TIME on Sanjurjo’s 1932 coup attempt

Whoever wrote for them back them believed in providing kicks for his/her bucks:

At daybreak in Huelva a sleepy police man named Joaquin Segovia was stopped by two cars, asked the way to Portugal. Officer Segovia raised his rifle. Without more ado General Sanjurjo hopped out of the first car, shook the policeman by the hand. “I congratulate you,” said he. “With only a rifle you forced us to surrender.” … In frontier towns scores of escaping monarchists were arrested. The Marquis de Festival, at whose Seville house General Sanjurjo made his headquarters, was chased toward Gibraltar by Civil Guards. As the pursuers’ car drew up alongside his car he jammed on the brakes, jumped out, waded into the Strait and began swimming. Later a motorboat picked him up, still swimming toward Africa… From Mexico City Spanish Ambassador Alvarez del Vayo called Minister of Public Works Indalecio Prieto by transatlantic telephone. “Why are you sad?” he asked. “Is the revolution succeeding?” Replied Minister Prieto: “I am sad because this call is costing 15 pesetas a minute. The Republic is stronger than ever. Adios.”


Spain’s republican government last week faced one of the most difficult decisions of its career. It had to decide what to do with General Jose Sanjurjo, the brave, paunchy Monarchist who, fortnight prior, had seized Seville in an attempt to put Prince Juan Carlos, third son of ex-King Alfonso, on the throne. On trial before the Supreme Court in Madrid, General Sanjurjo lived up to his reputation for indifference in the face of danger. He listened quietly while old Francisco Bergamin, Spain’s Clarence Darrow, argued that his coup had not been a “consummated revolt,” for which the penalty is death, but a “frustrated rising,” punishable with life imprisonment. He smiled when a soldier testified that in ordering him to blow up the Lora del Rio bridge the general had instructed him to “do the least possible damage.” When the judges returned a verdict of death General Sanjurjo remarked blandly: “I have been in worse situations.”

Eight hours before the General was to be shot the cabinet meeting broke up in confusion. General Sanjurjo ordered a seven-course lunch. Premier Azana called a second cabinet meeting while the General had his siesta. When he awoke he learned that the second meeting had ended without a decision because Radical Socialist members had threatened to resign if the sentence were commuted. General Sanjurjo ordered a vermouth as the cabinet went into a third session. Three hours before sundown Premier Azana announced to the Cortes that the cabinet had asked President Niceto Alcala Zamora to commute the sentence to life imprisonment, that the President had signed the papers. Rightist deputies cheered, those of the Left hissed. There were half a dozen fist fights. Big-jowled General Sanjurjo grinned, ordered another vermouth.

While the General ate his dinner, mobs shouted around the prison. Communists rioted in Bilbao. In San Sebastian, Republicans tried to lynch several Monarchists. In Barcelona, Archduke Carlos of Habsburg-Bourbon was arrested on suspicion. After a night of serene sleep General Sanjurjo set out for El Dueso Prison in Santander Province to begin a term which few Spaniards expect him to finish.

He was indeed amnestied in 1934 but died two years later at the beginning of the war in a crash allegedly caused by his choosing to burden down a small plane with excess baggage containing the various uniforms and regalia he was going to need as Spain’s new caudillo. As another emperor found out, if clothes make the man, then they can also destroy him.

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  1. Marquis of Festival? dunno, but sounds like a confusion with Duque de Feria..
    The Duke of Medinaceli ( Duque de Feria is a title in the House of Medinaceli) was actually detained in Irun. Quite logically; if he wanted to swim out of Spain, Bidasoa crossing was the way.

  2. @1: That one did make me blink. But the editor didn’t notice.
    @2: I’ve been consulting that archive quite a lot recently & I love it. It would be really cool if mainstream stuff like La Vanguardia could be added. It’s out of copyright for the first few decades, so I don’t see why it shouldn’t be used.

  3. @@1:Well, it seems that is Esquivel, not Feria, nor Festival. But that Strait of Gibraltar attempted crossing still seems a bit over the top..

    @@2: Yes, you’re right, they are for the most part local papers. Not sure about reasons why, as in case of Vangu there may be some interest on using their not-for-free digital archive, but there are also discontinued papers like “El Sol”, “El Imparcial” and a lot more that do not seem to be available.

  4. (Since we’re here, another favourite is the BNE’s hemeroteca. Hemeroteca is a Spanish word meaning a (digital) collection so extensive as to tend to produce haemorroids in users.)

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