Michael Mullan - The Marques de Garrigues

(Filed: 05/03/2004)

The Marques de Garrigues, who has died aged 100, was, as Antonio Garrigues y Díaz-Cañabate, Franco's ambassador to America during the presidency of John F Kennedy; he also served in the Republican government which preceded Franco's regime, and in the cabinet after the restoration of the monarchy.

He was, though, briefly more widely talked about in connection with J F K's widow Jackie, who was said to be highly susceptible to his charm.

Garrigues had been close to the Kennedys since Joe Kennedy, the future President's elder brother, visited Madrid during the Spanish Civil War, and he cemented the friendship during his time in Washington, when he regularly dined at the White House. In the years after the assassination of J F K, he was one of those whom Jackie Kennedy dropped in on as she dashed between the continents.

In January 1966 she stayed with Garrigues, then a widower with eight children, in Rome, where he was serving as Spain's Ambassador to the Vatican. She went on a spree of shopping and parties with the Roman nobility, pursued everywhere by paparazzi, and when Irene Galitzine's sempstresses worked through the night to make her a black dress for an unscheduled visit to the Pope, it set off rumours that Mrs Kennedy intended to marry her handsome Spanish host.

Over the next few months the speculation, reported in the European press, refused to die down, and when she stepped off the plane in Madrid en route to the feria in Seville, hundreds reporters yelled questions about the nature of her friendship with Garrigues.

On April 20, when she returned to Madrid on her way back from Seville, the American Ambassador to Spain, Angier Biddle Duke, called an impromptu press conference: "On behalf of Mrs Kennedy," he said, "I wish to make it crystal clear and completely understood that there is no basis in fact to the rumours of an engagement."

Garrigues himself said nothing publicly about their relationship, encouraging yet more persistent rumours.

Antonio Garrigues y Diaz-Canabate was born in Madrid on January 9 1904, one of five sons of a prosperous lawyer who was widowed when Antonio was a boy. After graduating top of his year at Madrid's Central University, he worked at his father's law firm until 1931, when he was appointed director-general of registries and notaries in the justice ministry under the provisional government of the Republic.

In the same year he married Helen Walker, from Des Moines, Iowa, daughter of a senior executive in the American multi-national ITT. She was to bear him 11 children, three of whom died in infancy, before she died in 1944.

In the 1930s Garrigues had a hand in the founding of the Catholic journal Cruz y Raya, and during the Civil War he was one of the "Fifth-Columnists" who supported Franco's cause through sabotage and propaganda. During Joe Kennedy's visit, Garrigues tore around the city streets with him, distributing subversive literature. When their car was pulled over by the militia, he got away with the explanation that he was showing around a foreign friend.

After the civil war Garrigues concentrated on expanding his law firm, which was later remodelled as a partnership along Anglo-Saxon lines.

For foreign companies seeking to expand into Spain, Garrigues, a frequent transatlantic traveller, quickly became their lawyer of choice. He meanwhile abstained from active politics, but argued for a more liberal dictatorship and was a confirmed supporter of Don Juan, the exiled son of King Alfonso XIII.

In March 1962 Garrigues received an unexpected summons to become Spanish Ambassador to the United States, where he was able to use his former friendship with J F K's late brother Joe as an entree into the President's inner circle, and to see through the difficult renewal of the military and economic accord between the two countries in 1963.

The next year he was posted to the Holy See, where he renegotiated the agreements between the Spanish government and the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council. A devout Catholic who for many years had been an agnostic, Garrigues was broadly in agreement with Vatican II's liberalising changes, despite the stiff resistance they met in conservative quarters at home.

Around this time he was also involved in some early reformist initiatives within the Spanish establishment, contributing to a draft revision of the Francoist constitution, which found no favour with his superiors in Madrid.

On his return to Spain in 1972, Garrigues resumed his law practice and his other commercial interests. His firm became one of the largest in Europe, with 1,200 partners, and was a vital facilitator of the foreign investment that modernised Spain's economy and transformed its social fabric.

He also chaired some of the country's largest businesses, including the broadcasting company SER and Citroen Hispania, and published several books on philosophy, theology, culture and current affairs.

After Franco's death in 1975, Garrigues was appointed justice minister in the new government. He was seen as one of the more liberal members of an administration that, for all King Juan Carlos I's democratic leanings, was weakly led by Carlos Arias Navarro in the face of reactionary pressures from the "bunker" of the old regime.

Garrigues stood down after seven months, disenchanted with the failure to achieve a broader range of political liberties. His main achievement was the repeal of the repressive laws under which Franco had sent political opponents to face the firing squad. His son Joaquin later served as minister for public works in the government led by Adolfo Suarez, of the Union of the Democratic Centre, while the father returned to business, remaining active for many years.

His publications included Dialogues With Myself (1978); Thoughts on Things that Happen (1984); and, among several books of poetry, At the Crossroads in Rome (1986).

In January, on the eve of Garrigues's 100th birthday, King Juan Carlos raised him to the nobility as the Marques de Garrigues. He held many other honours besides.

Active until the last, he died peacefully at his Madrid home on February 24. His elder son Antonio, head of the family law firm, succeeds him as Marques; another son and four daughters also survive him.


America - United States...

Michael Mullan - Obituaries...

Spanish translation by Juan Manuel Grijalvo (pending)...