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1580 Portuguese succession crisis: Wikis


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Antonio of Portugal.jpg
Anthony, Prior of Crato, one of the
claimants during the struggle for
the Portuguese throne.
History of Portugal
 Timeline of Portuguese history 

The 1580 Portuguese succession crisis (Portuguese: Crise de sucessão de 1580) came about as a result of the 1578 death of young King Sebastian I of Portugal in the Battle of Alcácer Quibir. As Sebastian had no immediate heirs, this event prompted a dynastic crisis, with internal and external battles between several pretenders to the Portugese throne; in addition, because Sebastian's body was never found, several impostors emerged over the next several years claiming to be the young king, further confusing the situation. Ultimately, Phillip II of Spain gained control of the country, uniting Portugal and Spain in the Iberian Union, a personal union that would last for 60 years, during which time the Portuguese Empire declined.


The Cardinal-King

The Cardinal Henry, Sebastian's great-uncle, became ruler in the immediate wake of Sebastian's death. Henry had served as regent for Sebastian after 1557, and succeeded him as king after the disastrous Battle of Alcácer-Quibir in 1578. Henry renounced his clerical offices and sought to take a bride for the continuation of the Aviz dynasty, but Pope Gregory XIII, affiliated with the Habsburgs, did not release him from his vows. The Cardinal-King died two years later, without having appointed a Council of Regency to choose a successor.

Claimants to the throne

Portuguese flag, 1578–1640.

Portuguese nobility was worried about the maintenance of their independence and sought help to find a new king. By this time the Portuguese throne was disputed by several claimants; among them were Catherine, Duchess of Braganza (1540–1614), her nephew Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma, Philip II of Spain and Anthony, Prior of Crato. The Duchess was later acknowledged as the legitimate heir, after her descendants obtained the throne in 1640 (in the person of John IV of Portugal), but at that time, she was only one of several possible heirs. According to the feudal custom, her late older sister's son Rainuccio, an Italian, was the closest heir, then the Duchess herself, and only after them, King Philip. Philip II was a foreigner (although his mother was Portuguese) and descended from Manuel I by a female line; as for Anthony, although he was Manuel I's grandson in the male line, he was an illegitimate grandson.

Ranuccio Farnese (1569–1622), the hereditary duke of Parma and Piacenza, was the son of the late elder daughter of Duarte of Portugal, Duke of Guimarães, the only son of Manuel I whose legitimate descendants survived at that time, Ranuccio was according to the feudal custom the first heir to the throne of Portugal. He was the son of Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, and of Maria of Portugal. His great-uncle Henry I of Portugal's death triggered the struggle for the throne of Portugal when Ranuccio was 11 years old. However, his father was an ally and even a subject of the Spanish king, another contender, so Ranuccio's rights were not very forcibly claimed at that time. Ranuccio became reigning duke of Parma in 1592.

Instead, Ranuccio's mother's younger sister Catherine, Duchess of Braganza, claimed the throne, very ambitiously, but failed. Catherine, Duchess of Braganza was married to Duke John I of Braganza (descendant in male line from Afonso, 1st Duke of Braganza, an illegitimate son of John I of Portugal), who himself was grandson of the late Duke James of Braganza, also a legitimate heir of Portugal, being the son of infanta Isabella of Portugal, sister of Manuel I and daughter of infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, second son of king Duarte I. The duchess also had a son, dom Teodosio de Braganza, who would be her royal heir and successor to the throne. The duchess's claim was relatively strong, as it was reinforced by her husband's position as one of the legitimate heirs; thus they would both be entitled to hold the kingship. Moreover, the Duchess was living in Portugal, not abroad, and was not underage, but 40 years old. Her weaknesses were her gender (Portugal had not had a generally recognized reigning queen) and her being the second daughter, there thus existed a genealogically senior claimant.

According to the old feudal custom, the line of succession of the Portuguese throne would have been:


Genealogical summary

Claimants following King Henry I's death (1580)

                                            |                                |        
                                         MANUEL I                          Isabel<-------------------------->Ferdinand II
                                     14th K.Portugal                      of Viseu                    |     3rd D.Braganza
                                            |                                                         |
                                            |                                                       James
      ______________________________________|____________________________________               4th D.Braganza
      |               |                |             |            |             |                 ____|_________
      |               |                |             |            |             |                 |            |
   JOHN III         Isabel          Beatrice       Louis       HENRY I        Duarte I<------->Isabel of    Teodósio I
15th K.Portugal   m.Charles V     m.Charles III  5th D.Beja  Cardinal, dwi  4th D.Guimarães|   Braganza   5th D.Braganza 
      |          Emp.& K.Spain      D.Savoy          :      17th K.Portugal                |              3rd D.Guimarães
      |          _____|____            |             :               ______________________|_______            |
      |          |        |            |             :               |             |              |            |
    John<----->Joan  Philipp II/I   Emanuele     Anthony I         Maria       Duarte II      Catherine<---->John I
   Prince  |           K.Spain      Filiberto   Prior of Crato  m.Alexander  5th D.Guimarães  Candidate  | 6th D.Braganza
           |          Candidate      D.Savoy     Candidate        D.Parma         dwi                    |  Candidate
           |       19th K.Portugal  Candidate  18th K.Portugal       |                                   |
           |                                                         |                                   |
           |                                                         |                                   |
      SEBASTIAN I                                             Ranuccio Farnese                      Teodósio II
    16th K.Portugal                                               D.Parma                          7th D.Braganza
          dwi                                                    Candidate                               |
                                                                                                     John II/IV
                                                                                                   8th D.Braganza
 __________________________________________________________________                                6th D.Guimarães
 Emp.=Emperor, K.=King, D.=Duke, m.=married, dwi=died without issue                                22nd K.Portugal

Anthony and Philip

Anthony of Portugal (1531–1595), Prior of Crato, was a claimant of the Portuguese throne during the 1580 crisis and, according to some historians, King of Portugal (during a short time in 1580, in the continent, and since then until 1583, in the Azores). Anthony was the illegitimate son of Prince Louis (1506–1555), and therefore grandson of King Manuel I. It was precisely because of his illegitimacy that his claim to the throne was weak and considered invalid. Following the death of King Sebastian, Anthony had put forward his own claim, but his pretensions were overlooked in favour of Cardinal Henry. In January 1580, when the Cortes Gerais were assembled in Almeirim to decide upon an heir, the old Cardinal-King Henry died and the Regency of the Kingdom was assumed by a Junta of five members.

Philip II of Spain managed to bring the aristocracy of the kingdom as support to his side. For the aristocracy, a personal union with Spain would prove highly profitable for Portugal at a time when the state finances were suffering. Anthony tried to seduce the people for his cause, comparing the present situation to that of the Crisis of 1385. Then—just as in 1580—the king of Castile had invoked blood descent to inherit the Portuguese throne; and the Master of Aviz (John I), illegitimate son of King Peter I, asserted his right to the throne at the Battle of Aljubarrota, which ended in a victory for John's troops, and in the Cortes of Coimbra in 1385.

On July 24, 1580, Anthony proclaimed himself King of Portugal in Santarém, followed by acclamation in several locations throughout the country; his domestic government lasted for 20 days, until he was defeated in the Battle of Alcântara by Habsburg armies led by the Duke of Alba. After the fall of Lisbon, he purported to rule the country from Terceira Island, in the Azores, where he established a government in exile until 1583; Anthony even had coins minted—a typical assertion of sovereignty and royalty. Some authors consider him the last monarch of the House of Aviz (instead of Cardinal-King Henry) and the 18th King of Portugal. His government in Terceira island was only recognized in the Azores, whereas on the continent and in the Madeira Islands power was exercised by Philip II, who was acclaimed king in 1580 as Philip I of Portugal and recognized as official king by the Cortes of Tomar in 1581. The new king's election was carried on condition that the kingdom and its overseas territories should keep their own laws and Cortes.

After his defeat in the Azores, Anthony went into exile in France—traditional enemy of the Habsburgs—and courted the support of England. An invasion was attempted in 1589 under Sir Francis Drake—leading the so-called English Armada—but ended in failure. Anthony continued to fight until the end of his life for his rights to the throne.


The matter of whether Portugal was actually invaded by Spain is contested. It cannot be doubted that Philip II did have a legitimately arguable claim to the throne, but as with many other dynastic struggles of the age, it was shrouded in controversy. In any case, life was calm and serene under the first two Hapsburg kings; they maintained Portugal's status, gave excellent positions to Portuguese nobles in the Spanish Court and Portugal maintained an independent law, currency and government. It was even proposed to move the Imperial capital to Lisbon. However, Portugal saw its wealth gradually decreasing. Even though it was an autonomous state, it was used by the Hapsburg as a puppet, and Portuguese colonies came under sustained attack from their enemies, especially the Dutch and English.

Sixty years after these events, John, Duke of Braganza, (1603–1656) accepted the throne offered by the Portuguese nobility, who had become frustrated under Hapsburg rule, becoming John IV of Portugal. He was the grandson of Catherine, Duchess of Braganza, who had in 1580 claimed the Portuguese crown, and son of Teodósio II, Duke of Braganza (who died insane in 1630). John was raised to the throne of Portugal (of which he was then held to be the legitimate heir) during the coup d'etat effected on December 1, 1640 against king Philip IV.

There have been many Impostors who claimed to be King Sebastian, variously in 1584, 1585, 1595, and 1598. "Sebastianism", the legend that the young king would return to Portugal on a foggy day persisted for years, and was even strong into the nineteenth century.[1]

See also


  1. ^ See, for example, José I. Suárez (Summer, 1991). "Portugal's "Saudosismo" Movement: An Esthetics of Sebastianism" (JSTOR). Luso-Brazilian Review (University of Wisconsin Press) 28 (1): 129–140.  


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