20 February 2013

Hundreds of Years of Friendship

The oldest alliance in the world is between Portugal and England.  I wonder how many people who live or visit Portugal, are aware of this? 
The origins of this alliance go back to the Middle Ages when the English Crusaders aided the Portuguese in the conquest of Lisbon over the Moors in 1147.  Then followed a period of lucrative trading between the two countries and commercial treaties were signed in 1308 by King Don Dinis of Portugal and later by King Edward III of England in 1353. 

 John of Gaunt being entertained by King John (Rei Joao)

The first formal treaty (The Anglo-Portuguese Treaty) was signed in 1373 in England when Rei Dom Fernando (King Ferdinand) and Rainha Leonor (Queen Eleanor) sent their envoys to King Edward III and the treaty was signed in St Paul’s Cathedral in London. This treaty agreed that English Archers would be sent to Portugal to help with attacks from the Castilians and, in the August of 1385, they were supporting the Portuguese at The Battle of Aljubarrota (A Batalha de Aljubarrota) when the Castilians were routed. This battle has often been mentioned to me by Portuguese friends as being one of the most important ones in their history.
The aid given by the English to the Portuguese House of Aviz continued and in May of 1386 The Treaty of Windsor (a renwal of the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty) was signed at Windsor CastleSt George’s Chapel.  This Treaty was sealed by King Richard II of England and envoys of King John 1 (Rei Joao I) of Portugal.
St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle

The next year King Edward III's son, John of Gaunt (Duke of Lancaster) asked for help from the Portuguese to claim the Crown of Castile and in return he offered his eldest daughter, Philippa (Filipa de Lencastre) to Rei Joao I (King John I) and they married in 1387.

Philippa of Lancaster (Filipa de Lencastre)

Philippa was a very well educated woman - something incredibly rare in those days.  She had studied science, poetry and theology under some of the most famous teachers of that time in England.  She was also rumoured to have been taught by Geoffrey Chaucer (who was married to another Philippa - sister to John of Gaunt's third wife, Queen Katherine).  She had also been tutored in Greek and Roman works such as Pliny and Herodotus.
The marriage of Philippa and King John (Filipa and Rei Joao I)

Philippa modernised the Portuguese Court and introduced a strict moral code of behaviour.  Possibly something to do with her husband already having a mistress who she managed to expel from Court?!  She also educated her children - Duarte (Edward), Pedro (Peter), Henrique (Henry) Isobel (Isabella), John (Joao), Fernado (Ferdinand) - to the highest level of the times.  She was also responsible for providing Royal patronage to English commercial interests. Of course we know Henrique much better as Henry the Navigator, a much respected King in both countries and worldwide.

Obviously the friendship faltered occasionally as all friendships tend to do.  During the Tudor era in England, relations were strained within Europe due to the Reformation - the Catholic Church being overthrown by the founding of the Church of England. 

Then, the Portuguese needed help; Spain had invaded in 1580 and for 60 years had made them part of Spain.  They wanted to be independent so in 1640 the Duke of Braganza turned to the English for help to reclaim their country and dominions.  This led to another treaty being signed in 1642 and a marriage between Catherine of Braganza (Caterina de Braganca) and King Charles II of England being agreed. This alliance defeated the Spanish and granted independence to Portugal from Spain.

File:King Charles II by John Riley.jpg
Charles II (not a very flattering portrait!)

 Catherine of Braganza (Caterina de Braganca)

I feel for Catherine.  She had a rough time with King Charles II and his many consorts, as well as having to deal with the political plotting at the English Court.  She suffered attacks on her faith (Catholic), struggled to learn English and was unfortunate in not being able to bear Charles any children which meant the knives were out for her, but Charles appeared fond of her and never agreed to a divorce and they remained married until his death. 

She stayed on in England but after more problems over her choice of religion she returned to  her beloved Portugal in 1699 and to the Portuguese Court.  She acted as Regent for her brother Rei Pedro II (King Peter II) in 1701 and again between 1704-05.  I think this also shows she was a strong character and had probably picked up quite a few pointers from her time in England.

Her best legacy to Britain was the introduction of tea drinking.  Yes, that's right.  The story goes that she used to have High Tea at 5.00 pm which involved drinking tea.  The Portuguese still keep to the 5.00 pm time and I wonder whether our habit of having High Tea at 4.00 pm is due to the time difference that was in practise until both countries were on GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)?  She also, allegedly, introduced the use of the fork but one of her greatest legacies was her involvement and support in 1703 for The Treaty of Methuen (or cheekily - The Port Wine Treaty) between Portugal and England. 

This treaty was very important as it protected the trade of wine from Portugal to Britain and the importing of British textiles into Portugal and it held throughout the 18th Century when both countries supported each other from attacks from France and Spain.  It was tested when, in 1807, Napoleon told Portugal to close its ports to British shipping when he declared war on Britain. 

Portugal bravely refused and the English fleet protected the Portuguese Royal family who had to flee the country to Brazil as a consequence of this decision. Napoleon and the French army invaded Portugal and captured Lisbon but in 1808 the British joined forces with the Portuguese to defeat the French and Napoleon.  This is what we know as The Peninsular War and went on for six long years.

Fans of the TV series Sharpe, with Sean Bean, will be familiar with this part of Portuguese history, as Sharpe battled away with the Duke of Wellington to expel the French and Napoleon.  Bernard Cornwall wrote the books that inspired the series, some of which was shot in Portugal.
(Courtesy of Amazon)

 Sean Bean and his men in Sharpe

As is the way of world politics, things got strained over the years and at times both countries managed to annoy each other.  Towards the end of the time of the monarchy in Portugal, the British were not popular but things resolved themselves and Portugal joined Britain and the Allies in World War I. 

Portugal, under the dictator Salazar, was neutral  during the Second World War, but when the Alliance was invoked by the UK, Salazar allowed Britain and the Allies to establish bases in the Azores - that must have annoyed the Germans, as Portugal was still trading with Germany - and offered the same to the Royal Navy during the Falklands War. 

So a brief look, and hopefully not too inaccurate, account of the friendship between Portugal and Britain.  Amazing to think that both Philippa and Catherine brought so much to our joint histories.  Philippa gave Portugal strong sons like Henry and Navigator.

Henry the Navigator

Known as the patron of Portuguese exploration, Henry was responsible for making the Portuguese Navy a force to be reckoned with, not least because of the famous Caravel, that could go further and outpace any ships of the time.

The beautiful Portuguese Carvel (Caravela)

Catherine gave the British a serious tea drinking habit, the fork and possibly was instrumental in keeping the bottles of port going round to the left with her involvement in The Treaty of Methuen. 

I think we should raise our glasses in thanks to two rather amazing ladies - one who came from England to Portugal and one who came from Portugal to England.  Friendship indeed.



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