segunda-feira, 28 de dezembro de 2009


"I have a circle of girl friends who decorate me with the title of maestra (if you laugh I will forgive you) most of them know music and they say with their beautiful voices that I can not be without you." - Leonor de Almeida, Marquise of Alorna (during her incarceration) to the Countess of Vimeiro

domingo, 13 de dezembro de 2009

Spot the Diferences!! Henrietta and Catherine

I noticed something funny today when I found a portrait of Henrietta Marie of France. I thought I looked awfully familiar and then I noticed why. It was because of a portrait of Catherine of Braganza by Peter Lely. Lely obviously tried to copy the previous painting of Henrietta Marie, to the point that even the poses and the folds in the dresses and in the ermine are identical.

On the left is the one of Henrietta Marie. This one is a lot darker. She's dressed in black, which might suggest mourning, but I'm not sure,

On the right is Catherine of Braganza, in a much brighter painting. She's dressed in blue, and even the clouds outside look less stormy than in the Queen-Mother's portrait. Instead of flowers on the table like in the previous one, in her's there's a crown.

There are some more subtle diferences, particularly in terms of fashion. Look at Henrietta's sleeves. Look familiar? She's worn them several times before.

Detail from a portrait of Henrietta Marie by Van Dyck, 1632/1635

And her bodice is much shorter than Catherine's. The bodices started to get longer and more pointed as the decades went by. The hair is also a pretty big indicator. Each Queen wears a hairstyle from their time. Henrietta from the 1630s, and Catherine from the 1660s.

Regarding the artwork alone, I gotta go for Henrietta's painting. Lely was too acustomed to painting those pale, heavy-lidded seductresses to quite capture Catherine's mediterranean looks.

quinta-feira, 3 de dezembro de 2009

The Restoration

So I'm a couple of days late, sue me.

When Sebastian I decided that it was a smashing idea to go off to Africa and fight the Muslims, he forgot one teensy, weensy, insignificant detail. He was single and childless.

So when he went missing, the result was one gigantic problem which I'll sum up. Phillip II of Spain had a large claim to the throne, but Catarina, the Duchess of Bragança had a bigger one. He, however, had big armies.

Well, the portuguese nobles didn't forget Catarina's claim, and after 60 years of Spanish rule, they were a bit ticked.

Catarina's grandson didn't want the throne, but his wife did. When he was undecisive about the whole plot, she had their youngest daughter brought to them, and asked him if he was going to deny their daughter the right of being an Infanta.

On December 1st of 1640, the nobles raised up arms and headed to the Terreiro do Paço, where the Vice-Queen of Portugal, the Duchess of Mantua and her lover, Miguel de Vasconcelos had set up shop.

He was found hiding in a closet, dragged out, stabbed, thrown out of a window and torn to pieces by an angry mob, courtesy of the Duke.

In comparison, the Duchess could count herself very lucky. She was abducted and informed that if she didn't command all Spanish military posts in Portugal to surrender themselves, their officers would find themselves a head short. She accepted and seven days later the Duke of Bragança was crowned João IV of Portugal and founder of the Dinasty of Bragança.

I'm sure you can guess who the daughter was.

quarta-feira, 25 de novembro de 2009

St Anthony With The Child

Saint Anthony of Padua (Lisbon) with the Child
By Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1665

One of my favourite paintings of one of my favourite saints. In this masterpiece of the Baroque, St Anthony looks like a modern guy, and the sweetness and tenderness in it is clearly visible.

domingo, 22 de novembro de 2009


"Don't run, lest they think we are trying to flee!" - Maria I, when boarding to Brasil, during the Napoleonic Invasions.

domingo, 15 de novembro de 2009

Did You Know...

... That the Spartans once boycotted the Olympic Games because it was against the rules to bite or rip out eyes.

sexta-feira, 13 de novembro de 2009

The Forefathers of Catherine of Braganza

I am honoured to introduce a lovely lady, who will become a regular around here, Catherine of Braganza, Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland. Regarding her name, she was born Catarina de Bragança and that is how she is known in Portugal. Unlike other members of the Portuguese Royalty, of which I'll be using the portuguese versions, with Catherine I'll be using the Anglicanised version.

Now, everyone's heard of the saying 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree'. In Catherine's case, there where a lot a trees of where she could have fallen from.

Let's start from dad's side.

D. João IV, was a shy, reserved man who prefered to hide in his gigantic library and play his harpsichord, and leave the paperwork to his wife. He was known both as the Musician-King and Restorer (I'm keeping quiet about the Restoration. All doubts will be cleared on December 1st). It's also believed that he was the original writer of Adeste Fideles. He was originaly a Duke of Bragança, the most powerful peer in Portugal.

The Braganças have a slightly sketchy history. His grandmother Catarina de Guimarães, was Duchess of Bragança by marriage, was a very ambitious woman and famous schemer. One of the Dukes of Bragança murdered his wife and suspected lover in a fit of jelousy. The 1st Duke was a natural son of John I, conceived aginst his father's celibacy vows as Master of Avis. This one was also extremely ambitious, and as some historians claim, the grandson of a converted jew.

John I was a bastard son of Pedro I and Teresa Lourenço, a Spanish noblewoman. Pedro was also the lover of Inês de Castro, whose ill-fated love story puts Romeo and Juliet in a corner.

Through John, she was a descendant of Afonso Henriques, 1st King of Portugal and historical bad-boy. Through him, from Henri of Burgundy who was a great-great-grandson of Hugh Capet.

She descended from Philippa of Plantagenet, wife of John I. Through her from John of Gaunt, Edward III of England, Philippa of Hainault, who herself descended from Stephen of Blois, William the Conqueror and Elizabeth of Cumens, thus also from Western Asians.

From her father's side, from the Isabel of Castille and twice from Ferdinand of Aragon. She also descened from Nuno Álvares Pereira, Constable of Portugal and recently canonised by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

Through her mother, Luiza de Guzman, from the Dukes of Medina Sidonia, Grandes of Spain, and of the infamous Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexandre VI and of St. Fransisco Borgia.

What I consider ironic, is that it was Maria of Modena who was accused of being a Pope's illegitimate daughter, when truly, it was Catherine who had a Pope as an ancestor.

sábado, 7 de novembro de 2009

Review: Bocage (TV)

Staring: Miguel Guilherme, Carla Bolito, Fernando Luís, Henrique Viana, Margarida Marinho and João Saboga.
Rating: 4 stars
Review: Sometimes, along comes a truly wonderful production that doesn’t get the deserved recognition, either because of language or country of origin.
I’ve always been a fan of RTP’s historical mini-series, and Bocage is without a doubt one of the best, up to par with Ferreirinha, which is, in my humble opinion, the crown jewel of RTP’s productions.
But enough. This is Bocage, so let’s talk about Bocage. To those who don’t know, Manuel Maria Barbosa du Bocage was a notorious portuguese poet of the late XVIII century, who’s famous for his rather anatomical anecdotes.
Migue Guilherme plays the charming scoundrel that he was down to a tee, including providing an extrodinary likeness to the famed poet.
Amongst the flawless performances, there are some who deserve special mention.
The late Henrique Viana gives a stelar performance as the practical villan Pina Manique, but it’s Bruno Bravo that gives the most powerful one. He starts as the “recruit”, Bocage’s good friend that spirals down a path of madness, so that when we last see him, he’s became a ruthless captain covered in the blood of Napoleon’s partisans, that slit the throat of his former friend’s most constant lover, the illiterate prostitute Nise, played wonderfully by Carla Bolito.
I could go on and on about the acting but I won’t.
The story’s gritty, crude, full of dark, twisted humour. And it’s perfect, specially Marilia’s innocent platonic love for the womanising Bocage, that brings a freshness to the story or the truly heart-breaking scene where his sister visits a dying Bocage in prison.
Even so, that were some things that I didn’t like, mainly the humorous aproach to Queen Mary I’s insanity played here by the great Maria Emília Correia. That disturbed me, because the writers could have used the situation a little better, since it was a truly tragic story, in which her screams are described as echoing through the palace, coming from the deepest pits of Hell. The music score wasn't that great either. A lot of dramatic scenes looked cherry beacuse of it.
But still, these peeves were rare, even though the whigs look like they were borrowed from Amadeus, the costumes were truly wonderful, especially for a production that doesn't have nearly the budget of a BBC drama, and the Countess Oyenhausen (herself a great poetess) wears some of the most visually stunning costumes. Again, the problem were the whigs.

segunda-feira, 2 de novembro de 2009

The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755

The 1st of November always leaves me depressed. Why, you my ask. Well because on this day, way back in 1755, practically all of Lisbon was destroyed, by a huge earthquake. And I'm not talking about some shaky ground, I'm talking about full blown "destroyer of Atlantis" quake completed with a tsunami and fires. It even changed the coast line.

It's thought that in Lisbon's population of 200,000 people, 30,000 to 40,000 people were killed. From a "Rape of Europa" point of view, the destruction was brutal as well. The ruling dinasty was the Bragança dinasty, known for being very artistic folks, and some of the most fabulous pieces of art in Europe, which inclueded Titian, Ruebens and Corregio, belonged to them. One of the greatest libraries in Europe, joy and pride of the first Bragança ruler, D. João IV, was destroyed, along with 85% of the palaces in the capital.

The coast line advanced and today, the tower of Bethlem stands on the bank of the river while prior to 1755, it stood in the middle of it.

But all was not doom and gloom, particularly for an emerging polititian, Sebastião de Carvalho e Melo, the future and infamous Marquis of Pombal. It gave him the oportunity to show what he was made of, and show he did. The minister did not wait any time, and soon after the smoke had cleared, already the troops were marching into Lisbon. He had called the army to protect what was left of the city form thieves and looters, and to stop able bodied men from fleeing the city. After all, he needed all the work force he could get his hands on. But even that did not quiet the nerves, and soon the ruins of Lisbon were gruesomely decorated with the hanging corpses of the looters. Legend has it that when he arrived in Lisbon after the earthquake and was asked what could they do, he answered "Tend to the living, bury the dead."

Nerves of steel, that man.

It also gave him the opportunity to transform the ancient city, that had survived the Fenicians, the Romans, the Moors and the Spanish, into the Enlightened City, with, much to the consternation of his fellow country-men, very wide streets.

Clairvoidence perhaps, because without it, it would be impossible to drive Downtown.

The earthquake also shook the minds of Europe. Catholics said it was the Portugueses punishment for their sins and for traiding with the heretics (the English), while the Protestants said it was for their punishment for the submission to Rome. Huge mess, I know, but more interestingly, it was also the first time that the other nations pulled that stick out of their arses and contributed to help the people left destitute by the desaster.

Early solidarity, perhaps, but the ones who profited the most were the wanted criminals and the con artistist.

domingo, 1 de novembro de 2009


"If you want a queen, you have to pay for her" - D. Maria Pia, Queen of Portugal

quarta-feira, 21 de outubro de 2009

Infanta Maria of Portugal

When King Manuel found himself widowed for the second time, he set his eyes on Leonor of Habsburg, sister of Charles V (who would in a few years become his son-in-law). The marriage didn't have much to do with leaving an heir to the throne, since his second wife, Mary of Aragon (older sister of Katherine of Aragon) had given him a grand total of ten children!

In 1518, Manuel was, at the age of fifty, far from the handsome and athletic king he had been in his youth. But the marriage with the twenty-year old Leonor went forward anyway, and on the 18th of February of 1520, a little infante was born. The infante lived only for a year, and two months after his death it was an infanta's turn to come to the world.

Enter Maria, of the House of Avis, born on the 8th of June of 1521 and baptised with great pomp. That was all nice and good, but six months after her birth the old King Manuel past away and succeded him her older brother by ninteen years, João III When she was two years old, her mother, the Queen, left her in Lisbon to marry the widowed Francis I.

Her education was astounding for a woman, and she is to this day, known as the most educated of the portuguese infantas and a famed humanist. There was, however some bad blood between her mother and her.

Speaking of mothers, the now Queen of France makes an appearance. The marriage of the Infanta Maria of Portugal and François, Dauphin of France, was being arranged with the support of the Queen.

At the age of fifteen, Maria was a renowned beauty, with a pale complexion and clear blue eyes. The groom to-be had once been a bright, happy child, but after being imprisioned by her brother-in-law Charles V, he had grown into a somber and solitary youth wih a penchant for black clothes. The 16th century Goth, if you will.

Not that it would have made much of a difference, because shortly after arriving in France, the Dauphin promptly keeled over and died. She stayed for a while at the French Court and plans were entertained to marry her off to Phillip II of Spain, who was not only 6-years her junior, but also her cousin, nephew and future brother-in-law.

Thankfully for Maria, that didn't come to pass. The Spanish had their eyes set on the Catholic daughter of Henry VIII of England, Mary Tudor.

We all know how that turned out.

Maria took it in stride and returned to Portugal where her bother gave her her own Household and made her Duchess of Viseu. Her palace was made into a sort of female university, where the greatest minds of the time would converge.

She made a name of herself as a patron of the arts. A few rumours were bound to follow someone like that, the most famous of them involve an affair with Portugal' greatest poet of all times, Luís de Camões, whom she entertained at her court.

She died a happy spinster and the richest woman of Christendom, in October 10th of 1577, at the age of 56, and was buried in the chapel she had built, the Chapel Of Our Lady Of The Light in Benfica, Lisbon.

quinta-feira, 15 de outubro de 2009

Did You Know...

...That it's only due to a wrong translation of a greek work in the Gospels, that a great part of the population believes that Jesus Christ was a carpinter. The real word was "builder", which in that region was done with stone. He was most likely a maçon.

Movie Review: Affair of the Necklace

Staring: Hilary Swank, Jonathan Pryce, Simon Baker, Adrien Brody, Joely Richardson and Christopher Walken.

Rating: 2½ stars

Review: I’m not too sure about this one. On one hand, it was a beautifully designed movie with a great cast, but on the other it’s… How shall I put it? Ah, yes. Tacky.

Not because of the acting. The acting was good, except Hilary Swank’s, who’s clearly not comfortable in her role. The screen-play itself had some good moments, but what really annoyed me was the narration. More than half the time it was completely unnecessary, gave the movie the feeling of the documentary, and as the movie progressed, made it more and more boring to watch. We could deduce these things for ourselves. That’s what makes a movie fun to watch, allowing us the make our own thoughts about the situation. With this movie we're not given that chance.

Now the good parts: Other than a shirtless Adrien Brody, the production and the costumes were wonderful. It was indeed the costumes of the great Milena Canonero, that helped the viewer, much more than the narration, to place himself in the situation and acknowledge the evolution of the characters.

I try to avoid, when watching an historical movie, to preach about the inacuracies, but one thing really peeved me. Jeanne’s childhood was shown as very idyllic, and then destroyed, parents murdered, etc, etc. This is not only inaccurate, but also incredibly cliché.

While it’s true that she was a descendant from an illegitimate line of the Valois dinasty, her father was a drunk, her mother a servant, and the young Jeanne had to beg. In my opinion they should have kept the truth. Would have been much more realistic and given a clearer view of her motives.

But this is just my opinion.

domingo, 11 de outubro de 2009


Going back some time, I've noticed a distinctive lack of English written blogs on Portuguese History. Not so much as lacking, more as bupkis.

Allow me remedy that. It won't be just Portuguese History of course. Posts will deal with World History.

What can I say, it's that damned butterfly.