A discreet sportsman, Luis Alfonso de Borbón has always felt a personal responsibility to assume the family mantle, and his time appears to have come. Whether through love of his grandmother Carmen Franco, his own convictions, or a sense of duty, he has taken this opportunity to stride into the limelight as the representative of Spain’s most controversial clan: the Francos.
The son of Carmen Martínez-Bordiú – herself the oldest of General Francisco Franco’s seven grandchildren – and Alfonso de Borbón, cousin to former King Juan Carlos, Luis Alfonso de Borbón, 44, has decided to hoist the family flag and style himself ‘king’ of all who hanker after the dictatorship era.
His first chance to exercise his leadership skills took place on July 15 when he headed a Movement-for-Spain demonstration at the Valley of the Fallen monument outside of Madrid against the exhumation of Franco’s remains from the basilica. The decision to move the body was made by the Socialist Party (PSOE) government of Pedro Sánchez, in a decree that was backed by Congress last Thursday, with abstentions from the right-wing Popular Party and Ciudadanos.
“You are our king!” shouted some bystanders as he passed by with his Venezuelan wife Margarita Vargas and their three children. In response, he smiled but maintained a noble composure. His presence at the mausoleum was meant to declare to the world what had already been said on his social media sites: “Today I attended 11am Mass with my wife and three children in the Valley of the Fallen; we are joining many families and people from all over Spain and abroad to pray for the future of Spain.”
In March he was named honorary president of the Francisco Franco Foundation, a position held by his grandmother Carmen Franco until her death in December 2017. And while he is allowing for a year of mourning before taking an active role in the foundation, he has redefined its aims from “the ennoblement of the figure of Franco” to “spreading and promoting the study and knowledge of Francisco Franco’s life, thinking, legacy and achievements” in order to prevent the foundation from being outlawed.
His radical views burst into the public domain just as Pedro Sánchez became Spain’s new leader and proposed the removal of his great-grandfather from his resting place.
Just days after the July 15 demonstration, he tweeted: “This immense Cross [at the Valley of the Fallen] represents reconciliation between the two Spains. There has been just one Spain going forward contentedly, proud of its past and hopeful about its future. But resentment is once again stirring rancid fratricide hatreds. History will condemn those who dishonor this grandiose temple […].”
In case history fails in this respect, Luis Alfonso de Borbón is waging his own battle against “the tomb raiders” and “the political trash that doesn’t want anyone to know about Franco” and Pedro Sánchez in particular – in a bid to see Sánchez toppled, he has launched a Change.org petition which is promoted on his Instagram account, demanding Sánchez’s resignation.
In the face of all this noise, the rest of his family are laying low as there are still a few minor details to be ironed out concerning the multi-million-euro inheritance left by their grandmother.
Luis Alfonso de Borbón may have become the king of the Francos in Spain but in Venezuela, he is mainly associated with his millionaire father-in-law Víctor Vargas Irausquín and the country’s fourth-largest bank, Western Discount Bank (BOD), of which he is international vice president.
BOD President Víctor Vargas Irausquín is thought to have amassed a fortune of more than €850 million, which many Venezuelans believe comes from oil contracts won through his friendship with the late president Hugo Chávez. It was an unlikely relationship that did not prevent Vargas from leading a lavish lifestyle with six houses, three yachts and a social circle revolving around the kind of Venezuelans that characterized the country before Chávez came to power. And this is still the case today with Chávez dead and Nicolás Maduro in the Miraflores Palace.
Closer to home, Luis Alfonso de Borbón has dabbled in a number of projects, and is currently involved with Spanish Influencers, which sells itself as “the first Spanish firm to bring together companies and celebrity influence.” There is also his Madrid gym Reto 48, where keep-fit techniques are based on US military training routines. His private life is, however, rarely glimpsed except during polo season when he can be seen at competitions in Sotogrande, Cádiz.
Besides captaining the family crusade and preparing for the birth of his fourth child, Luis Alfonso de Borbón now has his hands full juggling both those responsibilities imposed upon him and those chosen by himself – on the one hand, his duty to French monarchists who consider him to be the rightful heir to the throne in a country without thrones; and on the other, to the nostalgic Spaniards who believe him to be their knight in shining armor who will rescue the values of the fatherland from the likes of Pedro Sánchez.
English version by Heather Galloway.