In August 1943, General Franco’s government revived the historical role of the Duty Ministry, an “old custom interrupted by the Civil War and the uncertainty of the Second World War”, according to the then United States Ambassador, Carlton J. H. Hayes in his book Wartime Mission in Spain.
The origin of the Duty Ministry (el Ministerio de Jornada) dates back to the regency of Queen María Cristina (1885-1902), who adopted the tradition of spending the summer in San Sebastian where the climate was much cooler than in Madrid.
According to the constitution in force at that time, the monarch could not exercise his or her legislative duties without the presence of a minister who had to sign the decrees and laws which were subsequently confirmed by the sovereign. Therefore the Duty Ministry, normally the Foreign Ministry, relocated to San Sebastian along with the majority of his staff.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, followed by the II World War, the Spanish Government abandoned the custom. In 1943 when the Franco regime was showing signs of a certain degree of cooperation with the allies, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led by the Count of Jordana, returned to the Villa Arenas Palace, accompanied by practically the entire Spanish diplomatic corps, who were forced to seek accommodation in the city’s hotels, as many lacked diplomatic residences of their own.
Although Franco always spent his summers in La Coruña, the main reason for the return of the Duty Ministry to San Sebastian, was the desire “to show the world that Spain had returned to normal and felt sure of its Pyrenean border”, said the then United States Ambassador, Carlton J. H. Hayes. And this was in spite of the fact that III Reich troops continued to control the south of France and a possible invasion of the Iberian Peninsula was not to be discounted.
The Duty Ministry continued to return to San Sebastian every year until 1976, when Marcelino Oreja, the Minister of Foreign Affairs at that time, took the decision to abolish it.