In Europe, the borders of Portugal are amongst the oldest, agreed by treaty with its closest neighbour Castile, later to be called Spain. The Portuguese fought fiercely for independence against Castile and at the battle of Aljubarrota on 14 August 1385 put paid to Castilian ambitions towards the Portuguese crown for two hundred years. The new dynasty of Avis was firmly in place in Portugal under D João I. Intermarriage with the Castilian royal house was designed to bring about a united Iberian kingdom, but D Manuel I´s dream of a Portuguese sovereign over a united Iberia was turned on its head, and Portugal instead joined the enormous Empire of the King of Spain.
A series of misfortunes sixty years after the reign of D Manuel I left the succession to the throne unclear. After the death of D Sebastião during his fateful invasion of Morocco there was no clear heir to the Portuguese crown and his great-uncle D Henrique, the last of the sons of D Manuel I, became a stopgap king. D Henrique was known as O Casto (the chaste) since he was a Cardinal in holy orders, never expecting to ascend the throne, and never needing to produce an heir. He was 68 when he took the crown and died seventeen months later having made no arrangements for the succession.
There were 5 possible claimants to the throne. Descended through the senior male line were the eleven year-old Ranuccio I Farnese whose claim was theoretically the best; Teodósio de Bragança (the Braganças had suffered an execution for plotting against D João II, and were not keen to risk another brush with royal authority); Felipe II of Spain had the third best claim. He was rich and powerful and his mother and his first wife were Portuguese; Carlos Emanuel (who lived far away in Savoy) had the fourth best; and D António, Prior of Crato, the darling of the mob, had the fifth best claim as the only male grandson of D Manuel I. His insuperable difficulty was that his parents had not been married at his birth, and his mother was reputed to be Jewish.
Felipe II´s agents and spies bribed, suborned and threatened influential Portuguese to support his cause and in November 1580 the Duke of Alba claimed Portugal by force, defeating D António at the Battle of Alcântara. At the Cortes of Tomar in 1581, Felipe II was accepted as king of Portugal on condition that the kingdom and its overseas territories would not become Spanish provinces. It is rumoured that Felipe said of his new kingdom, `I inherited it, I bought it and I conquered it`. Felipe II of Spain and his son Felipe III and grandson Felipe IV ruled over Portugal and its Empire for 60 years, 1580 – 1640. Confusingly, in Portugal these three kings of the House of Hapsburg are known as D Filipe I, D Filipe II and D Filipe III, which is how they will be referred to in this article.
During the course of his life, D Filipe I married four times, and yet his children were few. Of Princess Maria Manuela of Portugal he had one son, D Carlos who died in his teens; of Mary Tudor, Queen of England there were no children; of Elizabeth of Valois there were two daughters; and of Anne of Áustria there were a daughter and two sons one of whom died in childhood. From his four marriages, there was but one male heir to one of the greatest Empires the world has ever known.
Felipe II was king of Naples and Sicily 1544-1598; King of England and Ireland 1554 - 1558; Duke of Burgundy and Lord of the Netherlands 1555 - 1598; King of Spain 1556 -1598 and King of Portugal as D Filipe I from 1580 until his death in 1598. And he was Emperor of all of Spanish America as well as of Portuguese Índia.
D Filipe I kept Portugal´s affairs on a separate footing. He established 6 consejos each dedicated to different parts of his Empire (Castile, Aragon, Portugal, Italy, the Indies and Flanders) whose purpose was to advise the king on policy in their particular territory. These consejos were based in Madrid where he had established his capital by 1561. Spain was a young federal state, having been united by Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon (known as the Catholic Monarchs) just before the reconquest of Granada in 1492. D Filipe I´s titles were: King of Castile, Leon, Aragon, the Two Sicilies, Jerusalem, Portugal, Navarre, Granada, Toledo, Sardinia, Cordoba, Corsica, Murcia, Jaen, the Algarves, Gibraltar, the Canary Isles, the East and West Indies, the islands and lands of the Oceans, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant and Milan; count of Hapsburg, Flanders, Tyrol, Barcelona and Lord of Biscay and Molina. This was the order in which his possessions appeared.
The Portuguese with their own huge empire were upset at being so far down the list. There were Portuguese expectations that the capital of a united Iberia should be in Lisbon. Both Spain and Portugal depended on mastery of the Atlantic for the safe return of their treasure fleets, and it seemed reasonable and right that the king of the united kingdoms should reside near the source of his power. But not only was Lisbon not made the capital, but over the 60 years of the Union it received only two royal visits. It seemed that with their loss of independence Portugal had lost more than merely one king. The Portuguese saw that their country was in effect downgraded from a kingdom to a junior province of the Spanish Empire.
D Filipe I´s domestic policy was one of moderation; he allowed each nation within his Empire its own language, customs and national officials. He allowed the Portuguese to retain their own tax system and their own coinage and promised that he would appoint only Portuguese to the Consejo of Portugal. All officials in Portugal would be Portuguese and when the king returned to Madrid, his Viceroy would be a member of D Filipe´s own family. When D Filipe I departed for Madrid in 1583 he left his nephew, Albert of Austria, as Viceroy in Lisbon. Albert took part in the organisation of the Great Armada of 1588 and commanded the forces which beat off the English counter attack on Lisbon in 1589. In total there were twelve different viceroys (including two terms for D Cristóvão de Moura) and two government juntas each consisting of five Portuguese in the 60 years that the thrones were united.
In spite of the destruction wrought by the earthquake of 1755, even today we may stand amazed at the enormous investment in Portugal made by the three Spanish D Filipes in the built environment of churches, palaces and monasteries. Portugal was already under Italian architectural influence, but the employment by the D Filipes of Italians using the classical style of Andrea Palladio and the the mannerist style (estilo chão) of Sebastiano Serlio ensured that Lisbon became a city of outstanding beauty. The Italian architect, Filippo Terzi had arrived in Portugal in 1577 to serve D Sebastião was captured at Alcácer Quibir and ransomed by D Henrique. Terzi quickly gained the confidence of D Filipe I and became his trusted and prolific royal architect in Portugal.
The most important remaining Philippine monument in Lisbon is the royal pantheon of the church of São Vicente de Fora. This immense monument lost its central dome in the earthquake, but still commands a huge presence in eastern Lisbon. It was designed to celebrate regal and episcopal power and to commemorate the change in dynasty from Avis to Hapsburg. The mortal remains of nearly all of the Braganças are interred in this church. Another building of importance is the former headquarters of the Jesuits in Portugal, the Church of São Roque which was also completed under Terzi´s direction before his death in 1597. He was the architect responsible for the amazing ceiling painting. A huge trompe l’oeil, it appears to be a wonderfully detailed domed ceiling which is in fact flat as a pancake. It has only just been restored, and now is a good time to see it as it would originally have appeared.
There are many other treasures from the Philippine era in the rest of Portugal including the Convento da Cartuxa in Évora and the Fortaleza São Filipe at Setúbal (now a pousada). The Porta Férrea at Coimbra University is a stylish doorway that has become a metonym for the University, and the New Cathedral in Coimbra which began life as a Jesuit college is an outstanding example of the mannerist style. At Tomar, the aqueduct of Pegões Altas brings water over 5.5 km to the Convento de Cristo over 180 magnificent arches. Other Philippine additions to the Convento were splendid lavabos to receive the water from the aqueduct, the painted ceiling in the Sala dos Reis and the new sacristy with an ornate marble floor. At the headquarters of the Order of Christ one might expect the display of the Order´s cross, but D Filipe I made a subtle change to this cross. Instead of four equal arms, the new Philippine cross was lengthened in its lowest member. This new format was on display within the Convento in azulejo as well as in a magnificent gold and enamelled gift from the king to the Convento. D Filipe I also ordered the completion of the cloister begun under D João III, which includes the famous helicoidal staircase. The Convento of Christ is a Portuguese monument which includes buildings from many different periods, and to which the Hapsburg Filipes made outstanding additions.
In the Algarve no less than eight monasteries and convents were built during the sixty Philippine years. Unfortunately the Convento da Trinidade in Lagos, Nossa Senhora do Desterro in Monchique and Santo António de Parchal in Lagoa are now in ruins. Nossa Senhora do Paraíso in Silves is now a private house, and in Faro the convent of Santo António is now the GNR headquarters and the Colégio dos Jesuitas is now the Teatro Lethes. The churches of the convents of São Paulo and Santo António in Tavira are still used as churches.
As well as ecclesiastical monuments, the Filipes invested in the defence of the realm of Portugal, since Spain and Portugal were at war with England from 1585 to 1604 and with the Netherlands more or less continuously. Forts were built in the Tagus estuary for the defence of Lisbon and also in the Azores (the Fortaleza de São João Baptista) and on Madeira (Fortaleza de São Lourenço). In the Algarve Sir Francis Drake had sacked Sagres and Cape St Vincent in 1587 after ´singeing the King of Spain´s beard´at Cádiz. The Filipes set about restoring and fortifying the south west coast of the Algarve against the English pirates. Sagres was attended to, as were the town walls of Lagos and Portimão; the fort at Cape St Vincent was rebuilt as were the fortlets of Beliche and Baleeira. Santa Catarina at Praia da Rocha and São Luís de Almádena were started from scratch, and Filippo Terzi designed the fort of Pessegueiro south of Sines on the Alentejo coast.
Some Portuguese state that the kingdom needed a bit of a shaking up after D Sebastião´s costly adventure in Morocco. The consequences of the defeat at Alcácer Quibir nearly bankrupted the country and extinguished the royal house of Avis. For the new House of Hapsburg, the first two Filipes allowed the Portuguese some autonomy in line with the promises made by D Filipe I to the Cortes at Tomar in 1581. It was the increasing military and tax burden placed on them by the advisors to D Filipe III which made Portuguese prefer their own government to the centralised and demanding goverments in Castilian Madrid. As his Minister, the Count-duke of Olivares, increased the financial pressure, both Catalonia and Portugal rebelled.
This situation culminated in a coup d´etat organized by the nobility and bourgeoisie of Lisbon on 1 December 1640, sixty years after D Filipe I inherited, bought and conquered the throne. The plot was planned by Antão Vaz de Almada, Miguel de Almeida, and João Pinto Ribeiro. Together with several associates they stormed the Palácio Real in the centre of Lisbon and hunted down the collaborating Portuguese Secretary of State, Miguel de Vasconcelos. They discovered him hiding in a cupboard only when he moved and they heard papers falling; he was defenestrated and the king's cousin and vicereine the Duchess of Mantua, was briefly imprisoned before being expelled from Portugal. The support of the people became apparent almost immediately, and, within a matter of hours a reluctant D João, eighth Duke of Bragança was acclaimed D João IV of Portugal.
The moment for revolt was well chosen by the Portuguese because Felipe IV in the midst of the Thirty Years' War was also facing yet another revolt in Catalonia. Spain eventually found that it had the strength to retain only one of these territories, and chose to retain Catalonia and to release Portugal. After 28 years of war, Spain in 1668 finally agreed to relinquish all claims on the Portuguese crown.
The 60 years of Iberia United was over: Portugal was once again independent.