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Carmen Franco, 1st Duchess of Franco

María del Carmen Franco y Polo
Marchioness of Villaverde
Carmen Franco (left) during her visit to Finland in 1971.
Duchess of Franco
Tenure26 November 1975 – 29 December 2017
SuccessorCarmen Martínez-Bordiú
BornMaría del Carmen Franco y Polo
(1926-09-14)14 September 1926
Oviedo, Asturias, Spain
Died29 December 2017(2017-12-29) (aged 91)
Madrid, Spain
Spouse(s)Cristóbal Martínez-Bordiú, 10th Marquis of Villaverde (m. 1950–1998)
IssueCarmen Martínez-Bordiú, 2nd Duchess of Franco
María de la O Martínez-Bordiú
Francisco Franco, 2nd Lord of Meirás
María del Mar Martínez-Bordiu
José Cristóbal Martínez-Bordiú
María de Aránzazu Martínez-Bordiú
Jaime Felipe Martínez-Bordiú
FatherFrancisco Franco
MotherCarmen Polo, 1st Lady of Meirás
Coat of arms of the 1st Duchess of Franco

María del Carmen Franco y Polo, 1st Duchess of Franco, Grandee of Spain, Marchioness of Villaverde (14 September 1926[1] – 29 December 2017) was the only child of Spain's caudillo, General Francisco Franco[2] and his wife, Carmen Polo y Martínez-Valdés. In Asturian fashion, she was known by many nicknames, such as Nenuca, Carmelilla, Carmencita, Cotota and Morita.[3]


Franco was born in Oviedo. It is alleged that she was actually the daughter of Francisco Franco's younger brother, Ramón Franco and a prostitute who died shortly after giving birth.[4][5] However, a DNA test that would be evidence that could shed light on this issue is not available.[6]

On 10 April 1950, in El Pardo, she married Cristóbal Martínez-Bordiú, 10th Marquis of Villaverde.[7] Villaverde was a prominent surgeon. In 1968 he conducted the first heart transplant operation in Spain. The couple had seven children:

  • María del Carmen Martínez-Bordiú y Franco, 2nd Duchess of Franco (b. El Pardo, 26 February 1951), who married Prince Alfonso, Duke of Anjou and Cádiz, son of Infante Jaime, Duke of Segovia and grandson of King Alfonso XIII of Spain; and had issue.
  • María de la O "Mariola" Martínez-Bordiú y Franco (b. El Pardo, 19 November 1952), married in El Pardo on 14 March 1974 to Rafael Ardid y Villoslada (b. 1 February 1947), and had issue.
  • Francisco de Asís Franco y Martínez-Bordiú, 11th Marquis of Villaverde (b. 9 December 1954), married and divorced twice and had issue.
  • María del Mar "Merry" Martínez-Bordiú y Franco (b. 6 July 1956), married firstly at the Pazo de Meirás on 3 August 1977 and divorced in 1982, Joaquín José Giménez-Arnau y Puente (b. 14 September 1943), and had issue, and married secondly in New York City, New York on 4 August 1986, and divorced in 1991, Gregor Tamler, without issue.
  • José Cristóbal Martínez-Bordiú y Franco (b. El Pardo, 10 February 1958), married civilly in New York City, on 23 November 1984 and religiously in Madrid on 27 October 1990 to model Josefina Victoria Toledo y López (b. San José de Tirajana, Canary Islands, 1963), and had issue.
  • María de Aránzazu "Arantxa" Martínez-Bordiú y Franco (b. 16 September 1962), married at the Pazo de Meirás on 27 July 1996 to Claudio Quiraga y Ferro, without issue
  • Jaime Felipe Martínez-Bordiú y Franco (b. 8 July 1964), married in Madrid on 24 November 1995 to Nuria March y Almela (b. July 1966), divorced and had issue. Married secondly on 7 April 2021 in a civil ceremony in Madrid to Marta Fernández.

Shortly after her father's death in 1975, King Juan Carlos created her Duchess of Franco and a grandee of Spain, with a coat of arms of new creation. The arms are a variation of the arms of the de Andrade family of Galicia, from whom she is twice descended from the Pardo de Andrade branch, and twice again from the 7th counts of Lemos and Sarria. [citation needed]


In 1978, she was arrested at Madrid Barajas International Airport for attempting to smuggle 300 million pesetas (>US$4 million) worth of gold, jewellery and medals that had belonged to her father.[8] Her daughter divorced from her husband and moved to Paris, where she lived with the antiquarian Jean-Marie Rossi, whom she married.

In 2008, she collaborated with Stanley G. Payne and Jesús Palacios Tapias to write Franco, My Father, a biography of her father from her point of view. She described her father as a warm person. With regards to the White Terror, she noted that "he did not talk about it at home".[9] According to the book Franco, referred to as "Generalísimo" or "Head of State", was an "intelligent and moderate", a "brave and Catholic" man and who established an "authoritarian but not totalitarian" regime.[10][11]

She chaired the Francisco Franco National Foundation, which is under criticism for its revisionist opinions such as calling the Spanish coup of July 1936 an "armed referendum". The Spanish historian Borja de Riquer called that a euphemism with reference to an era in which approximately 140,000 Spaniards were executed in a reign of terror by the Falange, the Guardia Civil and other Nationalist organisations.[12]

During the premiership of José María Aznar the foundation received financial support from the Spanish Minister of Education and Culture. Funding was terminated in 2004.

She is regarded as an icon by the remaining followers of Francoism.[11]


She died from cancer on 29 December 2017 in Madrid, aged 91,[13][14] and was buried next to her husband in the crypt of Almudena Cathedral.



  1. ^ Andrés Rueda Román (4 March 2013). Franco, el ascenso al poder de un dictador. Ediciones Nowtilus S.L. pp. 100–. ISBN 978-84-9967-473-5.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Staff (20 December 1954). "Milestones". Time. Time Inc. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008. Retrieved 3 July 2011.
  3. ^ "Carmen Franco, only child of Spain's dictator, dies at 91". Associated Press. 29 December 2017. Archived from the original on 17 January 2019. Retrieved 29 December 2017 – via
  4. ^ "Franco's daughter was the offspring of his brother: book". Hindustan Times. 28 May 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  5. ^ "La paternidad de la duquesa de Franco, en entredicho". El Confodencial. 4 December 2014. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  6. ^ "Franco's daughter was the offspring of his brother: Book". 28 May 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  7. ^ "María del Carmen Franco y Polo, 1ª duquesa de Franco". 2011. Retrieved 3 July 2011.
  8. ^ La cosecha del dictador, El País, 9 September 2007 (in Spanish)
  9. ^ 20Minutos (3 December 2008). "Carmen Franco: "Mi padre era un bromista, pero la Guerra Civil lo cambió"". Retrieved 29 December 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Ingendaay, Paul (13 June 2011). "Franco, der Tapfere". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  11. ^ a b Jan-Henrik Witthaus; Patrick Eser (2015), Machthaber der Moderne: Zur Repräsentation politischer Herrschaft und Körperlichkeit (in German), vol. 68 (Edition Kulturwissenschaft ed.), Transcript Verlag, p. 224, ISBN 9781594039003, online: Machthaber der Moderne, p. 224, at Google Books
  12. ^ Streck, Ralf (26 August 2003). "Im Bett mit Franco". Telepolis (in German). Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  13. ^ "Muere Carmen Franco y Polo a los 91 años". ABC (in Spanish). 29 December 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  14. ^ Herrero, Nieves (29 December 2017). "Muere Carmen Franco a los 91 años de edad". El Mundo (in Spanish). Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  15. ^ [bare URL PDF]
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Carmen Franco, 1st Duchess of Franco
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