Portuguese Republic’s centenary celebrations kick-off

Celebrations to mark the fall of the monarchy in Portugal, which occurred in October a century ago, will start this month.

It was on January 31, 1891, in Porto, that the first attempt to proclaim a republic was made following the so-called English Ultimatum to Portugal over Angola on January 11 that year.

With the monarchy’s humiliating back-down over the threat of war with Britain, the press was seething with republican and patriotic sentiment, with the Portuguese Republican Party believing that the monarchy simply needed a push to bring the whole monarchic edifice tumbling down.

The civilian leaders of the revolt that January day in Porto, which included a lawyer, Alves de Veiga, and various intellectuals such as Santos Cardoso and Basilio Telles, believed that the whole venture was highly risky and stood little chance of success if parallel uprisings were not coordinated in Lisbon and other key cities.

The failed revolt, which was commemorated on Sunday in Porto in the presence of the Prime Minister, Jose Socrates, and the President of Porto Camara, Rui Rio, can be outlined in a few words.

In the early hours of January 31, various military brigades in Porto gathered together in what today is Praca da Republica.

The soldiers descended Rua do Almada and crowded around what was then the Porto Civic Hall where from one of its balconies, Alves de Veiga proclaimed the Republic and an actor, Miguel Verdial read out the composition of the new Provisional Government.

Informed that the Municipal Guard had been called out and had taken up a defensive position at the top of Rua Santo Antonio, the confident rebels, led by a certain Captain Joaquim Leitao, marched up to confront them shouting “Viva a Republica”.

The Guard, armed with machine guns, opened fire on the rebel republicans, resulting in a dozen deaths and scores of wounded.

Some of the rebels continued to take a stand in the city square in front of the Civic Hall but faced with intense bombardment, surrendered.

Fearing the population’s reaction, the monarchic regime tried the instigators in boats moored at the Port of Leixoes, condemning many to life imprisonment and the end of the failed republican uprising for 20 years.