Historical Review


Portugal is a sovereign country located in southwestern Europe, in the western part of the Iberian Peninsula with archipelagos in the North Atlantic. The Portuguese territory is bounded to the north and east by Spain and to the south and west by the Atlantic Ocean, comprising a continental part and two autonomous regions: the Azores and Madeira archipelagos. Portugal is the westernmost nation of the European continent. The name of the country comes from the Latin Celtic name “Portus Cale”.

The territory of Portugal has been continuously populated since prehistoric times: occupied by Celts, such as the Galaic and Lusitanians, was integrated into the Roman Republic and later colonized by Germanic peoples, such as the Suevi and the Visigoths. In the eighth century, the lands were conquered by the Moors. During the Christian Reconquest was formed the County Portucalense.

The borders were defined in the treaty of Alcanizes, in 1297, making Portugal the oldest nation state in Europe. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as a result of pioneering the Age of Discovery, Portugal expanded western influence and established an empire that included possessions in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and South America, becoming the most siginificant economic powerhouse, political and military force in the world.

The Portuguese Empire was the first global empire in history, and the most enduring of the European colonial empires, spanning nearly 600 years, from the conquest of Ceuta in 1415, to the transfer of sovereignty from Macao to China in 1999, but were also the first to give Independence to a colony – Brasil, in 1822.

Potuguese arrival in Japan,, Screen by Kano Naizen, Kobe City Museum


Borgonha / Avis / Áustria / Bragança

The Territory called “Terra Portucalense” was located in the western part of the Kingdom of León, in the Iberian Peninsula. The decisive step for the formation of the Kingdom of Portugal was taken by King of León Afonso VI, when handing over to his son-in-law D. Henrique de Borgonha (of Burgundy), the territories that it had to the south of the river Minho, thus constituting the County Portucalense.

Count D. Henrique and his wife Dona Teresa did everything they could to make their County increasingly independent of the Kingdom of Leo. Later, their son D. Afonso Henriques (1128-1185) achieved such a high level of autonomy, that he became the first King of Portugal (1139).

After the wars for independence, which ended with the signing of a Treaty of Peace in Zamora (1143) between D. Afonso I of Portugal and D. Afonso VII of León, the King of León recognizes D. Afonso Henriques as a King.

D. Afonso Henriques will continue the “reconquista”(reconquest) -period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula of about 780 years between the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711 and the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada to the expanding Christian kingdoms in 1492. We will regain the territory that was in the hands of the Moors, beginning a period of advancement to the south. Thus, the Conquest of Leiria (1145), Santarém and the Conquest of Lisbon (1147), Álcacer do Sal (1158), Beja (1162), Évora (1165), Serpa, Moura and Juromenha (1166).

By the papal bull “Manifestis Probatum”, dated 23 May 1179, Pope Alexander III officially recognised the ruler and self-proclaimed king Afonso Henriques as the first sovereign King of Portugal.

With the Foundation of the Kingdom of Portugal begins the First Dynasty, called “Borgonha” (Burgundy), or “Afonsina”. The son of D. Afonso Henriques, King D. Sancho I, will continue the reconquest of the territory to the Moors, being continued in this work by his son King D. Afonso II, and by his grandchilfren, the Kings D. Sancho II and D. Afonso III.

In 1249, King D. Afonso III will complete the conquest of the Algarve with the capture of the cities of Faro, Albufeira, Loulé and Aljezur. In this reign the Treaty of Badajoz (1267) will be celebrated, by which the king of Castile recognizes to Portugal the right to the possession of the Algarve.

To D. Afonso III succeeds King D. Dinis (1279-1325). He reorganised his country’s economy and gave an impetus to Portuguese agriculture. He ordered the planting of a large areas of pine forest, to prevent the soil degradation that threatened the region and as a source of raw materials for the construction of the royal ships. He reorganised the portuguese navy: civil and miltary. He set up a fund called the Bolsa de Comércio, the first documented form of marine insurance in Europe, approved on 10 May 1293. signed the first Portuguese commercial agreement with England in 1308. In his reign, Lisbon became one of Europe’s centres of culture and learning. He founde the first university in Portugal, then called the Estudo Geral (General Study). In his reign the treaty of Alcanizes (1297) will be celebrated. By these treaty the Portuguese borders are definitively fixed. Also noteworthy is the creation of the Order of Christ (1319), which replaces in Portugal the Order of the Templars, which had been extinguished by the Pope. From his marriage to Princess D. Isabel of Aragon (Queen Saint Isabel), born his heir son D. Afonso IV, who emerged victorious from the Battle of Salado (1340), where the Kings of Portugal and Castile fight together against the Moors .

Queen Saint Isabel on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, by António de Holanda, British Library

To D. Afonso IV succeed his son D. Pedro I, who will reign ten years, establishing peace and justice in the Kingdom. Pedro proved to be a good steward, and his reign was marked by peace and prosperity. He was so popular that people said ” “These ten years, there was never in Portugal like these that King Dom Pedro had reigned.”

His successor will be King D. Fernando I, the last Sovereign of the first dynasty. His daughter Dona Beatriz, married to the King of Castile John I, was entitled to the throne of Portugal, but the nation spoke out against the advent of a Queen who was married to a foreign king. Thus there is a revolution headed by the Master of the Order of Avis, D. João, bastard son of El-King D. Pedro I, who is proclaimed by the people of Lisbon as “Defender and Regent of the Kingdom”. He was acclaimed King in the Courts of Coimbra, April 6, 1385. That same year with the famous victory over the Castilians in the battle of Aljubarrota, thanks to the military genius of D. Nuno Alvares Pereira (Blessed Nuno de Santa Maria), the National Independence was consolidated.

The Battle of Aljubarrota, Jean d’Wavrin, British Library

Thus is born the Second Dynasty  -Avis, the great dynasty, which will be responsible for the discoveries, expansion and formation of the Portuguese Overseas Empire. From the marriage of Dom João I to Dona Filipa de Lencastre (in 1387), daughter of the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt, and granddaughter of the King of England, was born the most extraordinary generation of Princes – “A Inclita Geração”( Ilustrious generation): Dom Duarte (future King), Dom Henrique (The navigator), Dom Pedro (the seven departures prince), Dom João, Dom Fernando (Saint Prince) and D. Isabel, duchess of Burgundy (the Distinguished Order of the Golden Fleece was founded by Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy in 1430, to celebrate his marriage to the Princess Isabel).

In the reign of Dom João I (+1433), begins the Epic of the Discoveries, with the conquest of Ceuta (1415), the strongest Moorish Square in North Africa, where Dom João I, arms his children as Knights. This is followed by the expeditions sent by Infante (Prince) Dom Henrique, where the islands, Porto Santo (1419) and Madeira (1420) are discovered. The expeditions continue in the reign of Dom Duarte, with the great adventure of the passing of the feared Cape Bojador (1434). From then on Portugal began to give new worlds to the world.

During the reigns of Dom Duarte (+1438) and Dom Afonso V (+1481), Prince Dom Henrique (+1460), who has the sense of consecration to a superior mission, continues the enterprise of taking faith in the Cross of Christ to new people who live in barbarian darkness. In 1453, the discovery of the Azores Archipelago is concluded; and in 1460, begins to exploration of Cape Verde Archipelago.

After the death of Prince Henrique, the Kings of Portugal call themselves the enterprise of their civilizing mission. Still in the reign of Dom Afonso V, the islands of Sao Tome and Principe (1470) are discovered, and the Conquest of Arzila (1471) is given. Dom Afonso V “The African” was a King in the manner of the Kings of the First Dynasty, made of bravery against the infidels in their own territory, where they remained a threat. Successively he conquers the Moroccan Squares of Alcácer Ceguer, Arzila, Tangier, etc., and the King is renamed “King of Portugal and the Algarve below and beyond in Africa …”.

Dom John II (+1495) reigns. He is one of the greatest figures in Universal History, for the decisive impulse he gave to the Discoveries, opening the ways of the World to Europe. He devised and set the goals that were to persist and direct the Portuguese expansion: the domain over sea routes without (whenever possible) territorial conquest of countries requiring manpower that the country could not afford; and the reach for the spice lands and particularly for India. The continued action has moved the Portuguese ships south along the African coast. In 1482, Diogo Cão reaches the mouth of Zaire and explores the Congo region, placing the first Portuguese “padrão” (stone pillar with portuguese coat-of-arms engraved) there..

 The task is great and man is small.
I, Diogo Cão, navigator, have left
This padrao by the sandy shore
And onwards set my course.
The soul is divine and the work is imperfect.
To the wind and the skies this stone signals
That, of the daring deed, mine is what is done:
What is left to do, is God's will.
And to the vast and possible ocean
Tell these escutcheons you see
That the bounded sea may be Greek or Roman:
The sea without bounds is Portuguese.
And the Cross on high says that what goes in my soul,
And causes in me the urge to sail forth,
Will only find in God's eternal calmness
That port forever unfound.

(Fernando Pessoa, Mensagem)

In 1487, King D. João II sent Pero da Covilhã and Afonso de Paiva overland, in demand of the Kingdom of Prestes João and India. The following year Bartolomeu Dias doubles the Cape of Storms.  It was later renamed by John II of Portugal as “Cape of Good Hope” (Cabo da Boa Esperança) because of the great optimism engendered by the opening of a sea route to India and the East. . Thus rises the name of the great King, who prepared everything, directed everything in an admirable vision, only equaled by the Infant of Sagres. The end of his reign is crowned with the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494), which divided the world to be discovered by Portugal and Castile.

 In 1495, Manuel succeeded his first cousin, King João II of Portugal, who had no legitimate heirs and named him as his successor. He  is associated with a period of Portuguese history distinguished by significant achievements both in political affairs and in the arts. He continued the Portuguese explorations initiated by his predecessors, which led to the discovery of the sea route to India (1498), the discovery of Brazil (1500), and the coveted “spice islands”, the Moluccas, which determined the expansion of the Portuguese empire.

Vasco da Gama before the Zamorin of Calicut by Veloso Salgado, at Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa

The establishment of monopolies on maritime trade routes to the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf by Afonso de Albuquerque, an admiral, conquering strategic places: Ormuz, Goa and Malaca, conducted to the establisment of the Portuguese Overseas East Empire. On the other side, in the west, Gaspar and Miguel corte Real arrived, in 1501, to Labrador, on the east coast of Canada. Commercial treaties and diplomatic alliances were forged with Ming dynasty of China and the Persian Safavid dynasty. Pope Leo X received a monumental embassy from Portugal during his reign designed to draw attention to Portugal’s newly acquired riches to all of Europe

With King João III (1557), Portugal reached its pinnacle in the East, establishing trading posts in China (1517) and Japan (1543), spreading its missions throughout Oceania. Dio’s second defense (1546) will mark portugueses presence for over four hundred years, in ìndia. It is in this reign that the Emperor of China give way Macau to Portugal (1557), in return for our action against the pirates of the China Sea. This reign will also mark the beginning of the systematic colonization of Brazil (1530), but on the other hand, the Portuguese decline in North Africa.

With King Dom Sebastião (+1578) comes the disaster of Alcácer Quibir (1578), where the young King imbued with the ideals of Cavalry, eager for God’s service in the defense of Christianity, launches his expedition to Morocco, where he died and his army is destroyed. the truth is that this battle was strategic, it was intended to stop the advancement of the turkish forces, because the Ottomans would be a threat to the security of the Portuguese coasts and to the commerce with Guinea, Brazil and the Atlantic Islands. This reign and the ephemeral reign of his uncle, Cardinal Dom Henrique (+1580), ended the second dynasty, and the Throne would pass to a foreign dynasty.

The succession to Cardinal Dom Henrique would be disputed by several descendants of King Manuel I – the foreigners Philip II of Spain, the Duke of Savoy, the Duke of Parma, and the Portuguese – the Duchess of Braganza, and the bastard Dom António (Prior of Crato – Head of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem). The final outcome is given by the army of Philip II, who will later be acclaimed and sworn King of Portugal in the Courts of Tomar (1581), committing himself to guard the Laws of the Kingdom, the customs, customs and privileges of the Portuguese.

Then began the third dynasty, “Filipina”, or the Habsburg dynasty, with the kings D. Filipe I (II of Spain)(+1598), D. Filipe II (III)(+1621) e de D. Filipe III (IV)(+1665). The union of the two crowns deprived Portugal of a separate foreign policy, and Spain’s enemies became Portugal’s. First England, the war between Spain and England led to a deterioration of the relations with Portugal’s oldest ally, the loss of Ormuz and our navy fleet. Second, the Dutch,  led to invasions of many countries in Asia, including Ceylon (today’s Sri Lanka), Timor, Malaca, and commercial interests in Japan, Africa (Mina), and Brasil. The Dutch intrusion into Brazil was long-lasting and troublesome for Portugal. Thus and the deteriotion of internal policies, wishing to reduce Portugal to a mere province of Spain: taxing raises, nonportuguese people on government posts, led to a revolution by the portuguese nobility.

When we arrive on the morning of December 1, 1640, the revolution takes place by the hand of a group of noble, led by Antão Vaz de Almada, Miguel de Almeida, João Pinto Ribeiro and others, who triumphs quickly. The support of the people became apparent almost immediately and soon João, 8th Duke of Braganza, was acclaimed King of Portugal throughout the country as Dom João IV .A moment of great heroism that would found the Fourth Dynasty in the Most Serene House of Bragança.

Crowning of King John IV, by Veloso Salgado, at Military Museum, Lisbon

Dom João IV’s (+1656) action was tireless; everything was needed, it was necessary to rebuild the army, build fortresses for the defense of the Kingdom, and look for the Restoration of our Overseas Empire. Salvador Corrêa de Sá, regains Angola (1648), and General Francisco Barreto (who for his deeds will have the mercy of the title of Count of Rio Grande), defeats the Dutch in the Battle of Guararapes (1648), expelling them permanently from Recife, Brasil, in 1654. King Dom João IV was a beloved monarch, a patron of fine art and music, and a proficient composer and writer on musical subjects. He collected one of the largest libraries in the world. Embassies sent by the King to the European powers were decisive for the recognition of the Independence of Portugal and the new Dynasty.

John died in 1656, and his widow, Luisa of Guzman, married their daughter Catherine to Charles II of England in 1661 while she was regent for their son Afonso VI. Her dowry consisted of Tangier, Bombay and £1,000,000 sterling, making it the largest dowry ever brought by a queen consort. John IV was succeeded by his son Dom Afonso VI. will continue the work of his Father in the defense of the Kingdom against the Spaniards, and Empire from the Dutch. He had valuable nobles to help him, such as the Marquis of Marialva and the Count of Vila Flôr, who where victorious in the battles of the Elva Lines (1659), and Ameixial. (1663). His reign will be marked by the influence of the Earl of Castelo Melhor.

His brother Dom Pedro II (+1706) will sign the Peace Treaty with Spain (Lisbon Treaty, 1668) consolidating Portugal’s independence, continuing the restoration of the Empire. He formed an alliance with England based on marriage clauses that united Charles II of England with his sister Catherine of Braganza. His long tenure was one of important accomplishments, he began the establishment of textile manufactures. Portugal and England signed the Methuen Treaty, on 16 May 1703, This trade accord granted mutual commercial privileges for Portuguese wine and English textile traders. The discovery of gold in Brasil, began an age of economic prosperity and administrative changes (1698). In the succession war of Spain (1700-1706), Portugal will be an ally of Archduke d’Austria and England, against Philip of Anjou. In this theater of war, the intrepid Portuguese Marquis of Minas, invades Spain and enters triumphal in Madrid (1704), acclaiming Archduke Carlos.

The reign of his son, King Dom João V (+1750), known as the Magnanimous, will be marked by the return of the greatness and splendor of his Court, the rise of Portugal and its monarchy to new levels of prosperity, wealth, and prestige among European courts, making his name and the name of Portugal respected throughout the world. There were the battle of Matapão, against the Turks, where the King sends a squadron commanded by Lopo Furtado de Mendóça, Count of Rio Grande, in response to a request by Pope Clement XI  for aid in the fight against the Turks, in order to assist Venice and Austria, They will defeat them, and the King obtains great privileges of the Holy See, for the Church of Lisbon, like the Patriarchal dignity (1716). The Pope grants him the title of King “Most Faithful” (1748). Dom João V, founds the Royal Academy of History (1720), and inaugurates a time of great public works, such as the Free Waters Aqueduct (a complex system of water collection, adduction and distribution to the city of Lisbon) the Mafra Convent nad Palace, with a great library, and many others scattered throughout the country. In the year 1716, D. João V ordered a formal, triumphal entry for his ambassador in Rome, which included a convoy of 300 carriages surrounding the pièce de résistance of the procession, the Oceans Coach, an ornate carriage made in Lisbon to demonstrate the wealth of the Portuguese empire to Rome.

His son King Dom José I (+1777) will have his reign marked by the Lisbon Earthquake (1755), and the Absolutism exercised by by his prime minister, the Marquis of Pombal, which will impose a regime of terror and fear – The execution of the Marquises of Tavora is one of the most striking episodes of the cruelty of those times.

Queen Dona Maria I (+1816), will suceed to her father. Kown as “the Pious”, she will be an example of righteousness for all. Her first act as queen was to dismiss Marquis of Pombal, release all political prisoners of the Pombal era, and moralize public life, suppressing unnecessary spending, making severe economies in the Royal Palaces. It gave rise to industry and trade, improving the conditions of the navy and army, promoting the modernization of the country. Founded the Real Casa Pia de Lisbon (1780) institution for the education of orphans and the recovery, through work, of beggars and voids. She reinstated the royal hearings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, where everyone was admitted. She was a Queen greatly admired by all extracts of the population, both in Portugal and Brasil.

Her successor will be King Dom John VI (1767-1826), who, due to his mother’s illness, were Regent of the Kingdom (1808-1816) in between. His reign will be marked by French invasions and European instability. With the vision of a true statesman, In the face of a foreseeable French invasion, he decided to apply the plan to go to Brazil (1807) with his court, thus safeguarding the Independence of Portugal, threatened by Napoleon. In Brasil he does a remarkable work of progress and economic development. Due to this progress, in 1815, he elevates Brazil to Kingdom. In 1821, he returned to Portugal, leaving his son Dom Pedro in Brazil, who a year later would give independence to that state. In this difficult period of his reign, where liberal yearnings for a modern state with a National Constitution and absolutist forces opposing, increasingly took over National life, the King was always the guardian of prudence and serenity. The last years of his life were spent in palace intrigue and conspiracy.. The assassination of his loyal conseleur – the 1st Marquis of Loulé (1824) and the revolt of the “Abrilda” (1824), planned by prince Dom Miguel and the Queen mother, are the most remarkable events of the end of his reign.

In the reign of Dona Maria II (1826-1853), disagreements arise between the various political currents, giving rise to a certain sense of disorder and institutional instability, which leads to the dictatorship of Costa Cabral, spawning the Revolution of Maria da Fonte (1846) . This is followed by a series of governments, now led by one current and now another, with figures in front of them like the Duke of Saldanha and the Marquis de Sá da Bandeira. With the death of the Queen in 1853, her husband, King Dom Fernando II, took over the Regency until 1855. Since his arrival in Portugal, Dom Fernando has been concerned with safeguarding Portugal’s artistic heritage, undertaking restorations of various monuments at his expense, as Batalha Monastery, Convent of Christ, Tomar, and Belém Tower.

The reigns of their sons, Dom Pedro V (1855-1861) and Dom Luis I (1862-1889), will be years of material and scientific prosperity, which the exceptional intelligence and preparation of Dona Maria II’s children, make Portugal regain their place in the concert of nations, along with the technological and social progress of Europe’s leading powers. The death of Dom Pedro V, with typhoid fever (which he had caught in his multiple visits to hospitals, where he would comfort the sick), causes the greatest public dismay, being loved by the people for the kindness of his heart.

King Dom Carlos I (1863-1908), son of King Dom Luis I, begins his reign being confronted with the England’s “Ultimatum” on the pink map, where Portugal will have to give in to the threat of war. The Africa Campaigns continued, the victories of Marracuene, Magul, Chaimite, etc., by the hands of Mouzinho de Albuquerque, Caldas Xavier and Paiva Couceiro. Dom Carlos’ extraordinary international action has earned to Portugal a prestige that is hard to match. At that time they visited Lisbon, King Edward VII of England, Kaiser William II of Germany, King Alfonso XIII of Spain and the President of the French Republic Loubet. On February 1, 1908, El-King Dom Carlos I and Royal Prince Dom Luis Filipe are barbarously murdered, causing a wave of astonishment and indignation throughout all the Europe.

Dom Manuel II (1889-1932), succeeded to his Father, King Dom Carlos I, and inherit a Kingdom shaken by the latest events, as an institutional and political crisis, favorable to Republican propaganda, which Dom Manuel tried to mitigate, through a political “calming”. A military coup from the subordinate ranks of the Navy and Army, supported by secret societies (namely Cabonária), would proclaim the republic on October 5, 1910. On the same day the Royal Family leaves Portugal for exile.