London prepares for King Charles III coronation
London prepares for King Charles III coronation

Portugal and the Coronation of King Charles III

In the House of Commons in 1943, Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously described the unique and ancient friendship between England and Portugal as an alliance “without parallel in world history”.  The friendship was founded in a Treaty of 1373, 650 years ago.

The Royal cousins

The relationship between Portugal and England dates from the late 14th century. As Prime Minister Churchill declared, the oldest continuous alliance between two nations began in 1373 with a Treaty signed in St Paul’s Cathedral in London between Edward III of England and D Fernando I of Portugal.  It was reinforced by the successor of D Fernando, and the Treaty of Windsor between Edward III and D João I of Portugal was signed in 1386.

During the time of the Hundred Years’ War, England sought allies against France, and Portugal needed allies against Castile. The alliance based in their common cause was cemented by the marriage of D João I to Philippa of Lancaster, grand-daughter of Edward I.  It was this family tie which proved the enduring factor in the relationship.

After the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, both countries again needed allies. Portugal had been fighting for 20 years against Spain to establish the rule of a Portuguese monarch.

The Queen Dowager of Portugal authorised the marriage of her daughter Catherine to the English King Charles; England gained a royal princess for her newly restored King, a valuable dowry, and possession of Tangier and Bombay; Portugal gained valuable military and diplomatic support against Spain.

British diplomats mediated the eventual Treaty of Lisbon in 1668 between Portugal and Spain to guarantee Portugal’s independence.

D Manuel II; his crown on the table
D Manuel II; his crown on the table

The Coronation

On May 6, 2023, for the first time in nearly 70 years, a new monarch will be crowned in Westminster Abbey. The style of the new king is Charles the Third, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of his other Realms and Territories King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. The coronation ceremony has been held in the Abbey 39 times since the coronation of Harold II in 1066.

Surprisingly, the coronation ceremony is not a legal requirement.  While the monarch succeeds automatically on the death of the predecessor, the coronation is the formal investiture and presentation to the people of the new monarch.

During the ceremony, the Archbishop of Canterbury will present the new king to the people, who will respond by shouting “God Save the King”. The new monarch must swear two oaths, and these are normally sworn at the coronation. The first is to uphold the law and the Church of England; the second promises that he is a faithful Protestant.


The tradition in Portugal was in some ways similar. Monarchs in this country were not crowned but acclaimed in a ceremony, which had no traditional format.

As from the acclamation of D João I in 1385, it was usual for the new monarch to be acclaimed almost as soon as he received the news of the death of the predecessor. This practical, popular and secular custom contrasts with the formal and religious custom in Britain.

New monarchs of the Braganza dynasty were acclaimed in the Palácio de São Bento in front of the parliamentary deputies. The last Portuguese monarch to be acclaimed in this way was D Manuel II on May 6, 1908, precisely 115 years before the coronation of Charles III. Let us hope that the coronation on the same day is a good omen.

Insignia of the Tower and the Sword
Insignia of the Tower and the Sword

The Crown in Portugal

Portuguese monarchs used the crown only when having their portraits painted. After D João IV had been acclaimed king in 1640, he placed the crown at the feet of the image of Nossa Senhora da Imaculada Conceição in the Igreja Matriz de Vila Viçosa, saying that she was the true Queen of Portugal. After that time, no Portuguese monarch ever wore the crown, and pictures of Portuguese monarchs after 1646 always show the crown on the table at one side.

Portuguese Royalty visits Britain

Britain has generally given a home to deposed monarchs and D António, Prior of Crato, claimant to the throne of Portugal, fled to England after his defeat in the Azores in 1581. António was the illegitimate son of Infante D Luís and continued to claim the support of Queen Elizabeth until he died in 1595.

The absolutist Infante D Miguel claimed the support of the Duke of Wellington and the Tories in 1827, but instead of concentrating on politics, he preferred to flirt with Princess Thérèse Esterhazy, and the Duke’s opinion of him fell.

Both Miguel and his niece and rival, Infanta D Maria were guests of the ailing George IV at Windsor. After losing the war, Miguel forfeited his allowance from Portugal and became a poor refugee, living for four years in London.

During the 19th century, as rail travel made long distance journeys easier, it became customary for monarchs and other royals to make official visits to the countries of brother monarchs.

Three Portuguese Kings visited Queen Victoria in Britain: D Pedro V and his brother D Luís came to in London in 1854; the new king D Luís again visited the Queen in 1866, but this time at Osborne House; and in 1895, D Carlos made his way to Balmoral in Scotland to receive the Order of the Garter.

D Carlos was a keen huntsman and, when he returned in 1904 with his Queen Amélia, his party claimed a bag of 4669 pheasants at Wood Norton Park.

The last King of Portugal, D Manuel II, visited Windsor in 1909 to receive the Order of the Garter; he returned in 1910 for the funeral of Edward VII; and again and permanently after the Republican revolution of 1910.  On October 5, 1910, the bibliophile King escaped by yacht from Ericeira to Gibraltar, and proceeded from there to Twickenham, where he died in 1932 at the young age of 42.

Marriage of Charles II and Catherine of Bragança
Marriage of Charles II and Catherine of Bragança

British Royalty visits Portugal

Before the advent of rail travel, the Duke of Sussex, one of the sons of King George III, stayed for three years at the Palácio das Necessidades, reportedly reading many theological books from the royal library. This stay led to the rumour in England that the royal duke was a papist.

In 1876, on his return from a visit to India, Edward, Prince of Wales, called in at Lisbon on the way back to England. In 1903, now King, the notoriously stout Edward VII visited Lisbon for a second time and, to record the visit, the Lisbon authorities decided to rename the green space to the north of Avenida da Liberdade. They gave it the title Parque Eduardo VII de Inglaterra.

In 1931, the new Prince of Wales, his grandson, also visited Lisbon. On seeing the seat used by the late king, he is alleged to have declared, “Nonsense! It isn’t nearly big enough!”

This prince was destined to make another visit to the city under a different name. In 1936, he abdicated the throne of the United Kingdom, and in 1940, as Duke of Windsor, he and his Duchess visited Ricardo Espírito Santo, the well-known banker, at his house in Cascais.

The prince was being hurried out of Europe to a sinecure post for the duration of the war. The Duke and Duchess left Lisbon on the Excalibur on August 1, 1940, heading across the Atlantic to the Bahamas, where he was Governor until the end of the war.

Queen Elizabeth made two visits to this country – first in 1957 and secondly in 1985. She was received with great enthusiasm on both visits. As there is no Portuguese monarch, it is the President of the Republic who made the return visits. Francisco Craveiro Lopes, António Ramalho Eanes, Mário Soares, Jorge Sampaio and Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa were each welcomed by Queen Elizabeth in Britain.

When he was Prince of Wales, our current king visited Portugal on two separate occasions. In 1987, he and Princess Diana visited Porto; and in 2011, the prince and his second wife Camilla visited Lisbon. Let us hope that King Charles will in his turn welcome the President of Portugal on an official visit to Britain.

Marriage of D João I and Philippa of Lancaster
Marriage of D João I and Philippa of Lancaster

Chivalrous Orders

The chivalrous Order of the Garter was founded in 1348 by King Edward III, to gather 24 knights in a bond of friendship. Its motto has always been Honi soit qui mal y pense  (Shame on him who thinks badly of it).

It was not long before the king decided to appoint members of foreign royal families, and Portuguese royals were adopted into the Order in two specific periods.

Between 1408 and 1510, eight Portuguese were appointed into the Order, one of whom was Infante D Henrique, known in Britain as Henry the Navigator; and between 1822 and 1909 a further seven, the last being D Manuel II, the last king of Portugal.

It is unlikely that any further Portuguese will ever be appointed since membership of the Order is in the gift of the Sovereign, and having expelled its own sovereign, Portugal is now a Republic.

Portuguese Orders have occasionally been awarded to Britons.  For example, Prince Albert and Edward, Prince of Wales, both in 1858 were honoured with the Portuguese Ancient and Most Noble Military Order of the Tower and of the Sword, of Valour, Loyalty and Merit.

This was the only Portuguese honour available to non-Roman Catholics, and there is a record in Tavira of another recipient.  The gravestone in Capela Santa Ana of the five-month baby son of Sir Edmund Keynton Williams shows that Sir Edmund was Comendador of the Order, being rewarded for signal service during the Peninsular War.


Tea and marmalade

There is a common misapprehension that Queen Catherine of Braganza introduced tea to England when she arrived as the bride of Charles II. In fact, China tea had been used for some years in England as a medicinal drug and, as an import from either Holland or Portugal, it was terrifically expensive.

The new Queen brought her habit of drinking tea to England, and made the custom desirable in fashionable circles. It was not until later that Indian and Ceylonese tea became much cheaper and more accessible across all segments of English society.

Catherine also brought to England the practice of drinking from porcelain tea bowls. These bowls had been imported to Portugal from China, and eventually became the fashionably essential means for drinking China tea.

Marmalade is another and more curious import from Portugal.  The word is clearly Portuguese in origin, but in Portugal, ‘marmelada’ has quite a different meaning from British marmalade. Not until the early 1700s do we begin to see recipes for marmalade made out of oranges.

In Portuguese, it refers to a solid quince paste and records show that, in 1524, King Henry VIII received a box of marmalade from Mr Hull of Exeter; this present must have been Portuguese quince paste.

Perhaps it was this present which Anne Boleyn tasted, since it soon became a favourite of the future queen. It was referred to in other correspondence as marmaladoo and marmalet.

The fruit ‘marmelo’ (the quince) is relatively tasteless and is, therefore, not popular as a fresh fruit. The word ‘marmelo’ is a common insult between Portuguese schoolchildren. Since it is a fruit without taste, it means a person with no brain, an empty-head.

Order of the Garter
Order of the Garter


By Peter Booker
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Peter Booker co-founded with his wife Lynne the Algarve History Association.