A FLOWERY basin where General Francisco Franco carried out his daily ablutions when at his summer palace in Galicia is at the centre of a legal row between the Spanish state and the heirs of the fascist dictator.
The dictator’s family are trying to claim back 52 items from the Pazo de Meiras, in Sada, in Spain’s green northwestern Galicia region, including the sink from Franco’s bathroom, a decorative rug and a heavy wooden door.
Last year the property was handed to Spain’s National Heritage agency following a long legal battle which saw the High Court of Galicia order that it be seized from the heirs of Franco and returned to the people of Spain.
The country estate was built in 1893 by the writer Emilia Pardo Bazan but was ‘donated’ by the people of A Coruña to General Franco, a native of Galicia, in 1939, the year that the marked the start of what would be a 36-year dictatorship following his side’s victory in the Spanish Civil War.
In truth, a voluntary ‘popular subscription’ was held to buy the property as a gift for Franco but those who failed to contribute risked being labelled as ‘reds’ or enemies of the state, while dozens of local families were kicked off their farms to expand Franco’s hunting grounds.
The turreted country house was declared part of Galicia’s cultural heritage in 1991 and as a site of special public interest in 2013, a status that legally requires its owners to open to the public for at least four days each month.
After initially refusing to do on invasion of privacy grounds, the manor was put under the management of the Francisco Franco Foundation which ran guided tours extolling “the greatness of the figure of Francisco Franco”.
Last year, finally, the family were ordered to hand the keys over in a court ruling but a ruling on the contents of the house will not be heard until October 22.
The dictator’s family claims the right to 54 items within the property including the elaborately decorated basin within the private bathroom used by the dictator during his summer stays at the estate.
Decorated with a floral motif in pink and ochre, the basin appears on a list along with numerous sculptures, coat of arms and shields that adorn the property.
Also on the list is a heavy wooden door and a Persian carpet.
But the legal case for the Xunta de Andalucia argues that these elements form an essential part of the house itself and should remain in situ.