The great story of Carmen Díez de Rivera, from Greek tragedy to thriller

The silence that this Tuesday, January 9, reigned in the cloistered convent of the Carmelites of Arenas de San Pedro (Ávila), where the ashes of Carmen Díez de Rivera and Icaza rest, contrasted with the “flashes” that crackled in Madrid during the presentation of a play inspired by the exciting existence of this policy, died on November 29, 1999 at age 57.

“Carmen, Nada de Nadie” can be enjoyed from this Wednesday, January 17 to Sunday, February 18 in the Margarita Xirgú room of the Spanish Theater in the capital. A work, executed together by Francisco M. Justo Tallón and Miguel Pérez García, which adds to the valuable memoirs written by the journalist Ana Romero in collaboration with Carmen herself, among several books, novels by writers of the stature of Manuel Vicent , documentaries and miniseries. This is, however, the first time in which the fabulous and sad story of the daughter of the Marquises of Llanzol, owner of a life “with parallels with Greek tragedies, such as Antigone or Ariadne”, in the words of its director, Fernando Soto takes to the stage in the shoes of Mónica López.

The actress, with a long career whose performances include, among others, that of Queen Sofía in “23-F: the king’s most difficult day”, will recount the highlights of her career. Díez de Rivera reached a position that no woman has held in this country: at 33 years old, she was head of the Cabinet of the Presidency of the Government with Adolfo Suárez. «I approached her figure because she has a particular personality: she came from an aristocratic circle, she was religious but, at the same time, she had very laudable objectives, such as the principles of equality, social justice, making a better world, apart from a personal drama that marked his life and that is not the main thing nor what caught our attention. We are interested in where that wound led him: to the political struggle in a very tense social context. For this reason, the work has a “thriller” feel. Those were years of extremism and attacks. A dangerous time. She gambled to get out of a dictatorship and ask that the Communist Party be legalized so that possible elections could be held. “She sought and achieved democracy,” Soto continues. Umbral baptized her “muse of reform.” A qualifier that she considered “sexist and pejorative.”

Carmen Diez de RiveraSergio Parra

“Although we have not intended to make a biopic and we want to save his memory,” justifies the director, Carmen’s intimate passages play an important role in the dramatic work, where there are three other actors: Víctor Massán, in the role of King Juan Carlos; Oriol Tarrasón, as Adolfo Suárez, or Ana Fernández, in the role of Sonsoles de Icaza, Carmen’s mother, Cristóbal Balenciaga’s muse and one of the most elegant women of that black and white Spain.

Fruit of a forbidden love

That “wound”, to which Soto refers, occurred when Díez de Rivera was 17 years old. On December 28, 1959, while she was finalizing her wedding with Ramón Serrano-Suñer, son of the one who was Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Regime and nephew of Francisco Franco, since his mother was Zita Polo, sister of Doña Carmen, she was forced to end her relationship with him. The reason? They were stepbrothers. His mother, Sonsoles de Icaza, had had a secret affair with Serrano-Súñer and had become pregnant with him.

The former Minister of the Interior and Foreign Affairs, as well as creator and honorary president of Radio Intercontinental, Ramón Serrano Suñer
The former Minister of the Interior and Foreign Affairs, as well as creator and honorary president of Radio Intercontinental, Ramón Serrano SuñerMIGUEL CORTESEFE

Carmen was the fruit of that forbidden romance of the dictatorship. «In an instant I went from being full, inhabited by the person I loved, with whom I had discovered the first kiss, the skin and the stars, to nothingness. The internal pain was immense, infinite. I noticed that something had broken inside me. Something tremendous cracked. I noticed that noise. It was a very deep pain. It broke my heart. The light went out. I broke inside. Suddenly, I was left without a single root,” she said. Díez de Rivera never understood why she was not warned as a child that she was entering risky territory, since she had started dating “Rolo” when she was only 13 years old.. «I didn’t judge anything. Love is not judged. What I did think is: how have you been so foolish and not let me know?” Díez de Rivera told Ana Romero, with whom he wrote his memoirs during the end of his life, coinciding with his admission to the hospital. San Rafael de Madrid, where he would no longer leave due to the cancer he suffered.

María Sonsoles de Icaza y de León, Marchioness of Llanzol
María Sonsoles de Icaza y de León, Marchioness of Llanzol L.R.

«In fact, she never understood that her mother encouraged all that. Sonsoles herself encouraged the two families to see each other and spend the summer together. All to be close to Serrano-Súñer. If it is already tragic for anyone not to be able to be with the person they love, the tragedy is magnified if he is also your stepbrother. The scar is much deeper. The truly distressing thing is that a person experienced that. It wasn’t fiction! It transcends literature, where we find examples such as “Romeo and Juliet” or the legend of the lovers of Teruel, Isabel de Segura and Juan Martínez de Marcilla,” says Nieves Herrero, author of the acclaimed novel “What their eyes hid” (Editorial Esfera de los Libros), which popularized this furtive relationship, “on which attempts have been made to throw dirt on it, but the story keeps coming out.” The next passage in the life of young Carmen is that she continued seeing her brother for five more years, but, definitely, it could not be hers.

From human to divine love

During that time, she moved to France in order to undergo a cure for insomnia and tried out as a cloistered nun in the convent, where her ashes rest today. «When she saw that human love was denied her, she gave herself to God’s. Realizing that she had no vocation, she left with great resentment toward her mother. Not being able to love who she wanted was an internal earthquake. “That destroyed her,” Herrero continues. It was then that she fled to the Ivory Coast, where she remained for three years.. «I went to Africa because, if not, I would never have left that story. I didn’t go with any missionary zeal. It was an act of desperation. Since I couldn’t commit suicide, even though I thought about it a lot, I decided to go to Africa because I was sure that there I would catch some disease that would end my life. “I went to Africa in search of death.”, Carmen herself confessed. But she didn’t die. She returned to Madrid in 1967.

Graduated in Philosophy and Letters, Political Science and a specialist in International Relations, she did the thesis on the youth of Pasionaria and ran ahead of the grays. She was a frequent visitor to the Zarzuela Palace and she told the future king what was happening on the street. Every night she talked to him on the phone. Sometimes in English. This is how her political adventure began. The prince introduced her to Suárez, general director of TVE, and, in 1969, she went to work with him. Seven years later, at the age of 33, she became chief of staff of the President of the Government. One of her first actions was the suppression of the Public Order Court. It was rumored that she had something else with both the King and Suárez. She also faced a macho world and fought against an untamed and overwhelming beauty. But it wasn’t the only thing that took its toll on him. So did phrases like: «The country owes the transition to the King, Santiago Carrillo, the Spanish people and Suárez. In this order. Whether you like it or not, the great patriot was Santiago Carrillo. “He and the Communist Party put the interests of the Spanish citizens ahead of their own political creed.”

«She was a woman with a lot of character, a great personality and she looked everyone in the face. After such a terrible shock, there were things he didn’t care about. A great personality, like in this case the king or the president of the Government, has to have someone who tells you the truth. And that was her», concludes Nieves Herrero.

She went through the USDE, the PSP, the CDS and, finally, the PSOE, where she served as an MEP in Brussels: she fought in Europe against tobacco, mass tourism, noise… Until, in 1992, she was diagnosed with cancer. . In the book that journalist Ana Romero wrote about her, she acknowledged that she never stopped loving “Rolo”, whom she missed on her deathbed, where she was surrounded by friends such as former minister Rosa Conde or Rosa María “Sweetie.” Quintana, childhood friend. From the hospital room, she thought about that frustrated love and the peace that her house in Menorca, in the Mediterranean, had given her in recent years. However, the salt from that immense sea was not enough to heal so many wounds. Today, they are the ones who fill theaters.

The great scandal of the regime

If there was something that bothered Carmen Díez de Rivera, it was that they referred to her as a “rebellious aristocrat”, because everything but nobility ran through her blood. She was the daughter of the forbidden love between Ramón Serrano-Súñer (on the left), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Regime and brother-in-law of Franco, and Sonsoles de Icaza (on the right), married to Francisco de Paula Díez de Rivera y Casares, Marquis of Llanzol, whom he always considered his true father. “How much are you going to suffer, Carmencita,” the aristocrat told her when she was about to find out that Ramón, her fiancé, was her stepbrother and she could not marry him. He always gave her her last name and her relationship never changed when the scandal was already public. From “father Llanzol” he inherited her kindness and her lack of resentment. From “father Serrano”, her passion for politics. From her mother? All the glamor in the world.