The revolution of 1640 and Portuguese independence. – The Count Duke of Olivares, the minister and favorite of Philip IV, had sent the Duchess of Mantua, Margherita of Savoy, as regent to Portugal, and, through her and a Portuguese secretary of state entirely loyal to Spain, Miguel de Vasconcelos, exercised his oppressive rule. In 1637 some Portuguese cities and especially Évora revolted because of the taxes. When the insurrection was tamed, Olivares burdened Portugal with an enormous contribution. When Catalonia rebelled for identical reasons in 1640, the Spanish government abused Portuguese troops to fight the insurrection, which increased the indignation of the nobility and the people. On 1 December 1640, following a conspiracy of nobles, the government palace was invaded and three of the main members of the government, including M. Vasconcelos, were massacred to the enthusiasm of the people. The Duke of Braganza was acclaimed king, with the name of John IV, and the movement spread throughout the country: the Côrtes, convened in 1641 by the new king, affirmed the principle of national sovereignty, according to which “the power of the king comes from originally by the nation, which is responsible for deciding on matters of succession “.
The gold of Brazil. – John V (1706-1750), who succeeded his father Peter II, explained a pomp imitated by that of the court of Versailles and which was made possible by the proceeds of gold and diamonds from Brazil. Extremely devoted, he built very rich chapels and the monumental convent of Mofra, once a royal palace; but to devotion he added debauchery. He established new dioceses in Brazil and obtained from the pope, through large oblations, the elevation of Lisbon to a patriarchal see. But, having denied the cardinal’s hat to the nuncio Bichi, its protege, the Holy See broke off relations with it. He sent a team to help the pontiff against the Turks, a team that participated in the battle of Cape Matapan (1717). Like his father, he ruled as an absolute monarch and never summoned the Côrtes, which fell entirely into disuse. He founded the
Il governo di Pombal. – His son, Joseph I (1750-1777), was lucky enough to find a great minister in Carvalho and Mello, Marquis of Pombal, who was, during the reign of his monarch, the only head of the government. He was the typical advocate of absolutism. Of small nobility, he did not forgive the high court aristocracy the contempt that this had shown him at the beginning. Made well deserving for the reconstruction, according to a grandiose plan, of the city of Lisbon destroyed in 1755 by the earthquake, he took the opportunity of an attack of which the king was almost the victim (1758) to overthrow the power of the nobility, and sent to execution amidst cruel torments, the royal butler, Duke of Aveiro and various members of the Tavora family (including the marquise of this name), as instigators of the attack. At the same time he tried to destroy the influence of the Jesuits, confessors to the king, queen and princes: accused of complicity in the attack, he had the goods of the Company confiscated in January 1759, and in September he expelled all the Jesuits from Portugal. It gave the court of the Inquisition a new look, transforming it into a defense organ of the government.
According to GETZIPCODES.ORG, the reforming activity of Pombal was widely practiced in all fields: it protected industries (silk, wool, paper, glass); he promoted the cultivation of cereals and vines, creating a company for the production of luxury wines in the upper Douro; he favored the foundation in Brazil of the Compagnia del Pará; he reorganized the army and navy, reformed the university and opened elementary and middle schools, as well as a college for the nobles. He abolished slavery in Portugal, and declared the Indians of Brazil free. He reorganized the administration and finance by creating the royal treasury.
With the death of Joseph I, who was succeeded by his daughter Maria (1777-1816), mentally ill and dominated by a camarilla, the Pombal fell victim to the numerous enemies it had procured. On trial, he was sentenced to reside in his lands, twenty leagues from the court. Various laws issued by him against the Church were revoked, and Jesuits were allowed entry, as long as they did not form communities. The cultural movement which began under Joseph I continued with the founding of schools of navy, fortification and artillery, of drawing, of a public library, of a board of directors of the studies and of the Royal Academy of Sciences (the current Academy of sciences of Lisbon).
Regency of the prince of Brazil. – After the death of the king consort Peter III and his son Prince Joseph, the queen’s mental illness worsened until it reached manifest alienation (1792). The second-born son, Giovanni, assumed the regency.
Revolutionary ideas, disseminated mainly by foreign traders, alarmed the court; the Portuguese government allied itself with Spain against France and sent a contingent of troops to the Pyrenees (Roussillon campaign, 1793).
But Spain later allied itself with France, declaring war on England (1796) and negotiating the partition of Portugal with the ally. In 1801 the Spaniards invaded Portugal, taking possession of various fortresses, including that of Olivença, which was never returned. The Peace of Madrid (September 1801) was disadvantageous for Portugal.