, it would send a message to the whole world that the Fascists were a power to be reckoned with.
France and Britain did not want the nation to fall to the Nationalists, as this would strengthen the power of the Fascist alliance of Germany and Italy.
Equally, though, they would be no better off if Spain fell to the Soviet-backed Republicans, as Communism was seen as a huge threat to world peace.
The French and British agreed a mutual policy and set up a Non-Intervention Committee that effectively blocked international aid reaching Spain.
They could not, however, stop Germany and Italy sending forces and supplies to the Nationalists.
The USSR sent weapons and supplies to aid the Republicans in their struggle against the forces of Fascism, but it was never as committed to the conflict as either Germany or Italy.
The Russian leader, Stalin, sold only enough supplies to the Republicans to keep them fighting. Stalin was content that Germany was being kept busy with Spain rather than concentrating its efforts in eastern Europe.
The fight against Fascism drew young men and women from all over Europe and the U.S. to Spain.
Fighting for the Republicans, these idealists, socialists and communists, formed a rag-tag army determined to uphold democracy against the right-wing threat. At any one time up to 15,000 people were fighting in the International Brigades.
The better organised and better equipped Nationalist forces won the war after Madrid was captured in March 1939.
Hitler's position in Europe was now strengthened since he had another potential ally in the right-wing dictator of Spain, General Franco.