Welcome to my blog. Please feel free to roam around and learn a bit more about Portuguese History. To find your interests, please, have a look at the right side of the page, where you can find all the posts arrenged into labels, such as "Society", "Politics", etc. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 25, 2013


When speaking of the Peninsula Wars, of course, the 2 countries that from the Peninsula are spoken about too. But what about the islands and archipelagos that go with these 2 countries? Here is a view of what happened to one of the 2 archipelagos that belong to Portugal.  
Taken from the book “O Tempo de Napoleão em Portugal - Estudos Históricos”, by António Pedro Vicente, Comissão Portuguesa de História Militar, 2º edição, Lisboa 200, pp 201-220

London declares in 1807 that every French harbor or plaza , or any belonging to Frances allies or England enemies, and any European country in where the British flag is excluded, is therefore considered blocked. Excluding Portugal (secretly). And in this way, the United Kingdom takes advantage of its maritime supremacy.

"The Plumb Pudding in danger", James Gillray, 1805.

Knowing that Portugal would sign a surrender treaty with France and knowing that France would occupy the entire Iberian Peninsula and reaching, therefore, the sea and the ocean, England rushed to gain strategic points across the Atlantic Ocean. Therefore Madeira and the Azores became very important in the eye of the British Crown (the Azores for being a central point in the North Atlantic and Madeira for being close to the entrance of the Mediterranean sea). Specially knowing that the departure of the Portuguese Crown was imminent.
Beresford (Commander of the ground forces) arrives in Madeira in the year 1807 (by that time England was already Portugal's secret ally and therefore) removing the local administration from the Portuguese Crown to it's own and forcing the population to swear loyalty to the British King (!!!).
Obviously, not only would this bring a military advantage, but also a financial one. In fact, the commerce between the United Kingdom and Madeira grew, specially in wheat (probably for the soldiers and not forgetting the beautiful wine). Occupying the Portuguese islands would bring a great advantage to the British Industrial revolution.
The Azores did not capitulate in the same fashion, but after hearing what had happened to Madeira they immediately agreed with a future removal of the Portuguese Administration (March 1808).
On his way to exile, the Portuguese Crown Prince (later King) makes a stop at Madeira, which explains the nonexistence of criticism towards the British political attitude, when on December 24th the British squad arrives at the islands under the command of the Admiral Sir Samuel Hood. Pedro de Antas e Menezes, Governor-General, raises no objection.
Madeira's capitulation is signed by both and Beresford and 2 infantry regiments are placed each with 1000 men and 2 artillery companies, 1 month after the the Portuguese's King passage through.
On March 1808, the Portuguese Minister, Domingos António de Sousa e Coutinho, travels to London after receiving innumerable complaints of Madeira's inhabitants and tries to re-negotiate it's political status. After talks to the British government’s representative, George Canning, Madeira is returned to Portugal, the Portuguese flag is raised again and the British military presence stays. Major General Mead replaces Beresford until October 1814.
In the word of the books author «The occupation of Madeira was, therefore, a normal attitude, tolerated and accepted in the blockade's range, that the United Kingdom imposed to what had been decreed by Napoleon. One can, however, discuss the circumstances of this occupation, put in practice by a general, that with 36 years of age, wanted to bring value and imprint of a glorious deed to a simple and acceptable strategic occupation.»

Partial Treaty signed between Portugal and the United Kingom. Taken from book mentioned above. «
Article 1 - Since the signing of this treaty, the island of Madeira and it's dependencies will be delivered to the commanders of His British Majesty's forces and to be maintained by His Majesty with the same rights, privileges and jurisdiction as the Portuguese Crown has had until now.»

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

CONVENT SWEETS II - Queijadas (or pastéis) Peninsulares

Last month I went to the battle re-enactment of Vimeiro, where I was given this small sweet pastry cake called “Peninsular”. I was told that the name was given in honor of the victory of the allies over the Peninsular Wars. But you know me; this type of information only makes me investigate further, even if only a bit.
In the past I have written about convent sweets (and you can get more infos about that on the referring post). This cake I ate belongs in that category.
I have found, on Facebook, a page dedicated to this pastry and have asked more about it. This was the answer (translated roughly):

«Good afternoon,
These pastéis come from a convent recipe, that in the past was given to a lady of Vimeiro, that started to commercialize them under the name “Peninsulares”, with registered trade mark since 1949. The name/brand “Peninsulares” is a homage to the Battle of Vimeiro (21st of August of 1808) in which the Portuguese and Allies (British) defeated the still invincible Napoleonic troops.
With best regards,
Jordão Luís.»

So, there you have an easy answer to where this pastry comes from and which brings me to another question: the civilian access to convent recipes. This access has to do with an interesting historical fact: the extinction of the religious orders in Portugal.
I have referred that after the French Invasions and the return of power to the Portuguese Crown in 1820, Portugal went into a civil war. Well, it ended in 1834 with the signing of the Convention of Évora Monte in that same year. In that same convention it is stated that all religious orders are therefore abolished and all their belongings are now public and belong to the state.
We must not forget that Portugal was an extremely catholic country (I have written about it) and the number of religious orders was enormous. All of them, of course, shared the national wealth, since was so in the past Monarchies where there was no separation of powers. This situation had become so vast, that some attempts were made to reduce them by the famous Marquis of Pombal. Unfortunately, he only abolished those who stood in his path, like the Jesuits. But laws of stopping the creation of religious orders had appeared in the late 17th century.
Of course, the extinction of religious orders in the Convention of 1834 meant that who won the civil war were the liberals, those who wanted a Constitution (a prelude to Republicanism).
It is not like the nuns and monks were now thrown out of their orders, but the law stated that they shouldn't admit anymore novices. It was also stated that the orders that didn't had any income could receive a state pension. This whole situation only became regulated in the 1860's.
Well, I guess that means that making sweets and selling them could have been a source of income and later, in the next century, many of the those recipes became public. From here to the access of the many cookery books was just a small step, making it possible for many talented ladies to start their own businesses in sweet pastry and dessert making. But I will have to find a book on this matter to state more facts on it.

Pictures taken by me.
And sitting on the train home, I couldn't resist them anymore. The smell of roasted almond flour and heavy sugar (perhaps even molasses) was to big to resist.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


So, I have said and wrote in the past about that fierce popular outcry when the French invaded us (3 times!) and it is all very well known historically. But what I have found out recently was that at the 1st French Invasion it was very different. It seems that in 1808 the orders were of peaceful surrender (by treaty between Portugal and France) and the population agreed to it (by force or not, we're about to see that) and when the Invaders returned in 1809 (after a slap on the wrist called the Cintra Convention) the Portuguese population threw all the diplomacy shown in the year before into the air and caused, what sometimes turned out to be, a blood bath. But here's more on what I want to say. Enjoy.

Taken from the book “O Tempo de Napoleão em Portugal – Estudos Históricos” (The Time of Napoleon in Portugal. Historical studies), António Pedro Vicente, Comissão Portuguesa de História Militar, 2ª edição, Lisboa 2000, pp119 – 131, 221 – 236, 269-317

Portugal's attitude facing the American and French Revolutions wasn't very different from the remaining Europe. Some accepted and embraced them, others didn't (but we must not forget that we're talking only about the intellectual and political side of the Portuguese Society). All of these new doctrines had an impact of the main reasoning of the 18th century and caught the attention of the Free Mason Society (very active and secretive in Portugal, still today). And leaflets of these new changes circulated the the streets (and probably in places like the Nicola as I have written before). Those in favor (Liberals, Constitutionalists and Republicans) used that to nourish their propaganda, while those against (the Enlightened Monarchies) strengthen their positions. We can divide this into several phases:

1) We cannot forget that Portugal was still living a strong governmental censorship, inherited by the Holy Inquisition and a somewhat disguised fashion of it (the Portuguese Inquisition lasted 3 centuries, and perhaps I could write a post about that in the future). The new American and French philosophical models found their way to the intellectual Portuguese society. The death of the French King shook every part of the European nation. A fear that it could be repeated made that many news papers were censored, like the Lisbon Gazette (Gazeta de Lisboa) and the Royal Commission on Censorship on Books (Real Mesa da Comissão sobre o Exame e Censura de livros) made it possible that many of the news from France wouldn't be printed. It is said (Pina Manique, the head of the still Portuguese Inquisition) that the bonds between Church and State should be straightened now and so, the Church becomes a relevant part in the molding of the populations mind. Not only does it show an open hand to the now religious refugees from France, but also takes a new anti-revolutionary position.

2) The alliance between Portugal and the United Kingdom is not well seen by the Spaniards who favor Napoleon (to understand this we have to go back in time and analyse the War of the Oranges), which weakens our political relations, even in the attempt of Neutrality. It is the alliance with Spain that allows the French to cross the Pyrenees and not much is done to stop the Napoleonic Expansion. The Portuguese King (then still Prince Regent) exiles to Brazil leaving behind that Peaceful Surrender.
Now, the State&Church and the Free Masons adopt a pro-revolutionary attitude to please the invaders and keep, in the words of the King, the population safe. The Prince-Regent's (future King) proclamation:
«(...) And wanting to avoid the dire consequences that might come from a defensive attitude that would, in turn, be more harmful then advantageous, with the only purpose of bloodshed in detriment of mankind, and being able to ascend to a disagreement of the troops that are now in this Kingdom with the promise of not commiting a slightest hostility: (...)» (Biblioteca da Academia de Ciências de Lisboa, “Legislação Portuguesa”, 1807-1808, nº 126)
The Lisbon's Patriarch, D. José Fransisco Miguel António de Mendonça said: «Don't be afraid my children, live safely in your houses and outside of them; remember that this army is from His Majesty and Emperor of France and Italy. Napoleon, the Great, that God has destined to protect the religion (!!!) and to bring happiness to the people: you know it, the whole world knows it. Trust with unchangeable safety in this prodigious man, unknown to many centuries: he will pour on us the hapiness of peace, if you respect his determinations, if you love all mutually, nationals and foreigners , with fraternal charity.» (in Luiz Soriano, “História da Guerra Civil”, 2ª época, tomo I, Lx 1870)
Same speeches were made all over the country, in Porto by the Bishop D, Frei António de S. José de Castro (elected President of the Government's Provisional Junta). A climate of submission with royal orders before the departure to Brazil. It wasn't received in a homogenous fashion, but in the major cities it was. It was later the change of the people that changed the clergymen to join the rebellious fights. Specially the Bishop of Porto (city occupied during the 2nd Invasion).

French at the Invasion, Roque Gameiro, "Quadros da História de Portugal", 1932

Sopa de Arroios (soup of Arroios), the town square form arroios with people running away from Massena and eating soup, Gregário fernades de Queiróz, 1913, from the original by Domingues Sequeira, 1810.

3) With the French capitulation, the poplars took justice to their ow hands. They would kill anything suspiciously French and even people in higher places would fill the prisons with what was called “Jacobites”(French or French looking, Pro-Revolutionaries, Jews, rich and powerful people, etc). There was even an uprising in September 1808 (more on that on a future post). Many of those prisoners ended up in the tower of S. Julião. Even the General Police Intendant (Steward?) Lucas Seabra da Silva (the one that replaced Pina Manique) wasn't able to control the situation. In the city of Porto nobody takes action against the population who wanted to get rid of the enemy and used any pretext to get to arms, saying that they were preparing for a new invasion. Only in October, Napoleon threatens with a new invasion.
In December, that same year,arrive the British reinforcements but the poplar rebellion had died out and with it the feeling of necessity to re-organize the Portuguese military. And again, Portugal faces the situation of being unprepared, like a couple of years before, before the 1st Invasion, before the British alliance, when Napoleon threatened to invade. Not even the call to arms made the soldiers return to their barracks. There was a feeling of excessive trust in the foreign helping forces. In March of 1809 Soult crosses the border.

The English at Cassilhas, caricature of the good life the British soldiers had in Portugal, author unknown.

4) The French occupation creates a fragile political, economical and social state and the Portuguese becomes hostile to the liberal ideals, since napoleon is the «cause of all disgraces». Hatred grows towards anything slightly “French”. Even the Free Masons, that have initially supported the new revolutionary ideals, keep their distance. The people that embraced the change were the ones that had more traveling experience and specially those who work abroad, like military and diplomats. Between 1808 and 1814 over a 1000 leaflets with French influence were printed and distributed in Portugal, but on the other hand if one is Anti-French, one is Anti-Napoleon and Anti-Revolution, so, Pro-Monarchy, right?
After the arrival of the Brits “Juntas” are created to organize the militia and the troops. In 1809 D. José da Costa Gomes said in Braga during the takeover of Porto, that all clergymen should take arms and even organize para-military operations. Leaflets supporting and forgiving the Church for their first attitudes in 1808 started to circulate in the streets. The “abandonment” of the Crown and good part of the armed forces, the downfall of the economy (Portugal was between a Continental and maritime blockade), the change of the Capital to Brazil and all the commercial advantages that meant, orders to comply with the French invaders, (heavy payments done to the French army), were the last drops that the Portuguese could handle.

Capitulation of the city of Porto (don't have the author right now, will post it later).