In the 17th century the most significant act of bonding between Portugal and England was the marriage in 1642 of Catherine of Braganza , daughter of king João IV and queen Luisa, to king Charles II . With her came a dowry of magnificent proportion not only for its monetary content (the first guinea was struck by the Royal Mint from Portuguese gold) but because it made over both Tangier and Bombay fortresses to England and provided free trade access to many other Portuguese possessions where English merchant families were given the same residential status as Portuguese nationals. In return , four regiments – two of cavalry and two of infantry - were stationed within Portugal and a squadron of ten warships was deployed to protect mercantile sea routes. These troops reinforced the Portuguese forces and won a series of frontier skirmishes and battles against the Spanish : the first being at Ameixial in June 1663 followed soon by the recapture of Evora. In July 1664 part of the Spanish province of Salamanca fell to the Portuguese and one year later a large Spanish force was routed at the Battle of Montes Claros.
Restauration of the English and Portuguese monarchies had proceeded cautiously in both countries with emphasis being placed on the expansion of global trade and colonisation. In Portugal this was largely financed by the New Christians who, with the protestants, now enjoyed freedom from the persecutions of the Spanish Inquisition. But this mood changed with a peace treaty between Portugal and Spain which was finally concluded in Lisbon on 13 February 1668 when the sovereignty of the ruling house of Braganza was conceded by the faltering Spanish Habsburg dynasty. The future king Pedro II of Portugal (1668-1706) signed as prince-regent for his incapacitated brother king Afonso VI (1656-68) ; Queen Mariana of Austria signed as regent for her young son , king Carlos II , and Edward Montagu, as an ambassador of Charles II, mediated the process.
For Spain, the treaty of 1668 brough a blessed relief from the draining expense of war and the possibility of gaining greater influence through trade. For Portugal , opportunities now arose to acquire the skills and political ideas which had developed in France, England and Holland and using the impetus of an increasing flow of wealth from Brazil .
Although nominally Regent, Pedro effectively became monarch by (1) interning his mentally unstable brother Afonso firstly in the house of the governor of the Azores and later in a suite of rooms at the palace of Sintra (2) quelling attempted insurrections by bands of young ruffian nobles and (3) marrying Queen Maria-Francisca after she had obtained from Rome a papal annulment of her unsuccessful union with Afonso. He inherited the astuteness of his mother , Queen Luisa, and his reign of 38 years was marked by careful diplomacy which avoided confrontation with the fractious ambitions of central European powers but, in 1701, he concluded a Treaty with Louis XIV of France which increased Portuguese land possession in Brazil and Guinea and promised the annexation of the towns Badajoz and Alcantara in return for support of the Bourbon claim to the Spanish succession. Because of English (and Dutch) support for the claims of the Austrian Habsburgs, this made the Treaty incompatible with the previous alliances signed with England and the position of Portugal became untenable when the three allies declared war on France in May 1702.
Father and son diplomats, John and Paul Methuen, negotiated with Pedro II a defensive alliance in May 1703 whereby England would continue its guarantee of military support against Spain and the allies would use Portugal as a base for their armies totalling 40,000 cavalry and infantry led by Archduke Charles of Austria and supported by Portuguese frontier militia. The following campaign was hard fought but in the Spring of 1706 the allies entered Madrid only to withdraw with the onset of winter when the French and Spanish defenders returned. At the same time Pedro II died and was succeeded by João V – aged seventeen – who had been well educated and was promptly married to princess Ana Maria of Austria.
João V reigned until 1750 and became more powerful and richer as each year went by. He is quoted as saying “ My grandfather owed and feared; my father owed; I neither fear nor owe”. Production of gold in Minas Gerais of Brazil had an exponential growth to which, in theory, one fifth was destined for the Portuguese state coffers. When diamonds were discovered in 1728 the bountiful potential for a successful kingdom seemed secured. The financial difficulties brought about by the war had been ended by the agreement for peace signed between the Grand Alliance and France in 1712. Arrears of military pay were ended, state buildings were freed from mortgage and refurbished, universities and institutions acquired grand new libraries and most of the nation began to feel prosperous. There was a general consensus to avoid war even against Islam and João V succeeded in keeping clear of European national rivalries and restored papal confidence in the catholic Portuguese establishment by appointing cardinals and priests to civilian state positions.
João V died in 1750 and was succeeded by the ineffectual José I and, in 1777, the mentally unstable Maria I who abdicated in 1799. But the dominant figure of this latter period was Sebastião José de Carvalho who, having gained the royal confidence, first became Minister of Foreign Affairs and then Minister of State with the titles of Count of Oeiras and Marquis de Pombal. Much has been written about his powerful and at times ruthless control of Portuguese politics and his reconstruction programme which followed the Lisbon earthquake of All Saints Day 1755 when England sent relief supplies to a value of £100,000. But what concerns the Alliance is that Pombal later embarked on a policy of State participation in overseas trade by creating a series of companies in which he was chief executive. This involved customs impositions to eradicate contraband, duties to protect the Portuguese textile and mining industries and a stricter control of land which could be bought by foreigners – especially the English merchants whose families had been resident for centuries. Such was the severity of his capitalism and absolutism that he was referred to as the Portuguese version of France´s sun-king Louis XIV !
In Part 5 we will examine the history of Anglo-Portuguese alliances from 1800 to modern times.