Wednesday, July 28, 2010

O Capetians Português ou Um Monte de Bastards (Capet, Part V)

 It seems there is little in Western Europe that the Capetians did not control at one point or another in their history. France, Spain, Italy, the Low Countries...heck, even the Byzantine Empire! But the second oldest Capetian house resided in the small backwater kingdom of Portugal. Why do I degrade it so? Quite simply because Portugal never truly achieved the heights of its European neighbors. It was created as a crusader state directly responsible to the Frankish Emperor. After it declared independence, it did its duty, taking over Galicia, Lisbon, and southern Iberia from the Moors. But it was already stagnating at the start of the 1400s, when its part in the reconquista had ended. Portugal was and still is principally a farming and maritime state. Its maritime fishing and trading habits certainly helped Portugal expand to become a worldwide empire, but Portugal was heavy-handed and lost much of its empire sooner than did Spain, France, the Dutch Republic and Great Britain. At its roots, the Portuguese were not destined to be conquerors and today the country remains one of the most impoverished of the Western European states.

But one of its greatest and most enduring successes has been its monarchy. As I mentioned earlier, Portugal began as a crusader state called the County of Porto Cale. It was controlled by the Frankish emperor who first invested the title of count to a local noble family, probably of Basque origin, before it eventually passed to Henry, the son of Duke Henry of Burgundy, the son of Duke Robert I of Burgundy, the son of King Robert II of France. Count Henry was a junior cadet branch of the senior House of Burgundy, but his line proved to be the longest living.
Henry, Count of Portugal
Afonso I the Conqueror, King of Portugal
Henry, having few options as a younger son, joined the reconquista of Iberia and, during his conquests, married the illegitimate daughter of the king of Castile and León, Teresa. At the time, Portugal was a fief of León and so Henry was a servant of his father-in-law. However, his son, Afonso I the Conqueror, changed all that when he defeated his mother and took the title of king, forever severing Portugal's ties with León. In 1179, Pope Alexander III recognized Portugal as an independent state. The House of Burgundy continued to produce crusading kings.In 1249, Afonso III conquered Algarve, the southernmost province of modern-day Portugal, and declared himself the King of Portugal and the Algarve, a title they would retain until the end of the monarchy. In 1297, the final borders of Portugal were defined and focus shifted from conquest to settlement. A short dynastic crisis occurred after the death of Ferdinand I in 1383. His only child, Beatrice, was married to the king of Castile and when Ferdinand died, Castile tried to take over Portugal. A short war followed and Castile was defeated in that Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. The House of Burgundy was formally over, but the Portuguese never really liked following proper rules of succession.

John II, King of Portugal and the Algarve
The House of Aviz claimed the throne from the extinct House of Burgundy. But in reality, Aviz was just an illegitimate male branch of the previous dynasty. Aviz is the best known of the Portuguese houses. Where Burgundy founded and established the modern Portuguese state, it was Aviz that took it across the seas. John I, the first Aviz king, began the long fight against the Moors in Africa by conquering the thin strip of land known as Ceuta at the Strait of Gibraltar. His grandson, Afonso V, took the fight to the African mainland and conquered much of northern Morocco. He also supported the explorations of Henry the Navigator, his uncle. Perhaps his worst place in history is as the one who established the African Slave Trade via the Papal Bull Dum Diversas, issued by Pope Nicholas V to subdue the heathens of Africa. John II helped consolidate and centralize Portuguese power at Lisbon even while improving the economy through exploration and trade, most notably by sending Bartolomeu Dias around the Cape of Good Hope in search of India. Manuel I fared even better when he sent Vasco da Gama around Africa where he found India, even while Pedro Cabral discovered Brasil in the west. But the despotism and wealth of the Portuguese monarchy was taking its toll on the populace.

Portugal's explorations continued but the monarchy became increasingly wrapped up in problematic rulers. John III was the first European monarch to contact China and Japan but his goals were mostly evangelistic. Sabastian was a child for most of his reign and Henry the Cardinal was quite old. With Henry's death, the Portuguese throne was wide open for the taking and there were many potential candidates. Anthony, the Prior of Crato, was the last of the house of Aviz (although he was illegitimate) to claim the Portuguese throne, but his illegitimacy gave the Habsburg king of Spain, Philip II, license to claim the throne by right of his mother, who was a Portuguese princess. None could really argue with the might of the Habsburg Empire bearing down on them. A short war began but the winner was clear from the start. Thus, Portugal passed from the Capetian dynasty to the House of Habsburg for a while, from 1580 until 1640 to be precise. Such an interlude was unfortunate, but pro-Capetian forces won the day in the end.

The rise of the Most Serene House of Braganza in 1640 was slightly unexpected and followed proper Portuguese form. Like Aviz, Braganza was a male-line illegitimate branch of the previous dynasty, although it was removed quite a few more generations. Where Burgundy founded Portugal, and Avis created the Portuguese Empire, Braganza's chief claim to fame is creating the break-away Empire of Brasil. The royal house began as dukes of Braganza, a region in northern Portugal. The third duke, Fernando II, married Isabella, granddaughter of King Duarte I, thereby legitimizing the branch and giving it a strong claim to the throne. This was strengthened when the sixth duke, John I, married Catarina, a granddaughter of King Manuel I. When war broke out in 1580, the Braganza branch was overlooked since its chief representative was a woman (Catarina). For the next sixty years, the family would remain loyal to their Habsburg overlords, becoming rich and powerful due to their service.
John IV, King of Portugal and the Algarve
It was the eighth duke of Braganza, John IV, who was recruited to lead the anti-Habsburg cause. He did so, reluctantly, and won the day. John's sons, Afonso VI and Pedro II, reclaimed and expanded the Portuguese Empire which had suffered greatly under the hands of the Spanish Habsburgs. Like many other monarchies in the 18th century, Portugal under John V became an absolute despotate, amassing great wealth from the colonial empire allowing the king to neglect his parliament and cortes. John V was a patron of the arts and helped revitalize the Portuguese economy. Unfortunately, much was lost after a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated Lisbon in 1755 during the reign of King José. In 1777, Portugal added its first uncontested queen regnant, Maria I, to its list of monarchs. Maria continued to stabilize Portugal, even as she slowly went insane. Her husband, Pedro III, was also her uncle and a member of the Braganza family, so the royal house remained intact for a while longer.

The Napoleonic Wars, as it did to so many other kingdoms in Europe, caused much panic in Portugal. The royal family fled to Brasil, renaming the Portuguese empire the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarve. It wasn't until 1821 that the family returned to Portugal but Brasil was now happy being a European capital and became quite frustrated when King John VI demoted it to a colony. John's eldest son, Pedro, siding with the Brasilians, proclaimed himself Emperor of Brasil, and began the long separation between Brasil and its mother country. Pedro abdicated in 1831 in favor of his son, Pedro II, who ruled Brasil until 1889 when the Brasilian aristocracy overthrew the monarchy because of its anti-slavery policies. The Brasilian Braganza branch still has two rival pretender lines to this day, but they have never reclaimed the Brasilian throne.
Maria II, Queen Regnant of Portugal and the Algarve
Miguel, Usurper and King of Portugal and the Algarve
Meanwhile, in Portugal, John VI had liberalized the nation, in accordance with his restoration, by issuing a constitution. When he died, Pedro I of Brasil returned to Portugal and was proclaimed king for a very short while (as Pedro IV) but he quickly abdicated in favor of his daughter, Maria II, who was to uphold the new constitution. Pedro's brother, Miguel, was assigned to act as regent but instead declared himself king and returned Portugal to an absolutist state. Maria fled into exile until her dad, former Emperor and King Pedro, was able to wrest control of Portugal away from Miguel and return it to Maria II, who was now married to Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha. The last few kings of Portugal — Pedro V, Luis, Carlos I, and Manuel II — were all relatively hard-working monarchs who attempted to maintain the liberal constitution. But the revolutionary fervor leading into World War I was too strong and the House of Braganza was ended ingloriously by the Portuguese First Republic in 1910. Manuel II went into exile until his death in 1932 and the title of pretender passed to the male line of Miguel where it still resides today.
Manuel II, Last King of Portugal and the Algarve

Technically, the last four monarchs of Portugal were members of the German House of Wettin, often called the House of Braganza-Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, but they are also considered a continuation of the previous house and are rarely separated from it in family trees, much like William III of England is generally considered a Stuart monarch despite being a member of the House of Orange. As noted, after the family went into exile, it did in fact return to the Braganza branch anyway, through the person of King Miguel.
Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza and Pretender to Portugal
Portugal's long history as a crusader and explorer state ended rather sadly with revolts and rebellions, much like how many once-great states of Europe fell. However, few European states can claim such continuous leadership by one family. While the family may have changed names through the years, Burgundy-Avis-Braganza were all members of the greater Capetian dynasty, legitimate or not. In fact, Braganza remains the longest surviving branch of that family, placing its origins at a much earlier time than the House of Bourbon. And today, they remain a small but intact group of former royals with claims to two states, Brasil and Portugal, both of which have strong monarchist movements for their restoration.

So ends the long and complex history of the Capetian Dynasty. Next week, we will explore the family of Moctezuma of the Aztecs and see just how quickly that family spread across Spain and Mexico.

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