Liberal Wars

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Liberal Wars
Battle of Ferreira Bridge.jpg
Battle of Ferreira Bridge, 23 July 1832

Liberal victory, Concession of Evoramonte:

  • Constitutional monarchy is restored.
  • Dom Miguel renounces all his claims to the throne and goes into exile.

Flag Portugal (1830).svg Liberals
Supported by:

Flag Portugal (1707).svg Miguelites Supported by:

Commanders and leaders
Flag Portugal (1830).svg Dom Pedro
Flag Portugal (1830).svg Duke of Terceira
Flag Portugal (1830).svg Marshal Saldanha
Flag Portugal (1830).svg Charles Napier
Flag Portugal (1707).svg Dom Miguel
Flag Portugal (1707).svg Viscount of Montalegre
Flag Portugal (1707).svg Viscount of Santa Marta
Flag Portugal (1707).svg General Póvoas

The Liberal Wars, also known as the Portuguese Civil War, the War of the Two Brothers or Miguelite War, was a war between liberal constitutionalists and conservative absolutists in Portugal over royal succession that lasted from 1828 to 1834. Embroiled parties included the Kingdom of Portugal, Portuguese rebels, the United Kingdom, France, the Catholic Church, and Spain.

Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they generally support limited government, individual rights, capitalism, democracy, secularism, gender equality, racial equality, internationalism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.

Portugal Republic in Southwestern Europe

Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country located mostly on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It is the westernmost sovereign state of mainland Europe, being bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north and east by Spain. Its territory also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments.

Kingdom of Portugal kingdom in Southwestern Europe between 1139 and 1910

The Kingdom of Portugal was a monarchy on the Iberian Peninsula and the predecessor of modern Portugal. It was in existence from 1139 until 1910. After 1415, it was also known as the Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarves, and between 1815 and 1822, it was known as the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves. The name is also often applied to the Portuguese Empire, the realm's extensive overseas colonies.


Roots of the conflict

Caricature by Honore Daumier, depicting European powers, inciting Pedro and Miguel to war. Liberal Wars.jpg
Caricature by Honoré Daumier, depicting European powers, inciting Pedro and Miguel to war.

The death of King João VI in 1826 created a dispute over royal succession. While Dom Pedro, the Emperor of Brazil, was the king's oldest son, his younger brother Miguel contended that Pedro had forfeited his claim to the throne by declaring Brazilian independence. Pedro briefly entitled himself Dom Pedro IV of Portugal. Neither the Portuguese nor the Brazilians wanted a unified monarchy; consequently, Pedro abdicated the throne in favor of his daughter, Maria, a child of 7. In April 1826, to settle the succession dispute, Pedro revised the first constitution of Portugal granted in 1822 and left the throne to Maria, with his sister Isabel Maria as regent.

John VI of Portugal King of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves, emperor of Brazil

John VI, nicknamed "the Clement", was King of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves from 1816 to 1825. Although the United Kingdom over which he ruled ceased to exist de facto beginning in 1822, he remained its monarch de jure between 1822 and 1825. After the recognition of the independence of Brazil under the Treaty of Rio de Janeiro of 1825, he continued as King of Portugal until his death in 1826. Under the same treaty, he also became titular Emperor of Brazil for life, while his son, Pedro I of Brazil, was both de facto and de jure the monarch of the newly-independent country.

Pedro I of Brazil Emperor of Brazil and later King of Portugal

Dom Pedro I, nicknamed "the Liberator", was the founder and first ruler of the Empire of Brazil. As King Dom Pedro IV, he reigned briefly over Portugal, where he also became known as "the Liberator" as well as "the Soldier King". Born in Lisbon, Pedro I was the fourth child of King Dom João VI of Portugal and Queen Carlota Joaquina, and thus a member of the House of Braganza. When their country was invaded by French troops in 1807, he and his family fled to Portugal's largest and wealthiest colony, Brazil.

A new constitution

In the Portuguese Constitutional Charter, Pedro attempted to reconcile absolutists and liberals by allowing both factions a role in the government. Unlike the Constitution of 1822, this new document established four branches of government. The Legislature was divided into two chambers. The upper chamber, the Chamber of Peers, was composed of life and hereditary peers and clergy appointed by the king. The lower chamber, the Chamber of Deputies, was composed of 111 deputies elected to four-year terms by the indirect vote of local assemblies, which in turn were elected by a limited suffrage of male tax-paying property owners. Judicial power was exercised by the courts; executive power by the ministers of the government; and moderative power by the king, who held an absolute veto over all legislation.

A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with the executive and judicial branches of government.

The chamber of deputies is a legislative body in either a bicameral or a unicameral legislature.


Battle of Praia Bay, 11 August 1829 Batalha da Praia da Vitoria.jpg
Battle of Praia Bay, 11 August 1829

The absolutist party of the landowners and the Church, however, were not satisfied with this compromise, and they continued to regard Miguel as the legitimate successor to the throne on the grounds that according to the Portuguese succession rules (approved by the Cortes after the 1640 Restoration), Pedro had lost the right to the Portuguese crown, and therefore to choose a successor, when he took possession of a foreign crown (Brazil). They were alarmed by the liberal reforms that had been initiated in Spain by the detested Revolutionary French (reforms which the Portuguese feudal aristocracy had been spared) and took heart at the recent restoration of the autocratic Ferdinand VII in Spain (1823) who was eradicating all the Napoleonic innovations. In February 1828, Miguel returned to Portugal, ostensibly to take the oath of allegiance to the Charter and assume the regency. He was immediately proclaimed king by his supporters, who pressed him to return to absolutism. A month after his return, Miguel dissolved the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Peers and, in May, summoned the traditional Cortes of the three estates of the realm to proclaim his accession to absolute power. The Cortes of 1828 assented to Miguel's wish, proclaiming him king as Miguel I of Portugal and nullifying the Constitutional Charter.

Portuguese Cortes

In the Medieval Kingdom of Portugal, the Cortes was an assembly of representatives of the estates of the realm - the nobility, clergy and bourgeoisie. It was called and dismissed by the King of Portugal at will, at a place of his choosing. Cortes which brought all three estates together are sometimes distinguished as Cortes-Gerais, in contrast to smaller assemblies which brought only one or two estates, to negotiate a specific point relevant only to them.

Portuguese Restoration War 1640-1688 war between Portugal and Spain

The Portuguese Restoration War was the name given by nineteenth-century Romantic historians to the war between Portugal and Spain that began with the Portuguese revolution of 1640 and ended with the Treaty of Lisbon in 1668. The period from 1640 to 1668 was marked by periodic skirmishes between Portugal and Spain, as well as short episodes of more serious warfare, much of it occasioned by Spanish and Portuguese entanglements with non-Iberian powers. Spain was involved in the Thirty Years' War until 1648 and the Franco–Spanish War until 1659, while Portugal was involved in the Dutch–Portuguese War until 1663.

Brazil Federal republic in South America

Brazil, officially the Federative Republic of Brazil, is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers and with over 208 million people, Brazil is the world's fifth-largest country by area and the fifth most populous. Its capital is Brasília, and its most populated city is São Paulo. The federation is composed of the union of the 26 states, the Federal District, and the 5,570 municipalities. It is the largest country to have Portuguese as an official language and the only one in the Americas; it is also one of the most multicultural and ethnically diverse nations, due to over a century of mass immigration from around the world.


Landing of the liberal forces in Pampelido, north of Porto, 8 July 1832 Landing of liberal forces in Oporto.jpg
Landing of the liberal forces in Pampelido, north of Porto, 8 July 1832
Battle of Cape St. Vincent, 5 July 1833 BatalhaCaboS.Vicente.jpg
Battle of Cape St. Vincent, 5 July 1833

This alleged usurpation did not go unchallenged by the Liberals. On May 18, the garrison in Porto, the center of Portuguese progressives, declared its loyalty to Pedro (Dom Pedro IV) and his daughter Maria da Glória (future Maria II of Portugal), and the Constitutional Charter. The rebellion against the absolutists spread to other cities. Miguel suppressed these rebellions, and many thousands of Liberals were either arrested or fled to Spain and Britain. There followed five years of repression.

Porto Municipality in Norte, Portugal

Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and one of the major urban areas of the Iberian Peninsula. The city proper has a population of 287,591 and the metropolitan area of Porto, which extends beyond the administrative limits of the city, has a population of 2.3 million (2011) in an area of 2,395 km2 (925 sq mi), making it the second-largest urban area in Portugal. It is recognized as a gamma-level global city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Study Group, the only Portuguese city besides Lisbon to be recognised as a global city.

Maria II of Portugal Queen of Portugal

DonaMaria II "the Educator" or "the Good Mother", reigned as Queen of Portugal from 1826 to 1828, and again from 1834 to 1853. Born in Rio de Janeiro, she was the first child of Emperor Pedro I of Brazil and his first wife, Empress Maria Leopoldina and thus a member of the House of Braganza. One of the two surviving children born when Pedro was still heir apparent to Portugal, she inherited Portuguese titles and was placed in the line of succession to the former Portuguese throne, even after becoming a member of the Brazilian Imperial Family, from which she was excluded in 1835 after her definitive ascension to the Portuguese throne.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, relations between Pedro and Brazil's agricultural magnates had become strained. In April 1831, Pedro abdicated in Brazil in favor of his son, Pedro II, and sailed for Britain. He organized a military expedition there and then went to Terceira island in the Azores, which was in the hands of the Liberals, to set up a government in exile. The government of Miguel blockaded the island, but the blockading squadron was attacked by a French squadron during the run-up to the Battle of the Tagus, where several Miguelist ships were captured. In July 1832, with the backing of Liberals in Spain and England, an expedition led by Dom Pedro landed near Porto, which the Miguelites abandoned and where, after military activities including the Battle of Ponte Ferreira, Pedro and his associates were besieged by Miguelite forces for nearly a year. To protect British interests, a naval squadron under Commander William Nugent Glascock in HMS Orestes was stationed in the Douro, where it came under fire from both sides.

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Historical sovereign state from 1801 to 1927

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland.

Azores Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean

The Azores, officially the Autonomous Region of the Azores, is one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal. It is an archipelago composed of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean about 1,360 km (850 mi) west of continental Portugal, about 1,643 km (1,021 mi) west of Lisbon, in continental Portugal, about 1,507 km (936 mi) northwest of Morocco, and about 1,925 km (1,196 mi) southeast of Newfoundland, Canada.

Battle of the Tagus

The Battle of the Tagus was a naval engagement that took place on 11 July 1831 at the mouth of the Tagus river, in Portugal. A French fleet attacked and subdued Portuguese fortifications at the entrance of the Tagus, with the aim to strong-arm the government of Miguel I into recognising the newly established Kingdom of the French. The damage to the forts defending access to the Tagus and the arrival of French warships at Lisbon forced the Portuguese to cave in and comply with French demands.

In June 1833, the Liberals, still encircled at Porto, sent to the Algarve a force commanded by the Duke of Terceira supported by a naval squadron commanded by Charles Napier, using the alias 'Carlos de Ponza'. The Duke of Terceira landed at Faro and marched north through the Alentejo to capture Lisbon on July 24. Meanwhile, Napier's squadron encountered the absolutists' fleet near Cape Saint Vincent (Cabo São Vicente) and decisively defeated it at the fourth Battle of Cape St. Vincent. The Liberals were able to occupy Lisbon, where Pedro moved from Porto and repulsed a Miguelite siege. A stalemate of nine months ensued. Towards the end of 1833, Maria da Glória was proclaimed queen, and Dom Pedro was made regent. His first act was to confiscate the property of all who had served under Dom Miguel. He also suppressed all religious houses and confiscated their property, an act that suspended friendly relations with Rome for nearly eight years, until mid-1841. The absolutists controlled the rural areas, where they were supported by the aristocracy, and by a peasantry that was galvanized by the Church. The Liberals occupied Portugal's major cities, Lisbon and Porto, where they commanded a sizable following among the middle classes. Operations against the Miguelites began again in earnest in early 1834. Meanwhile, the Liberal army had suffered a sound defeat at Alcácer do Sal, which proved that, despite the Duke of Terceira's recent march from Faro to Lisbon, the south was still loyal to the Miguelites.


The Battle of Asseiceira, fought on May 16, 1834, was the last and decisive engagement of the Portuguese Civil War. The Migueliste army was still formidable (about 18,000 men), but on May 24, 1834, at Evoramonte, a peace was declared under a concession by which Dom Miguel formally renounced all claims to the throne of Portugal, was guaranteed an annual pension, and was definitively exiled. Dom Pedro restored the Constitutional Charter, but he died September 24, 1834.

Maria da Glória resumed her interrupted reign as Maria II of Portugal.

See also

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  1. "Belgian Corps 1832-35 in Portugal's Liberal Wars" . Retrieved 17 February 2013.