Ministry of Foreign Affairs loans Azaña Exhibition with Collar of the Civil Order of the Republic that the president wore at ceremony to take office
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation has loaned the Collar of the Civil Order of the Republic to the exhibition entitled “Azaña, Intellectual and Statesman”, which he wore at the ceremony to swear him into office. This historical item, identified during cataloguing works, was found in a strongbox that housed the cultural assets kept by the ministerial department, and is the only example of a collar of this order of the Republic that remains. The exhibition, organised by the First Vice-Presidency of the Government, through the State Secretariat for Democratic Memory, by the National Library of Spain and by Spanish Cultural Action, will remain open to the public until 4 April.

As well as at the swearing-in ceremony as President of the Republic on 11 May 1936, the collar also appears in the portrait of Manuel Azaña painted by J. M. López Mezquita, which is housed by the Hispanic Society of America in New York. Its identification was made possible thanks to the numbering (in this case number 3) of the collars of the Order of the Republic and because the Chancellery of the Order of the ministerial department keeps the “Book of Recipients of the Order of the Republic (Collar)” in which the details are contained of all the people who were presented with this honour.

Enrique de Álvaro, a public official at the Museum Conservatory Corps, an expert in the matter, explains that “the Collar of the Civil Order of the Republic that belonged to Manuel Azaña, President of the Republic was found in the collection kept by the ministerial department, “although this was bestowed on him prior to becoming president, when he was President of the Council of Ministers before becoming President of the Republic. And we know that this was in some way returned to the ministerial department by the Court of Political Responsibilities. How the court obtained it is as yet unknown”.

This honour was bestowed on six occasions. It was bestowed in 1932 on Niceto Alcalá Zamora, and also on the Republican, Alejandro Lerroux, in 1933. And beyond our borders, it was bestowed on the President of Mexico Abelardo L. Rodríguez, on Albert Lebrun, President of the French Republic and on the President of the Republic of Czechoslovakia.

On the scale of the civil order, the collars are the most important honour that can be bestowed and, unlike other honours, must be returned upon the death of the person upon whom it was bestowed. But, out of the six collars awarded, there is only evidence that the collar of the French President was returned, which is kept at the Museum of the Legion of Honour and that of Manuel Azaña, kept here at the ministerial department.

The loan of this collar to the Azaña Exhibition is the second contribution from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, since on 15 December, the table used by Manuel Azaña on which he signed his resignation as President of the Republic from exile was given to the National Library on loan from the ministerial department. The table, donated by the owner of the French hacienda where the signing took place, was received with honours by the State Secretary for Global Spain, Manuel Muñiz. 

State Orders

The State Orders are part of the system of honours and privileges that the State reserves to bestow on citizens who, by their virtue and good deeds to the common good, have deserved this right. As explained by María Sebastián de Erice, Second Presenter of Ambassadors, out of the different civil orders that exist in Spain today, two of the most important – the Royal Order of Isabel the Catholic and the Order of Civil Merit – lie with the Chancellery of the Ministry of Foreign Affair, European Union and Cooperation to be bestowed, through the Directorate-General of Protocol, Chancellery and Orders. The ministerial department processes proposed awards and, once approved, hands over a title and a badge. The orders are divided into different ranks: Cross, Official Cross, Commission, Numbered Commission and Grand Cross and Collar.

The awards may also be bestowed on legal persons, which are known in this case as a “tie”, to be displayed, for example, on a flag.

Aside from these two awards, the ministerial department formerly housed other orders of the Royal Order of Carlos III, which were here until the 1980s, and before that the Order of the Noble Ladies of María Luisa and the Civil Order of the Republic, which was the great order created by the Republic to bestow on private citizens.



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