The Queen's Arrival and the Government of Miracles
The Absolutist Faction led by Queen-Dowager Carlota Joaquina had suffered a tremendous blow with the sudden death of Miguel, who was to become King of Portugal once he stepped into Lisbon, in accordance with their schemes. Now they were left without a valid candidate to gather the support of their cause. All of Carlota’s daughters except for Maria da Assunção were in favor of the new political order so the Queen-Dowager sought to place her Spanish grandson, Sebastião Gabriel, who had a powerful claim thanks to his mother Maria Teresa, who was Carlota’s eldest daughter, on the Portuguese throne. Sebastião had been born in Rio de Janeiro, in 1811 and was a Portuguese Infante which made him eligible for the crown.
But Sebastião had always considered himself a Spaniard and many Portuguese, including some of Carlota’s supporters, had reaped grievances with the Spanish throughout the entire period since the French Revolution began so there was no real consensus in supporting her ambition. Another powerful Absolutist, the Duke of Cadaval, probably the most powerful noble in the country, sought to claim the throne himself because he was a relative of the Royal House of Bragança, even if his support was smaller than the Queen-Dowager. Nevertheless, in hopes to achieve a compromise that would allow her schemes to go further with fewer conflicts, Carlota admitted that using Maria da Glória was probably inevitable.
The Liberals who had been wary of Miguel’s previous nomination to the position of Regent and feared the return of the Absolute Regime, saw this time as the best to make a move to assure that Liberalism triumphed. The responsibility of such a plan was given to General João Carlos de Oliveira e Daun, a grandson through the female line of the Marquis of Pombal and the man who forced the Regency Council to swear the Constitutional Charter of 1826.
With support from the capital and most of the army, Saldanha as he was known, he made a coup known as the Coup of the Marianos (Pronunciamento dos Marianos) which forced the Regency Council to remain in functions, until the Queen was of age, and appointed a new Government presided by Saldanha consisting on the following individuals:
It was the 6th Government of the Charter and the 1st Government of Queen Maria’s Reign. Colloquial it was known as the Government of Miracles not only for some of the extreme measures they took but also because of how long it lasted despite the opposition and internal problems it had to face.
It had three high-ranking soldiers (Saldanha, Vila Flor and Subserra), two jurists and economists (Trigoso de Aragão and Mouzinho da Silveira) and a diplomat (Palmela). Trigoso and Subserra had already presided over previous Liberal Governments and the others except for Vila Flor had occupied a portfolio in previous Governments as well. All of them were supporters of the Constitutional Charter and supporters of Peter I of Brazil’s decision to nominate his daughter as the Queen of Portugal.
As for the Regency Council that John VI had appointed it was composed of:
- Isabel Maria de Bragança, Princess of Portugal;
- Nuno Caetano Álvares Pereira de Melo, Duke of Cadaval;
- Patrício da Silva, Cardinal-Patriarch of Lisbon;
- Francisco Xavier de Meneses Silveira e Castro, Marquis of Valada;
- Marcos de Noronha e Brito, Count of Arcos.
Of these, the Count of Arcos was the only fully receptive to the Charter. The Princess and Cardinal-Patriarch were very conservative but despite it all, they accepted the new regime and kept a neutral stance and so did the Marquis of Valada. The only one who kept a staunch opposition to how things were going was the Duke of Cadaval who despite swearing the Charter kept criticizing the conduct of Saldanha’s Government.
As an irony of fate, on April 4, 1828, Maria II arrived in Lisbon. The reason for such irony was that it was her birthday, she turned 9 years old upon arriving in the country she was to reign. She was received in the Terreiro do Paço by the Regency Council members and the Government who wished her a happy birthday which she politely thanked. She reportedly told her preceptor and guardian, the Marquis of Barbacena: “Portugal seems fresher than Brazil, My Lord. I quite enjoy it already”. The man smiled as she was led to the residence that was chosen for her, the Palace of Ajuda.
The streets of the capital were filled with people wishing to see and greet the little girl that was now their Queen. Maria appreciated it a lot and thanked God for not giving her the same fate as the uncle she was meant to marry earlier that year. Upon arriving in the Palace of Ajuda, still in its never-ending construction period, she met her remaining aunts who remembered her only as a baby who also wished her a happy birthday and praised her beauty and growth.
From all of them, Maria became especially attached to her aunt Ana de Jesus, who was 21 years of age and the only one married with a baby girl named Ana Carlota as her daughter. She and her husband, the Marquis of Loulé, a staunch Liberal, had an affair before their marriage which resulted in her being pregnant during their somewhat forced wedding. She was quite lively and the most liberal of the daughters of Carlota Joaquina and she was the one that tried to befriend and spend more time with the young Queen.
Contrary to her mother Carlota Joaquina who refused to see her granddaughter, Maria da Assunção was present to welcome Maria II but she was cold and distant to her. The young Queen had been warned by her father and her preceptor of her grandmother’s behavior so she paid them no mind and enjoyed herself exploring the Palace and Lisbon. As the days went by she began seeing the first lickspittles who wanted to earn her favor, young ladies and men who did not wish to spend time with her because of her but rather her position. She grew jaded from this despite her young age and she quickly picked the nature of the individuals and their gruesome ambition, something she would use throughout her life. She excelled in her studies and worked hard to fulfill her dream of being a good Queen.
She would get very attached to her new preceptor Leonor da Câmara, a daughter of the second marriage of Luís António José da Câmara, Count of Ribeira Grande. Chosen by the Marquis of Palmela, Leonor had been a lady-in-waiting to Queen Carlota so she was victim of mistrust by both Liberals and Absolutists but the woman would showcase an extreme loyalty to Maria and supported her always, a fact that the young Queen appreciated deeply.
The Course of Action of the Government of Miracles:
Saldanha’s Government was quick to present stability problems. As noted, all the Ministers were Chartists but there were differences in their position in the political spectrum:
- Saldanha was at this time period quite radical and a Francophile with some of his opponents claiming he was a Jacobin and a Republican hidden in the closet thought this was mostly untrue;
- Palmela and Subserra were more moderate and former staunch supporters of John VI’s moderate regime having earned plenty of favors from him;
- Vila Flor was conservative and a former ally of Prince Miguel, he was also a member of the high nobility of the country;
- Trigoso de Aragão and Mouzinho da Silveira were pragmatic and neutral individuals but staunch supporters of Liberalism. They preferred to try to stabilize the others’ ambitions and conflicts in a common cause which was to assure the advancement of the Liberal cause and the assurance of political stability for the good of the country.
In fact, it was the reforms pressed forward by these two that marked the Government’s legacy:
- Private jurisdictions were extinguished. Lordships both secular and ecclesiastical with the exception of the Dukedom of Bragança ceased to exist;
- Taxes, contributions and tributes to private entities were abolished freeing the population from the nobility and clergy’s yoke which in turn paved the way to a stronger municipal power;
- In consequence of the former measure, the fiscal system of the country was reformed and standardized in order to fight the Portuguese financial crisis (nearly 32 000 Contos of debt or 32 000 000 Réis in 1828) but at the same time make these taxes fairer to everyone;
- Corporations of various crafts and all their restrictive rules were extinguished to stimulate a market economy;
- The Judiciary System was reformed to be stronger and more independent in accordance with the Charter. The Supreme Court of Justice was created;
- The Public Ministry was separated from the Crown;
- Civil equality for all men was promoted as stipulated by the Charter.
Of course, these reforms were controversial, even the noble Ministers such as Vila Flor did not like them because they lost a very substantial part of their income and prerogatives, which, in turn, limited their further action. This was seen in the controversial Abolition of Religious Orders which ended up not going forward for these reasons. It aimed to acquire the monasteries’ extensive properties to boost the country’s economy but it was postponed by making them part of the Public Ministry.
Another controversial Reform that did not go forward was that of the municipality fabric which aimed to abolish hundreds of municipalities and fuse them with the larger ones to facilitate the State’s control. This was seriously opposed by the populations of those threatened municipalities who did not wish to lose their privileges, even if said privileges became standardized throughout the country and they would lose next to nothing.
A less controversial Reform was that of the Administrative Divisions of the country which had been mostly left intact for centuries and pretty much all Deputies saw the need in improving it. But to what it should be changed to was a topic of much discussion and two main alternatives emerged:
- A more radical Reform that involved the creation of 17 Continental Districts that would receive the names of their capitals;
- A more moderate Reform that involved the division of the huge Province of Beira into two: Beira Litoral and Beira Interior; and the division of Alentejo into two as well: Alto Alentejo and Baixo Alentejo. Minor territorial adjustments would also be made on the others.
It was decided and approved in the Cortes that the dispute would be resolved after a General Census was conducted to see the state of the Kingdom’s population and how it was distributed. But even if approved, this decision still had opponents due to the costs of such inquiry among other reasons. Individuals were recruited to collect data from all the Kingdom’s Parishes as well as in the Azores and Madeira, priests were expected to contribute and every person was to be recorded with monetary fines being used to incentivize everyone to answer.
Mouzinho, Trigoso and Saldanha wanted to use the results of the Census to update the electoral map of the 1830 Elections but this did not happen because the data took longer to collect than anticipated and Vintista/Radical opposition united with some Chartists to prevent it from happening anyway as they deemed it unfair.
Saldanha’s Government appointed new Governors to the Overseas possessions to prevent separatist and absolutist movements as well as intervention from foreign powers though none were recorded. Like all the previous Governments since the Revolution of 1820, there was no concrete Overseas policy, the main objective was to maintain the territories, quell dissent and send in taxes and tributes to Lisbon.
On the other hand, as three Military Commanders composed the Government, they were very keen on reforming the Armed Forces which were still competent enough from the Napoleonic Wars but also stagnating from inaction, coups and counter-coups as well as the loss of Brazil. Saldanha delivered a speech on the 8th Anniversary of the Revolution of 1820, August 24, 1828, on the city of Porto with the young Queen present on her first visit to the second largest city of the country, where he said the following about reforming the Army: “It was the Army who brought us to this day, free of French and English control, with a Queen in our lands and it is the Army who must the defend the Constitution and our gracious Queen so that the country is not humiliated nor there is the need to evacuate the Government as it did back then.” He would repeat this speech in the Cortes months later in the presence of many Deputies and Peers who agreed with him.
Together with Vila Flor, Saldanha proposed a reform that would extinguish the Ordenanças that had been in force since the Restoration and whose origins were even older in favor of a system of conscriptions similar to the French Revolutionary model, that is, all men aged between 18 and 25 and those who were not married were bound to join the military service either as soldiers or members of a future Royal National Guard (Real Guarda Nacional/RGN) which according to both Ministers would completely replace the Militias and General Police Department (Intendência Geral da Polícia) and all the subordinate bodies to the latter.
Summing up, the ultimate goal of all of these Reforms was simple and clear: to defeat once and for all the Absolutist forces without a Civil War while also giving the necessary energy to truly modernize the country after all the perils it suffered since 1807. Such a notion would prove impossible because the Absolutists were pressured for almost two years of hostile measures against them and their only option was to retaliate somehow...not only that but many individuals felt galvanized and flocked to the Absolutists. The popular sentiment was mixed with some being happy to be finally free of the nobility and clergy’s jurisdictions and not needing to pay heavy taxes while others were afraid of losing their municipalities and many were also left to fend for themselves with the end of the corporations of craftsmen.
Opposition and Revolts:
The Queen Dowager and the Duke of Cadaval’s factions worked in the shadows against the Regime and their circles increased. The need for them to attack became stronger after the death of the Count of Arcos on May 6, 1828. In the Cortes, much was discussed in regards to what to do with the Regency Council. Nobody questioned the tender age of Queen Maria but there were plenty of individuals especially of the Left that did not feel the need to nominate a new Regent but in the end, the consensus was to nominate a replacement for the Count of Arcos though who was the big question...
The Vintistas proposed prominent people from the Revolution of 1820 but the Moderates and Chartists who controlled the Chamber of Deputies and Chamber of Peers were against it and instead proposed the Marquis of Loulé due to his relationship with the Royal Family and for his open favorable opinion of Liberalism. The Absolutists, on the other hand, pressed for either the Queen Dowager or José António Oliveira Leite de Barros, a lackey of the former who served in a previous Government. Nearly all of the Cortes united against these proposals which galvanized the Absolutists further. The chosen one ended up being the Marquis of Loulé who assumed his position as Regent on August 9.
Cadaval openly protested against the nomination but no one paid him any mind. Anyone but Carlota Joaquina who invited him and his lackeys to her schemes of a new Military Revolt similar to the Abrilada and Vilafrancada in which he would replace Prince Miguel’s position as Generalissimo. The objectives were as follows:
- Imprison the Queen and all the Princesses;
- Suspend the Cortes and imprison the Government, Deputies and Peers until a proper trial could be arranged;
- Take control of the entire country and restore the Absolute Monarchy;
- Erase any sort of opposition that could arise;
- Marry the Queen to her cousin Sebastião Gabriel and acclaim him as Sebastian II;
Both Cadaval and Carlota Joaquina were to hold the real power behind the throne with Sebastião and Maria acting as puppets Monarchs.
Carlota Joaquina and the Duke of Cadaval
Cadaval accepted and the preparations for the coup increased their pace and the details of how it was to be conducted were decided. Carlota Joaquina tried to get support from her brother Ferdinand VII of Spain but he refused because he was facing his own internal problems and could not nor wished to intervene in Portugal at least until the coup was successful. Sebastião also refused to travel to Portugal until he could enter Lisbon unopposed as he was worried about the success rate of the coup.
The months went by as the planning continued and finally on February 11, 1829, one year after Miguel’s tragic death, the Conspiracy officially began. Taking advantage of the date, Carlota Joaquina pleaded for her family, especially her granddaughter to come to visit her, so that she could apologize for the awful treatment she gave the child which was unfair. The Regency Council determined to answer positively to her plead but the Government was more apprehensive, especially Subserra and Trigoso de Aragão.
Once the Queen and the Princesses were safely inside the Palace of Queluz where Carlota Joaquina lived, they were, with the exception of Maria da Assunção, confined in rooms until the coup was deemed successful. Cadaval was informed of the success of the Conspiracy and led 2 000 men from Vila Franca de Xira to apprehend the Deputies and Peers that were in the Palace of São Bento, the headquarters of the Cortes. Some Liberals, despite being caught off-guard, escaped and organized some sort of opposition in the capital but they were at disadvantage. Throughout the country, Absolutists rose in support of the “Conspiração do Infante”, a clear homage to the late Prince Miguel.
Unfortunately for them, two key individuals escaped, one of them was Saldanha who escaped with the help of some loyal men and made his way to Santarém where his fellow General and Minister, the Count of Vila Flor was, after going there to inspect the troops and advance some military reforms that were still just mere thoughts that involved the Military Regions. Vila Flor suppressed the Absolutists in Santarém and began organizing an army to face Cadaval. On February 13, Saldanha joined him. And while these powerhouses made their moves, the unpredictable happened...Queen Maria ran away from Queluz...
According to reports, chronicles and the famous book by Camilo Castelo Branco “A Criada e o Cocheiro” which was based on real events, the Queen had been suspicious of her grandmother because the invitation had been so sudden that in her mind it made no sense especially because it had been clear that Carlota Joaquina despised her. So when she was confined to her room against her will and after hearing her aunts and Leonor complaining about the outrage, she realized her grandmother was trying to use her as a piece of some board game and she hated it. Not to mention that she hated the confinement, so she decided that she would escape for her sake and the Kingdom’s.
Having some knowledge about the harsh way of the world, Maria searched for the best way to get out of the Palace and she quickly realized it was impossible to do it alone, she needed help and the only ones that could help her were the servants and guards. Since she saw some maids feeling pity for her, especially the younger ones, she appealed to the sympathy, pity, patriotic sentiment and knowing how greed human beings were, she promised a financial reward. By February 17, Maria had amassed around her a small group of servants and guards willing to help her escape. Carlota Joaquina had underestimated her granddaughter because of her age and her servants too, especially their loyalties (Carlota was not well-liked by many who saw as her bitter and proud). On that same day, she dressed in simple clothes to conceal her identity and on the pretext of catching some fresh air in the gardens, she and seven maids escaped the precinct as two guards closed their eyes to the scene.
With three maids accompanying her, the Queen met a coachman named António who was in love with one of the maids, Luísa, (or so Camilo de Castelo Branco’s books say) who took them to Santarém. It took two hours before the guards loyal to Carlota Joaquina found Maria missing and they reported it to Carlota Joaquina who was said to have screamed from shame and anger for two hours...Searches were made but they became a laughing stock in Portugal and the world for allowing a 9 years old girl to escape.
After a week of preparation, Saldanha and Terceira had amassed an army of 5 000 men whose command was divided by the two of them. They were to leave for Lisbon on February 20 but on the dawn of the 19th, they were surprised by the arrival of the Queen. Her escape had led to both amusement as stated and worry for obvious reasons and when they asked if she was okay, she replied: “Your Excellencies, I’m better than okay. I had a pleasant journey here and I did not need to sign any documents for the past ten days. Unfortunately, I still do not know the face of my grandmother but I’m more than sure she will not look good with her anger...”
The girl’s good disposition and sharp wit despite her age ended up raising the spirits of the troops as her words spread like the wind. Saldanha is credited to have said this to boost their morale and convictions further. “Gentlemen, we have a Queen worthy of her ancestors! Let us take the capital in her name for the good of Portugal!” As the two Generals left on the planned day and their upcoming arrival reached the ears of the population of Lisbon, they rose in favor of the Queen with the following chants: “Praise the genial Queen who is smarter than the Great Ones in Portugal!” (Louvai a Rainha que é mais genial que os Grandes de Portugal!).
Many did not even know or cared about Liberalism but the Queen...that was another matter altogether...Cadaval tried to suppress the revolts but he had to engage the Generals which he did at the Battle of Olivais, on the outskirts of the capital, was fought on early February 22 and it was won by the Generals who were better commanders, had more troops and were far more motivated. The Duke fled as soon as the table turned against him but he was captured on the following day near the town of Cartaxo by supporters of the Constitutional Charter.
Before making the triumphal march to Lisbon, Saldanha and Vila Flor went to the Palace of Queluz and released the Princesses who were still abashed by what young Maria had done and she replied to them. “Dear aunts, I did nothing more than what my country required of me.” Carlota Joaquina was still there, her shame was such that she refused to leave and accepted her punishment which was being confined in the same room Afonso VI had been confined in the Palace of Sintra where she would die from natural causes or perhaps suicide on January 11, 1830. Ferdinand VII of Spain tried to free her but Portugal refused and tension between both countries rose but no war came.
With the Princesses secured, the heads of the Conspiracy captured, the Liberals entered Lisbon with plenty of cheers though most of these went to the young Queen who despite being in the country for almost just a year, was highly popular and a symbol of Liberalism, struggle against oppression and of hope. As the Queen promised, all those who helped her received a monetary prize and were also employed at the Palace of Ajuda which was her official residence.
Maria II in 1829 in a painting following the Conspiracy
All the Deputies, Peers and Ministers that had been arrested were released and the remaining Absolutist insurrections, the one in Trás-os-Montes commanded by the Marquis of Chaves, Manuel da Silveira Pinto da Fonseca Texeira, being the hardest one to suppress and lasted all the way to his death on March 7, 1830, after which his troops surrendered. Cadaval was dismissed from the Regency Council and a new slot opened and this time the choice fell on General Luís do Rego Barreto, a ruthless but respected man and supporter of the Charter who took his position as Regent on March 12, 1829. The Cortes also debated whether or not to allow the candidacies of Absolutists for the upcoming Elections and the verdict ended up in favor of forbidding them to join as a political faction so if any wanted to run for the position of Deputy, he had to do so as an Independent. Sebastião Gabriel de Bourbon e Bragança was also barred from entering Portugal and projects to exclude him of the line of succession were also started.
My apologies for how long the Update took, I wasn't happy with the way I handled the whole Conspiracy mostly because I was unsure if a Nine Year Old could pull some of the stunts I wrote but then decided to go with this version and there is plenty of examples in fiction in which kids pull something similar besides I think I did decent in keeping it ambiguous to the truth of some statements by putting a Romance book in the mix. Hopefully, the next Updates will come faster, I'm thinking that next might be smaller and focus in the Empire and then perhaps one for Brazil before I start covering the Elections. If anyone has suggestions especially regarding the Conspiracy I'm all ears. Without further ado, thank you for sparing time reading and I hope everyone has a nice day.