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The revolt of Portugal

Sunrise over an older part of Lisbon / the guardian.com

Sunrise over an older part of Lisbon / the guardian.com

The first king of this tiny country, washed by the Atlantic, and blessed with fine seamen, navigators and harbours, was Alfonso I, in 1139, but the Portuguese Empire as such began in the fifteenth century. Portuguese ships were making voyages of discovery right round the world. Perhaps her immediate neighbour, Spain, felt that Portugal should belong to her, and by 1580 she did. This situation, most unpopular with the Portuguese, lasted from the above mentioned date until 1668. The French invaded in 1807, and the monarchy was overthrown. Most of the Empire vanished with the loss of Brazil, Goa and Macao.

That union of crowns in 1640 brought nothing but unrest in Portugal, partly because the people quickly noted that Spain was not ready (or able) to defend and protect the vast Portuguese possessions overseas. When troubles started up (again) in Cataluña, powerful Portuguese were encouraged to gather round the standard of the Duke of Braganza. They proclaimed him King Joao IV during an uprising in the capital, Lisbon in December, 1640, which ended with the murder of the Spanish Viceroy Vasconcellos. This was a serious mistake, for Vasconcellos was a personal friend and confidant of the all-powerful Conde-Duque de Olivares, the Spanish minister who managed Spain for the King. No-one, perhaps not even the King, had more power than Olivares at that stage. (more…)

The Compilation of the Laws of the Kings of the Indies

First volume of the Compilation / ww7.uc.cl

First volume of the Compilation / ww7.uc.cl

This was published in four volumes in 1681 in Madrid; the title in Spanish is Recopilación de las leyes de los Reinos de las Indias, rather a mouthful, but it was a worthy attempt to put together all the orders and laws pertaining to each section of the (royal) Spanish government, dealing with Spain’s overseas dominions. Given that the Spanish Empire (q.v.) was at this time the greatest in the world, another empire on which the sun never set, this was a courageous and painstaking enterprise. (more…)

By | 2014-12-04T09:50:30+00:00 December 4th, 2014|History of Portugal, Spanish History|0 Comments

A new head of the House of Alba

The Duchess starts her third marriage / nick verreos.blogsite.com

The Duchess starts her third marriage / nick verreos.blogsite.com

The best known duchess in Spain, probably Europe too, has died after a long life (1926 – 2014) and a short but fatal illness. She was Cayetana, made 18th Duchess of Alba in 1954 after the death of her father the Duke. At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War the Albas had left Spain to live in London, where the Duke was Ambassador until the Treaty of Lausanne.

The new (19th) Duke of Alba /vanitatis.com

The new (19th) Duke of Alba /vanitatis.com

The new Duke of Alba is Carlos Fitzjames-Stuart, a prematurely white-haired, serious man, separated from his wife, is in his late fifties; he became Duke of Huescar when his mother was named duchess. The white hair might possibly have come about because Carlos’ mother led an extraordinary life, speaking several languages, being much loved by the ordinary people of Sevilla; at the slightest opportunity she would, even in her eighties, throw up her arms in flamenco movements and ululate on the pavement, observed with love by her third and last husband Alfonso Diez, and a certain gloom by her oldest son. Her first husband was another aristocrat, Luis Martínez de Irujo, with whom she had six children, all boys until the last. They are Carlos, Alfonso, Jacobo, Fernando, Cayetano and Eugenia. All have dukedoms. Cayetana had more titles than any other grand aristocratic family in Europe. This privileged position used to be held by another grand duchess, that of Medinaceli, who had more than ninety, but many were lost during the Second Republic, while others simply expired. (more…)

The Revolt of Portugal

Dom Joao IV, an unflattering portrait / algarve-retreat.co.uk

Dom Joao IV, an unflattering portrait / algarve-retreat.co.uk

This Atlantic, south-western European country is on the western side of the Iberian Peninsula, bounded to north and east by Spain and to the west and south by the ocean. Its first kingdom came in 1139 under Alfonso I, but by the fifteenth century Europeans were beinning to talk of a Portuguese Empire, due to world exploration by Portuguese navigators and adventurers. In 1580 however, Portugal came under Spanish domination which lasted until 1640. The French invaded too, in 1807. (more…)

By | 2014-09-29T10:48:55+00:00 September 29th, 2014|British History, French History, History of Portugal|0 Comments

The Inquisition

Popular conception of question time in the Spanish Inquisition / newsbiscuit.com

Popular conception of question time in the Spanish Inquisition / newsbiscuit.com

This was a Catholic tribunal founded on a temporary basis in France and Germany. Its purpose was to seek out heresy, prosecute and punish it. In the thirteenth and later centuries how you decided to worship God in Europe was not optional. Heretics were severely punished, often capitally, by burning alive. The latter is probably the most painful way to die, but the Church believed that only by burning could the non-conformist devil in a person be driven out and destroyed.

   The country of Spain, and later its empire, is chiefly associated by historical novelists with the Inquisition, also known as the ‘Holy Office’ or Santo Oficio. A medieval inquisition was set up in the kingdom of Aragon, with headquarters in Tarragona, but this was superceded in the late fifteenth century by the newly invented Castilian or Spanish Inquisition, founded by a papal bull by Sixtus VI in 1478. The branch was devoted first and foremost to investigating how converted Jews and Muslims were behaving now that they were Christian. The Spanish Jews and Muslims of Castilla had been forced to embrace Christianity in the stern form of Catholic Faith in 1492 and 1502 respectively. (more…)

Discovery (Part II)

Usual weather at Tierra del Fuego (rounding Cape Horn) / cleargreengems.com

Usual weather at Tierra del Fuego (rounding Cape Horn) / cleargreengems.com

Columbus started his working life travelling in his father’s business. The first long trip was to Chios in the eastern Mediterranean, but he also sailed to London. It is not certain if he was simply a member of the crew, or the captain of the ship, but in February, 1477, if we are to believe his own word, he went to Iceland. Most historians do not give this tale much credence, and think he got as far as the Faroes, and why not? In winter the Faroes are as cold as Iceland anyway. What is important is that Columbus met and talked with descendants of the Vikings who had settled in Greenland in the 9th and 10th centuries, as well as the eastern coast of North America – and had tales to tell. (more…)

By | 2014-08-10T16:00:25+00:00 August 8th, 2014|History of Portugal, Spanish History, World History|0 Comments

Discovery (Part I)

The Cape of Good Hope / theora.com

The Cape of Good Hope / theora.com

The Crusades had not achieved very much, had cost a great deal in money and lives, but had at least one merit: they introduced the idea of travel abroad; the fine feeling of leaving your own shores or borders and visiting other countries. Even so, few were the brave souls who ventured from Britain or France, say, to exotic places of renown like Venice or Copenhagen.

  In the 13th century A.D. two brothers called Polo, who actually came from Venice, had the courage and the resources to wander across the huge Mongol desert, and climb high mountains; at last they found themselves in the Court of the Great Khan at Cathay (which they had thought of as a myth). They even met the Emperor of China without having their hats nailed to their heads. This great adventure was written up by one of their sons, Marco, and it covered a period of around twenty years. Young Marco wrote about a mysterious group of islands on the edge of the world called (by him) Zipangu. We would call this breathlessly beautiful place Japan. But even then, though people wished to Go East, where there are spices and jewels and gold, few made the effort because world travel was dangerous. So they stayed at home, where life was only moderately so. (more…)

The royal Portuguese House of Braganza

This traditional Iberian Duchy assumed royalty in 1442 but only when one of the interminable rows with neighbouring Spain impressed John IV enough to actually sit on the throne, thus founding the dynasty, was it accepted as a fact by the rest of Europe. Previously, John had been the 8th Duke of Braganza. It was 1640. (more…)

Salazar of Portugal

In 1889 Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was born into a devout smallholding family of peasant origins. Showing that he had a studious and attentive mind, he was accepted by a seminary where he was thoroughly educated. The good monks found him studious, quiet and self-contained. He rose in education rapidly to become a lecturer at the University of Coimbra, where the elite of Portugal completed their education. (more…)

By | 2014-04-01T13:35:12+00:00 October 1st, 2013|History of Portugal, World History|0 Comments

Catalunya, the Revolt of Cataluña & the Count-Duke of Olivares

Catalonia (English spelling), Cataluña (Castilian spelling) and Catalunya (Catalán spelling) all refer to the same autonomous region, made up by the provinces of Barcelona, Gerona, Lérida and Tarragona (the last three in Spanish spelling). Catalonia was united with the Kingdom of Aragón from the year 1337, and developed a huge trading empire in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The Catalans have always been known for hard work, and their principal port, Barcelona, is among the best in the world. (more…)

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