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The History of Portugal

The history of Portugal’s constitutional monarchy spans from its establishment in the early 19th century to its abolition in the early 20th century. This period was marked by significant political changes, including the transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy and various challenges faced by the country. Here is a detailed overview of Portugal’s constitutional monarchy:

Background and Prelude to Constitutional Monarchy

  • By the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Portugal was under the rule of the Braganza monarchy, which had been in power since 1640. The monarchy faced internal and external pressures for political reforms and modernization.
  • The Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century had a profound impact on Portugal. In 1807, French forces invaded Portugal, and the Portuguese royal family, led by Prince Regent João (later King João VI), fled to Brazil, then a Portuguese colony.
  • The French occupation and the absence of the royal family created an opportunity for domestic discontent and political upheaval.

The Liberal Revolution of 1820

  • In 1820, a liberal revolution erupted in Porto, Portugal, demanding political reforms, constitutional government, and the return of King João VI from Brazil.
  • The revolutionaries established a provisional government and demanded that João VI return to Portugal to accept a constitutional charter and rule as a constitutional monarch.
  • The King eventually returned to Portugal in 1821, accepting the new constitutional order, although he faced resistance from conservative factions within the monarchy.

The Constitutional Charter of 1826

  • In 1826, King João VI promulgated the Constitutional Charter, granting Portugal its first constitution.
  • The Constitutional Charter established a constitutional monarchy, limiting the King’s powers and providing for a parliamentary system, with a bicameral legislature, the Cortes Gerais.

Succession Crisis and Pedro IV of Portugal (Pedro I of Brazil)

  • King João VI died in 1826, and a succession crisis ensued. His son, Pedro, who had become Emperor of Brazil as Pedro I, was the legitimate heir to the Portuguese throne but faced resistance from conservative factions.
  • Pedro decided to abdicate the Portuguese throne in favor of his daughter, Maria da Glória, in 1826, becoming Pedro IV of Portugal and leaving for Brazil.

Maria II of Portugal and the Liberal Wars

  • Maria da Glória, later known as Maria II of Portugal, ascended to the throne at a young age, but her reign was marked by political turmoil and civil wars known as the Liberal Wars (1828 until 1834).
  • Miguel, Maria’s uncle and brother of Pedro IV, contested her right to the throne and attempted to establish an absolutist regime.
  • The Liberal Wars were a series of conflicts between the liberal supporters of Maria II and the Miguelites (absolutists) supporting Miguel.
  • After years of fighting, the liberal forces emerged victorious, and Maria II was restored to the throne in 1834.

Political Instability and Regency Periods

  • Despite the victory in the Liberal Wars, Portugal faced political instability and factional struggles during Maria II’s reign.
  • Maria II married Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (later Ferdinand II of Portugal) in 1836, which brought some stability to the monarchy.
  • However, her early death in 1853 led to regency periods as her young son Pedro V succeeded the throne, followed by his younger brother Luís I.

Constitutional Developments and Economic Modernization

  • During the reigns of Pedro V (1853 until 1861), Luís I (1861 until 1889), and Carlos I (1889 until 1908), Portugal witnessed constitutional developments and economic modernization.
  • Constitutional reforms were implemented to further strengthen the parliamentary system and provide more political rights and freedoms to the citizens.
  • Economic reforms aimed at promoting industrialization, modernizing infrastructure, and expanding Portugal’s overseas territories.

Republican Movement and the End of the Monarchy

  • Despite the constitutional reforms and economic progress, discontent with the monarchy grew throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Republican sentiments gained traction, and various movements advocated for the establishment of a republic, viewing the monarchy as inefficient and corrupt.
  • On October 5, 1910, a republican revolution erupted in Lisbon, culminating in the dethronement of King Manuel II, the last monarch of Portugal.
  • The revolution marked the end of Portugal’s constitutional monarchy and the beginning of the First Portuguese Republic, a republican form of government.

The constitutional monarchy period in Portugal was a significant phase in the country’s history, characterized by attempts at modernization, political reforms, and a shift towards constitutional governance. Despite its achievements, challenges such as political instability, regional disputes, and a growing republican sentiment ultimately led to its demise. The transition to a republican system brought a new set of challenges and political transformations to Portugal.

The Republican Era in Portugal began with the establishment of the Portuguese First Republic in 1910 and lasted until 1926. This period was marked by significant political instability, economic challenges, and social upheavals. Here’s a detailed overview of the history of the Republican Era in Portugal:


Portugal had been a monarchy for centuries, but by the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the monarchy faced increasing criticism for its outdated political system, economic problems, and failure to address social issues. Additionally, dissatisfaction with King Manuel II’s rule and the influence of republican ideas spreading throughout Europe fueled demands for political change.

The Republican Revolution of 1910

On October 5, 1910, a successful republican revolution took place, led by various groups, including intellectuals, liberals, and military officers. This revolution resulted in the overthrow of the Portuguese monarchy and the proclamation of the Portuguese First Republic. King Manuel II went into exile, and the republicans established a provisional government.

The Provisional Government

The provisional government faced immediate challenges, including consolidating power, drafting a republican constitution, and addressing social and economic issues. The government was initially composed of moderate republicans, but disagreements among different factions quickly led to political instability.

Early Republican Governments

Between 1910 and 1911, Portugal experienced a series of short-lived governments with frequent changes in leadership. João Chagas, Teófilo Braga, and Augusto de Vasconcelos were some of the early figures in the republican governments

The Republican Constitution

In 1911, a new constitution was drafted and approved, officially establishing the Portuguese First Republic. It was a parliamentary republic with a president serving as the head of state and a prime minister as the head of government. Universal male suffrage was introduced, and the church’s influence was curtailed.

Social and Economic Challenges

The First Republic struggled to address serious social and economic issues, such as rural poverty, illiteracy, and unequal land distribution. The country faced economic difficulties, including a significant national debt, inflation, and a lack of industrial development.

Political Instability and Revolts

The republic was characterized by political instability, with frequent changes in governments and power struggles between different political factions. Military revolts and uprisings were also common, as different factions vied for control.

Sidonist Revolt and World War I

In 1917, the Sidonist Revolt occurred, led by the monarchist movement seeking to restore the monarchy. However, the revolt was suppressed, and the republican government remained in power. During World War I, Portugal joined the Allies, contributing to the war effort.

The Military Dictatorship of 1926

The ongoing political instability and economic challenges led to growing public discontent with the First Republic. On May 28, 1926, a military coup took place, led by General Gomes da Costa, resulting in the overthrow of the First Republic. This event marked the end of the Republican Era and the beginning of the Military Dictatorship.

In conclusion, the Republican Era in Portugal, which lasted from 1910 to 1926, was a period of significant political upheaval and economic challenges. While the establishment of the Portuguese First Republic represented a break from the country’s monarchical past, the republic struggled to address social and economic issues and faced frequent political instability, ultimately leading to its downfall. The era laid the groundwork for the subsequent military dictatorship that shaped Portugal’s political landscape until the Carnation Revolution of 1974.

The Military Dictatorship in Portugal, also known as the “Ditadura Militar,” began on May 28, 1926, and lasted until 1933. This period was marked by the rise of a repressive authoritarian regime that aimed to stabilize the country after the political instability and economic challenges of the preceding First Republic. Here’s a detailed overview of the history of the Military Dictatorship in Portugal:

The Coup of May 28, 1926

The Military Dictatorship was initiated by a military coup on May 28, 1926, led by General Gomes da Costa, with the support of conservative and nationalist factions. The coup aimed to address the political chaos, corruption, and economic problems that plagued the First Republic. The government, led by President Bernardino Machado, was overthrown, and the military assumed control of the country.

Provisional Military Junta

After the coup’s success, a Provisional Military Junta was established to govern the country. General Gomes da Costa became the President of the Junta.

Repression and Political Control

The Military Dictatorship immediately set out to suppress opposition and establish control over the political landscape. Civil liberties were curtailed, and censorship was imposed on the media. Political parties were dissolved, and strikes were banned. The regime relied on the secret police to monitor and suppress any perceived threats to its authority.

The New Constitution of 1933

In 1933, a new authoritarian constitution was promulgated, marking the end of the Military Dictatorship and the establishment of the Estado Novo (“New State”). The Estado Novo would be the name of the subsequent authoritarian regime led by António de Oliveira Salazar.

António de Oliveira Salazar’s Rise to Power

During the early years of the Military Dictatorship, António de Oliveira Salazar, an economist and finance professor, was appointed Minister of Finance. He implemented harsh austerity measures and conservative economic policies, which earned him the support of industrialists and landowners.

The Estado Novo Regime

The new constitution of 1933 established the Estado Novo regime, with Salazar as the Prime Minister. The regime was characterized by a strong centralized government, corporatist policies, and the promotion of Portuguese nationalism and traditional values. Salazar and his government exercised total control over the country for the next four decades.

Estado Novo Policies

Under Salazar’s leadership, the Estado Novo regime pursued a policy of “Portuguese Integralism,” emphasizing Portugal’s unique history and culture. The regime promoted authoritarian rule, censorship, and control over education and the media to mold a nationalistic and conservative ideology.

Economic and Social Policies

Salazar’s government implemented a policy of “Estado Providência,” which sought to provide for the welfare of the people while maintaining strict control over economic activities. The regime pursued protectionist economic policies, limited industrialization, and prioritized agriculture.

Colonial Policies

The regime maintained Portugal’s colonial empire in Africa and sought to maintain control over its colonies. The Estado Novo’s colonial policies were marked by repression, forced labor, and exploitation, leading to significant resistance and liberation movements in the colonies.

Longevity and Decline

The Estado Novo regime, under Salazar’s rule, remained in power for nearly four decades. However, by the 1960s, Portugal faced increasing international isolation due to its colonial policies, and domestic opposition to the regime grew. The regime’s rigid authoritarianism, economic stagnation, and resistance in the colonies contributed to its eventual decline.

The Carnation Revolution and the End of the Dictatorship

On April 25, 1974, the Carnation Revolution (Revolução dos Cravos) took place, led by the Armed Forces Movement (Movimento das Forças Armadas). A peaceful military coup led to the overthrow of the Estado Novo regime, ending almost five decades of authoritarian rule. This revolution paved the way for a transition to democracy in Portugal.

In conclusion, the Military Dictatorship in Portugal, also known as the Ditadura Militar, was a period of authoritarian rule marked by repression, political control, and centralized governance. The subsequent Estado Novo regime, led by António de Oliveira Salazar, continued these policies and remained in power for nearly 40 years. The regime’s eventual decline and overthrow during the Carnation Revolution in 1974 led to a democratic transition in Portugal.

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