Portugal History – The French Invasions

By | December 25, 2021

The French invasions. – After Napoleon’s declaration of the continental blockade (1806), the Portuguese government refused to close its ports to England. Napoleon concluded the treaty of Fontainebleau with Spain, in which the partition of Portugal was stipulated, and had the country invaded by an army commanded by Junot (November 1807). The prince regent, with the queen, embarked for Brazil on the very eve of the entry of the Junot in Lisbon. Portugal was divided between the English and French parties, made up of liberals, who welcomed Junot. But soon, when the revolt against Joseph Bonaparte broke out in Spain, northern Portugal also rebelled against the French, and England sent Arthur Wellesley’s army there.

In February 1809 a new French army, under the command of Marshal Soult, entered Portugal from the north, and occupied Porto. Meanwhile, in the south of the country, the English general Beresford organized the army there and, together with Wellesley, marched on Oporto forcing the Soult to retire to Galicia. In 1810 a third French invasion, commanded by Massena, occupied Almeida, but the Wellesley beat him on 27 September on the heights of Bussaco; then retreating to the fortified line of Torres Vedras, for the defense of Lisbon, inflicted on him a second and decisive victory, forcing him, in March 1811, to retire to Spain.

Liberal and constitutional revolutions. – The successor of Maria I, John VI (1816-1826), continued to reside in Brazil, raised to the rank of kingdom. The regency in Portugal was dominated by General Beresford, whose arrogance displeased the people; while the rise of liberal ideas fueled the desire for a constitution. When a conspiracy was discovered in 1817, twelve conspirators were arrested and executed, including General Gomes Freire, one of the leaders of the Lusitanian Legion who had followed Napoleon in the campaigns of Germany and Russia, and who, apparently, had remained a stranger to the conspiracy. These executions exacerbated the spirits even more. For Portugal history, please check ehistorylib.com.

In August 1820 a liberal revolution broke out in Oporto and a provisional junta was formed to hold the government until the king’s return from Brazil and the Côrtes meeting to promulgate a constitution. The movement, seconded by Lisbon, triumphed (18 September); John VI, having returned from Brazil, accepted the fait accompli and in 1822 swore the constitution prepared by the Côrtes. Meanwhile, in 1821, Portugal had lost its largest colony, Brazil, which had declared itself an independent empire under John VI’s eldest son, Prince Peter.

Absolutist reaction. – Meanwhile, the absolutist party, gathered around Queen Carlotta Gioacchina and her second son, the infant Michele, rebelled in March 1823 in Vila Franca, port of Lisbon, inducing the king to abolish the constitution. In April 1824 Michele rebelled a second time, imprisoning his father in the royal palace; but the protests of the diplomatic corps obtained the freedom of John VI, and Michael was forced to go into exile.

The constitutional charterCivil war. – When John VI died (in 1826), Peter, emperor of Brazil, renounced the Portuguese crown in favor of his eight-year-old daughter Maria, granted a constitutional charter and offered the regency to his brother Michael on the condition that he marry the queen (1827). Michele returned to Lisbon, swore the constitution and took over the government; but on February 26, 1828, with a coup d’état, he had himself proclaimed absolute monarch; the liberals took refuge en masse in France and England; the Terceira island of the Azores, which remained faithful to constitutionalism, became the center of liberal resistance; a government council was formed there in the name of Maria II and Peter went there, came from Brazil, where he had abdicated the imperial crown (1831), after having organized an army of emigrants in France and England, which was accompanied by the Belle-Isle expedition. Gathered an army of 7000 men, he embarked for Portugal and, landing on June 13, 1832 in Mindelo, near Oporto, took possession of the city, which was then in vain besieged by the absolutists. In a naval battle between “miguelisti” and “pedristi”, near Capo S. Vincente, the fleet of the former was destroyed. An army commanded by the Count of Vila Flor, who landed in the Algarve, moved on to Lisbon, evacuated by Michele’s partisans, who, beaten twice more, was forced to sign the Évora-Monte convention and leave for exile (1833). The government of Maria II recalled the constitutional charter into force and suppressed religious orders, confiscating their assets. From 1836 to 1852 various revolutions followed one another, in general military pronouncements, aroused by political generals: that of September 1836, which re-established the constitution of 1822; that of the Dukes of Terceira and Saldanha, to put back the charter of Peter; that of 1842, led by Costa Cabral, who abolished the constitution of 1838 and replaced the charter; the popular revolt of Maria da Fonte, in 1846, against the despotism of the Costa Cabral ministry; that of Marshal Saldanha, in 1851, again against Costa Cabral.

Portugal History - The French Invasions