portuguese king


                  The Grand Sanctuary Of Knowledge (Joanina Library)

“The Joanina Library (Portuguese: Biblioteca Joanina) is a Baroque library situated in the heights of the historic centre of the University of Coimbra, by the university tower. in the civil parish of Coimbra (Sé Nova, Santa Cruz, Almedina e São Bartolomeu), municipality of Coimbra, district of the same name.Built in the 18th century during the reign of the Portuguese King John V, it is part of the University of Coimbra General Library. It is a National Monument and has a priceless historical value being one of the main tourist attractions among the older monuments belonging to the university”

Old Statue of Don Afonso the Conqueror, the first Portuguese King.

His most famous victory was in 1139 at the battle of Ourique, where he defeated the armies of 5 Muslim Kings, during the Reconquista in Iberia.

The legend of the miracle of Ourique

Some years later after the battle, the idea of a miraculous intervention by Saint James in favor of the Portuguese appeared in the chronicles of the battle. 

Saint James (a.k.a. the Moor-Slayer) was widely venerated in Iberia, in such a way, that for centuries Iberian Kingdoms during war confrontations used a famous battle-cry exalting his name: (Por Santiago!)

In the legend, Don Afonso is visited before the battle by an old man who saw in a dream that Afonso would be victorious because God would intervene in his favor. He advised the King to leave the encampment alone when he heard the bell of the local chapel. Riding off he was surprised by a ray of light that showed him the sign of the cross and Christ on a crucifix. Don Afonso knelt in its presence and heard the voice of Christ who told him he would defeat the Moors, which he, through courage and his faith, succeeded the following day.

Afonso fought the Moors (Muslims) for 46 years.


Pinhal de Leiria was over 700 years old and it took less than 24 hours to be almost entirely burned to the ground

Queen Nzinga Mbande (1583-1663), sometimes referred to as Anna Nzinga, was ruler of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of the Mbundu people in what is now Angola.

As the favoured daughter of King Kiluanji of the Ndongo, Nzinga Mbande was brought up witnessing her father’s governance of the kingdom first-hand. He even took her with him when he went to war. Kiluanji made deals with the Portuguese who were expanding their slave trading operations in South West Africa, and this relationship was maintained when her brother Ngola Hari became king. However in 1617 the Portuguese Governor Correia de Sousa launched attacks against the Ndongo kingdom that captured thousands of Mbundu people.

In 1621 when the Portuguese invited the Ndongo king to take part in peace talks, he sent his sister Nzinga Mbande in his place. At her famous first meeting with De Sousa chairs were only provided for the Portuguese, and Mbande was expected to sit on the floor. Instead she commanded one of her servants to go down on all fours and act as her chair. During the negotiations Mbande walked a fine line between preventing the Portuguese from controlling the kingdom as they had done in Kongo, while keeping options open to trade for firearms to strengthen her armies. In this she was successful, although as a condition of the agreement she had to convert to Christianity and was baptised as Anna de Sousa, with the Governor becoming her Godfather.

In 1626 Mbande became Queen of the Ndongo following the death of her brother. Her reign began in peril as the Portuguese went back on their deal with her and declared war, as did other neighbouring tribes. Forced into retreat from her own lands, Mbande led her people south to the kingdom of Matamba, which she attacked, capturing Matamba’s Queen and routing her army. Mbande then installed herself as the new ruler of Matamba, from where she launched a prolonged campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Portuguese which would last for the next 30 years.

Mbande developed a legendary reputation as a warrior, although claims that that she took part in human sacrifice are likely the result of European propaganda and gossip. Accounts that she maintained a personal harem of more than 50 men are also unproven. What is known is that Mbande assembling a diverse army to oppose the Portuguese that included runaway slaves, defecting soldiers, and women. Exploiting European rivalries she made an alliance with the Dutch, which included acquiring her own personal bodyguard of 60 Dutch elite soldiers armed with rifles. Working with the Dutch, Mbande successfully defeated Portuguese armies in 1644, 1646, and 1647. However the Dutch were eventually pushed out of the region in 1648 and Mbanda was forced to carry on the fight alone. While she was never able to completely defeat them, she successfully resisted Portuguese invasion for decades.

Mbande continued personally leading her troops into battle until she was in her sixties, but the long war eventually wore both sides down. In 1657 she finally signed a peace treaty with Portugal. She then spent the rest of her life focused on rebuilding a nation which had been devastated by conflict and over-farming. She died of natural causes in 1663, aged 81. Today Nzinga Mbande is a symbol of Angolan independence, memorialised by numerous statues.

Statue of Don José I the Reformer, King of Portugal and the Algarves.

One of the most difficult situations faced by the Portuguese King was the Franco-Spanish attempt to conquer Portugal, by the end of the Seven Years War.

France and Spain sent an ultimatum in order to force Portugal to abandon its alliance with Great Britain and close ports to British ships. Don José I refused to submit and asked for British help. England sent a force of 7,104 men, which reformed the Portuguese army and combined together, they led 14-15,000 men in a victorious war against an army of over 50,000 enemies.

The Bourbon invaders were defeated by a combination of popular uprising, scorched earth strategy, famine and encircling movements by the regular Anglo-Portuguese troops, which like the militia, skilfully used the mountainous terrain of East of Portugal at their advantage.

The Spanish and French troops suffered staggering losses when they were driven out from Portugal, and were then chased into Spain.

The confrontations between Portugal and Spain in South America during the Seven Years War ended in a tactical stalemate. However, while the Spaniards lost to the Portuguese nearly all the territory conquered during the conflict, Portugal retained all its conquests.

This war is usually referred to as the “Fantastic War” or “Spanish–Portuguese War (1762–1763)”.

Accounts from 18th century authors about this war.

“The preservation of Portugal cost Spain its glory, its treasure, and an army. The Court of Spain ordered 40,000 men to march into Portugal, the Spanish forces, when they arrived at the frontier, were reduced to 25,000 men, and never did troops experience a more horrible campaign. The sick and the stragglers were almost all of them massacred. The ill-success of the campaign in Portugal covered Spain with dishonor, and exhausted her to such a degree as to keep her quiet till the peace.“

— Charles François Dumoriez

“The discrediting and destruction of a splendid (Spanish) army in the last entry [invasion of Portugal], persuaded Europe that our power was more imaginary than real. Portugal remains independent of Spain, and why our wars against it usually end in disgrace, which will continue until we take other dispositions.”

— Contemporary anonymous Spanish author

“There is no people like the Portuguese, tomorrow we will have one of the worst confrontations, I checked the front lines one more time, I saw many barefooted soldiers, captains that didn’t even have a sword, I found a sentinel patrolling with a musket without doglock, which means, the musket won’t protect him in case he’s attacked. From the hillside, a group of unarmed volunteers appeared and offered their services, I asked with what, they said they were counting on their bags filled with stones. Such honorable and incredible people I was allowed to lead.” 

— Wilhelm, the Count of Schaumburg-Lippe, who led the Portuguese army during the Fantastic War. (When the war ended, the Count of Lippe refused to receive any payment offered from his services to the Portuguese crown.)

The reign of Don José is famous for the great Lisbon earthquake, tsunami, firestorm of November 1, 1755, in which around 100,000 people died. 

From 1750 onward, the Brazilian gold supply (which made Portugal by far the largest gold owner on earth during the 18th century) started its irreversible decline, and the price of Brazilian sugar also fell as British and Dutch demand reduced.

Jerónimos Monastery was built to showcase the glorious wealth that the age of exploration brought to the Portuguese empire. The King donated the construction to the monks of the Hieronymite order, who were tasked with praying for the soul of the King and his family— likely no small task when considering the atrocities of Portuguese explorers and traders among plundered lands all in the name and with approval of their King. Regardless, for the next several hundred years the monks continued in their duties until the order was dissolved and the monastery abandoned in 1833. For a time it was a children’s school, but it gradually fell from its grandeur into disrepair thanks to earthquakes and neglect. Today, the monastery is a UNESCO world heritage site. 📸: Photo by Atlas Obscura user AdamTKincaid.


The Siege of Chaul, 1571

1,200 Portuguese vs 150,000 Muslims 

Source: “Homens, Espadas e Tomates” by Rainer Daehnhardt

Portugal’s sacrifice for Europe

In many previous posts, I have dedicated and focused my attention on amazing portuguese military victories. Including:

- The Battle of Aljubarrota (Portugal), in 1385:

6.500 Portuguese soldiers vs 31.000 Spanish soldiers

- The Conquest of Ormuz (Iran), in 1509:

380 Portuguese vs 52.000 Persians

- The Great Siege of Mazagão (Morocco), in 1562:

800 Portuguese vs 105.000 Muslim Moors

- The Siege of Goa (Portuguese India), in 1570-71:

 2.000 Portuguese vs 97.000 Ottomans   

- The Siege of Chaul (Portuguese India), in 1570-71:

1.200 Portuguese vs 150.000 Ottomans

- The Battle of Nagasaki (Japan), in 1610:

150 Portuguese vs 3.000 Japanese Samurai

Considered invincible through out the world, Portugal left the mark of its sword, rifles and cannons with great success for many centuries all over the planet.

However, they have also known defeat, and this time I would like to tell you about their greatest military defeat, the Battle of Ksar el Kebir, in 1578.

To give you a proper understanding of this battle, it is necessary to first go a little backwards in time. Portugal was founded as a county in 868 and was formed as a kingdom by the Templars in 1139 while fighting off the Muslim Moors during the Reconquista, who came from Morocco to invade Iberia. This war between Portugal and Morocco lasted from that period until the 17th century.

In the year of 1574, the King of Portugal, Don Sebastião the Desired, invades Morocco and leads a successful raid against the Muslim Moors, defeating an impressive number of nearly 10.000 enemies with only nearly 3.000 Portuguese, during Summer time.

Four years later, In 1578, he leads a new crusade, also during Summer time, against the Moors and the Ottomans, gathering a much larger force, consisting of nearly 20.000 men, including with 12.000 Portuguese, 3.000 Germans, 2.000 Castilians and 600 Italians. The number of the Muslim forces are inconclusive, but it is estimated it was between 60.000 to 100.000 Moors and Ottomans, with some Castilians on their side, disgracefully so. 

This battle lasted from 6 to 7 hours and I will try to resume it to you as best as I can, letting you know of how and what it happened exactly through out this very bloody confrontation, according to the chronicles of the period, which I had the pleasure to acquire.

The Battle

It begins at around 10am

In the front the fight was harsh. The soldiers watch the devastating rate of fire of their companions against their muslim enemies. It was a continuous fire that rained upon the adversaries. They all fired together, and after the first line of arquebusiers retreats to the rear, the second line takes its place, while the first reloads their guns. And so it was for a period of  time, without the Moors being able to take advantage of their numerical superiority.

Álvaro Pires de Távora, afraid of his men attacking without his consent, screams in front of the soldiers holding an halberd in his hand: 

«Senhores! Hoje é dia de cada um fazer o que lhe mandam, e ficar no lugar que lhe deram! Havemos de esperar pela ordem de el Rey, e matarei o primeiro que se desmande!»

English: «Gentlemen! Today you will do what you’re told, and stay in the post you were given! We will wait for the order of our King, and I will kill the first who flees!»

On the third line, Miguel de Andrada watches his comrades lowering their pikes, reading themselves to push foward, and as soon as the battle horns are sounded and the cannons fired «we charged the enemy». 

The Portuguese captain Alexandre Moreira, hearing the sound to charge, soon gained momentum. He orders the first line of arquebusiers to kneel and the second and the third to stand, reading them all to fire together.

He dismounted his horse and joins his men with sword in hand, screaming: «Agora hão-de ver como os portuguezes combatem em África!» 

English: «Now you shall see how the portuguese do battle in Africa!»

Then orders his men to fire at the Turks a beautiful volley of rifles. The disorganized mass of enemies that is a few dozen meters ahead suffers the effects of this sudden discharge of almost forty arquebuses. The amazing precision of these veterans, used to the wars in Africa, makes the Moors fall down to their deaths by the terrible gunfire they suffered.

Taking advantage of the result, the soldiers push forward.

«E com tal fúria com as picas baixas, os investimos, que os arrancamos, e fizemos fugir, de que muitos não pararam senão em Fés, e n'outras partes mais e menos longe com muito dano, e estrago que receberam de nossa arcabuzaria, que era como disse destríssima, e tirada dos nossos lugares de África.» 

English: «And with such fury with our pikes lowered, we charged them, we plucked them, and made them flee, many did not stop except in Fés, and in other parts more or less far away with much damage that they received from our arquebusiers, who were amazingly accurate, taken from our places in Africa.»

In that moment, the Portuguese King, who leads the heavy cavalry, shouts the typical Iberian battlecry and prepares himself to charge while screaming «Santiago, Santiago! A elles que são canalha!» 

English: «Santiago, Santiago! To them who are scum!»

He lowers the visor of his steel helm, holds his heavy lance, and charges with the whole cavalry battalion against the Muslims. All of the men followed the King as if it was a single unit, roaring on the ground a frightening avalanche that soon hits the Moors with so much force, breaking with such fury, that it opened them everywhere, killing and wounding those who faced them. And «in this way, wherever our horses passed, the field was covered with Moors and fallen flags.»

The portuguese pikemen and arquebusiers who are more at the front, around 300 of them, open way against the Moors, defeating them in close-combat with their swords and lances.

The horses of the right side had been defeated by the charge of the heavy cavalry commanded by the King Don Sebastião, and on the left side, the Duke of Aveiro engages himself in pursuit of the enemy, here also in retreat.

The portuguese cavalry, charging with great fury, stroke the Moors with such intensity that it opened them everywhere, killing and wounding those who found it with little resistance. 

The onslaught of the Christians seems unstoppable. The Moors, who had advanced, seeing the discharges of their arquebuses do not stop the advance of the approaching enemies, retreat, allowing the attack to develop.

This is the critical moment for the Muslims, for a moment they thought the battle was lost. The Moorish leaders can’t believe how quick their men are running away and from one side to the other, all they see is their soldiers retreating.

Suddenly, a frightening volley of arquebuses is heard, the leader of the Muslim army, Abu Abd al-Malik, is dead. The Portuguese shout «victória, victória, o maluco é morto!» While that, the moorish cavalry is again defeated by the heavy horses of the Portuguese King, who seem unbeatable.

After that, the King charges again with his royal unit of knights.

In front of him, the Muslims encourage their cavaliers when they see the Portuguese King approaching with sword in hand, thinking he would be an easy prey with such a small guard accompanying him. But the King Don Sebastião proves himself unstoppable. A fidalgo (portuguese nobleman) gives him a spear, and the King furiously threw it, striking one of his adversaries down dead.

Another moorish warrior, with great reputation of being an amazing soldier, was also quickly beaten, ruthlessly overthrown with some violent blows of the sword vibrated by a Don Sebastião who seemed invincible in close combat.

Meanwhile, the moorish riflemen suddenly focus their attention on the Portuguese King alone and fire upon him all together, who is wearing a beautiful bullet proof armor. However, he was hit in his left arm, while his horse fell down dead. The Moors hurl upon the prey, but his Christian Knights who escort him are alert. And Don Sebastião also defends himself like a lion.

A Castilian would later write that he saw him «on foot with his sword in hand, performing more prodigies of valor than El Cid himself.»

And again on horse, Don Sebastião throws himself against the enemy, with only around a hundred knights on his side. And so boldly charged on the Moors that it took them to defeat for a long period of time, leaving many dead scattered on the field.

The King was losing blood from his left arm ever since he was shot, and all of the left side of his armor was bloodied. He retreats to the rear and has some water, after 3 hours of fighting without rest.

Returned from the rear, he makes another charge over the infidels, and again forces them to retreat. But the enemy is too large, the resistance is coming to an end. The presence of the Portuguese King lift up the spirit of the soldiers for a while longer, but around 16pm, the resistance is finally beaten with a full charge of the muslim forces. It is estimated around 7.000 christian soldiers died, a heavy defeat, despite the courage revealed. The fate of the King, however, is unknown, for his body was never discovered on the battlefield.

Some years ago, the steel warhelm used by Don Sebastião in the great battle, was found, and with it, historians and investigators were able to discover details of what happened in the battle he disappeared from. The first details that brought attention, were the amount of sword cuts found on the helm, the biggest amount of sword cuts found on a helmet in the entire world is 23. This helm however, used by the Portuguese King during Ksar el Kebir, has 89 sword hits in it, revealing a very unusual and extremely violent environment. His helm and armor were entirely bullet proof and any sword that would clash in it would easily break itself, at least 70 swords were broken when hitting his helm. A special discovery on his warhelm, is the fact that it doesn’t contain a single sword cut on the back of it, which means the young 24 years old Portuguese King never showed his back to the enemy, nor any signs of retreat. An honorable warrior does not die with his back turned to the enemy, Don Sebastião never showed his’s. Imagine yourself being a King, taking 89 sword hits on your helm and never turning your back to your foes during a battle, takes a lot of guts. If you would like to see the warhelm here’s a link with an interview about it, I have subtitled the video, click here to watch.

According to the investigation of the German historian Rainer Daehnhardt, the Portuguese King alone killed around a thousand Moors and Turks himself during the battle…!

You might wonder, and rightfully so, why was this a sacrifice for Europe then?

Because the primary goal of this crusade, despite the defeat, was completely achieved. Ksar el Kebir was a very sour victory for the Turk Selim II, there represented by the Sheik Mulei Maluk, for he had three times more death casualties than Don Sebastião’s christian army. 

From the Battle of Ksar el Kebir, the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 - where Portuguese soldiers also participated - and the Battle of Matapan in 1717, the Ottoman Empire stopped expanding and began to deteriorate. 

Without these three particular battles, Europe would have, eventually, fallen to the islamic threat of the time.

The Portuguese Cistern, El Jadid (Morocco). El Jadida (Mazagan) is the site of Punic Rubisis and the old Portuguese fort of El Brija El Jadida. It is now a relaxed seaside town much favored by Moroccans. Built by the Portuguese, it evolved from a fortress, the Citadel; from 1513. It was one of the most important outposts for the Portuguese navigators sailing around Africa to reach the fabled Indies. The ramparts remain with their 5 bastions. A trip within the walls is a journey back in time with wrought-iron balconies still remaining, gleaming canons sitting just as they were left, gates bearing the escutcheons of Portuguese kings, a lighthouse now transformed into a mosque, a hospital, a prison, and a deconsecrated church. Most fascinating was the discovery made last century by a shopkeeper quarrying to extend his premises. He found a giant Portuguese cistern or reservoir, a jewel of vaulted gothic architecture. This underground wonder of the 16th century is believed to have housed munitions and also served as a fencing academy. Light from shafts above play on the water below. Orson Welles filmed “Othello” here.


Michael Jackson zipping up his fly during performing Another Part Of Me. (x)

anonymous asked:

Congratulations on your blog! I love Portugal !! Sebastian of Portugal is one of my favorite figures of all time !!! Saw your video about his warhelm, it is absolutely beautiful and intriguing! Can you tell me more about his first crusade? I tried to search matterial about it but couldn't find anything. Thank you!

Kind words my friend, I appreciate it. I actually made a recent post all about that first campaign, it also happened in Morocco and it was a successful raid.

I’ll tell you a bit about it nonetheless.

The Portuguese soldiers embarked to Morocco with a small force of 1.200 foot and horse, led by the King himself of course. It was an almost secretive departure, that can best be explained by taking into account the fierce opposition to his personal participation in the expedition, both by his grandmother and his uncle, the Cardinal D. Henrique.

The fleet anchored at Ceuta, one of the Portuguese holdings inside Morocco, and it remained there until the end of September. The time was spent organizing small probing raids that gave everyone a taste of frontier warfare. 

With no enemy movements taking place (at first) a brief, but most interesting military action was undertaken. The entire galley fleet, ten ships, was dispatched on a raid near the town of Tetuan. 

A little more than a dozen horse were landed, and after brief combat with assorted Muslim horsemen they re-embarked with three prisoners, under the cover of musket and cannon fire from the ships. The King sought to gain insight of the town’s surrounding field, just as he had done at Ceuta, and just a few days after arrival, several exploratory sorties were made. 

The presence of the Portuguese King would not go unnoticed for long.

News that the Muslim Sharīf was concentrating several thousand soldiers in the city of Fez arrived on 4 October, and on 8 October the opposing army was spotted by the Portuguese scouts. 

The Muslim forces (3,000-4,000 horsemen and 4,000-5,000 infantry) were approaching from the South, deployed in a crescent-shaped formation. With the enemy within reach, the King decided to fight in the open field.

A week of skirmishes between the Moors and the Portuguese followed.

By that time, the King and his closest officers had a clear picture of the local topography, enough to choose an adequate battlefield for a more vast assault.

The plan envisaged an interesting multiple articulation of static defences, infantry, cavalry, and naval support. The static defence was naturally provided by the fortifications of Tangier, and the deployment of the mobile troops sought to take advantage of the best static features. 

The mission of the naval forces was to ensure the enemy would find himself channelled so as to face the strongest defence nexus.

At dawn on 20 October 1574 the approximately 900 horse and 2,000 foot Portuguese forces left the town and manned the outer works on the west side.

Two infantry companies were placed astride the main roads thus controlling the land access to Tangier. Another two companies stood on the flanks, and plus 70 mounted arquebusiers went ahead of the army to harass the enemy as it approached the defensive lines. 

Two other cavalry squadrons occupied the two tranqueiras, and a larger squadron took position at the front.

The cannon and musket fire from the galleys pushed the enemies towards but, at the same time, this added further pressure on the defenders in the area, and the clash degenerated into a series of disordered skirmishes fought along the entire fortified front.

This prompted the King to finally join the front lines in the early afternoon, around 3pm, as a confused melee continued to rage until the very end of the day between the Portuguese and the Moors.

Convinced that the disordered skirmish on the day before could have been avoided had he been in charge, the King decided the next day to stand in the ranks of the army from the very beginning.

The next day, by 8am, the army took the field and spent three hours carefully building a nearly identical order of battle.

The only addition was to put some reserve cavalry in a flanking position: this consisted of 100 horse under Gonçalves, who took position in ambush behind a recently made tranqueira that closed off access to the north section of the town walls. The enemy hesitated to attack such a strong formation and tried to make the defenders leave their positions.

The King saw his opportunity to enter the front lines again, and ordered his cousin, D. António, to withdraw to the ravelin, leaving the way open for him to make a charge at the head of some 60 acobertados (portuguese heavy cavalry).

The noisy and irresistible onslaught of the heavily armoured horses quickly wiped out all the Muslim resistance, putting a sudden end to the fight. A scout sent out on Friday 22 October confirmed that the enemy forces had abandoned the outskirts of Tangier, leaving a long trail stretching over nearly three miles. 

On the following day the King engaged in some bullfighting, one of his favourite sports, and the troops began to board the ships.

Finally, on Monday 25 October 1574 the fleet left Tangier, and after a difficult return journey it managed to arrive safely at the Cape of São Vicente on 2 November.

Viva el Rey!