Today Portugal celebrates Our Lady of Conception’s Day. She was proclaimed the godmother and Queen of Portugal on March, 25, 1646, by the Portuguese King D. Joao IV, during the Independence Restoration wars (1640-1668) and after sixty years of Spanish rule (1580-1640). The kings of Portugal have never worn the Portuguese Crown again. The Portuguese monarchy ended in 1910.

In this post we’ll explore some historical traces of Portugal around Europe.

Zamora (Spain): birth of the Portuguese nation

The 5th of October 1143, in Zamora, in the Kingdom of Castilla y Leon (Castile and León) a treaty was signed between the King of León and Castile, Alfonso VII, and the King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques. By this treaty, Portugal became an independent country and the oldest European nation. Last summer vacation, on my way to Portugal, I visited Zamora Cathedral, where the treaty was signed and my country, legally, was born. As you may guess, it was a very special moment for me.

Zamora cathedral

Windsor (United Kingdom): a historic alliance with the UK

I like to follow the track of my country’s History. That’s why I also visited Windsor Castle two years ago.

Portugal and England became the oldest European Allies in the 14th Century by the Treaty of Windsor in 1386. The English Princess, Philippa of Lancaster (daughter of John de Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster) married our King D. Joao I. This royal couple were the parents of Henry the Navigator, the Prince who was responsible for the beginning of our maritime discoveries in the 15th Century.

Since then, many Portuguese kings and princes were knights of the Order of the Garter:

King D. Joao I, his wife, Philippa de Lancaster, their sons, Duarte I of Portugal, the Duke of Coimbra, Prince Pedro, the Duke of Viseu, Henrique, the Navigator, and the kings D. Afonso V, D. Joao II, D. Manuel I, D. Joao III, D. Pedro V, D. Luis I, D. Carlos I, Royal Prince of Portugal, D. Luis Filipe, and the last King of Portugal, D. Manuel II.

You can find all of their coat of arms in George’s Hall, the beautiful room of the Order of the Garter in Windsor Castle.

Windsor Castle

As you may already know, British people like to drink tea very much. The five o’clock tea was introduced to Great Britain by the Portuguese Princess, Catarina de Bragança, when she married the English king, Charles II, in 1662. She also introduced orange jelly and the use of tableware. She was also very popular in America. Queens was named in her honour. In Windsor Castle, you will see two beautiful rooms dedicated to Catarina de Bragança.

London (United Kingdom): Napoleonic Wars (1)

In London, near Park Lane, you can visit Aspley House, the house of the First Duke of Wellington. He had a major role during the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th Century, especially in Portugal. In an underground passage at the end of Park Lane, on the Duke Wellington Arch, you will see references to the silver Portuguese service, a masterpiece of the Duke’s living room House.

Edinburgh (United Kingdom): Napoleonic Wars (2)

If you visit Edinburgh Castle, you also will see in The Royal Scots Museum several pictures and information about the help of the United Kingdom to Portugal during the Napoleonic Wars.

Twickenham (UK): home of the last Portuguese king

Nearby the city of London, you can visit Twickenham, where the last Portuguese king lived following the Republic Revolution in Portugal in 1910. In Twickenham, you will find places and streets like “Manoel Road”, “Lisbon Avenue” and “Portugal Gardens”, named in honour of the 20 years that the king lived there.

Manuel I and his wife were great friends of King George V and Queen Mary of England, grandparents of Queen Elizabeth II. This friendship was an old one. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were first cousins of our King Fernando II of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, married with our Queen, D. Maria II. Both, Albert and Fernando, introduced the German Christmas tree in their adopted countries.

Amsterdam (The Netherlands): refuge for Portuguese Jews

Since December 2007, I have been living in the Netherlands, in Almere, located near Amsterdam. The first time that I visited the capital of the Low Countries, I went to the Portuguese Esnoga (Synagogue) and the Jewish Historical Museum.

The Portuguese Jews arrived in Amsterdam at the end of the 16th Century. In Portugal, their religion was not permitted at the time. So, they went to Amsterdam. They were known as rich and cultured people. Spinoza, a Dutch philosopher of the XVII century, had Portuguese Jewish ancestors.

The Sephardic Jewish community of Amsterdam, as the Portuguese Jews were known, acquired the site to build the synagogue on December 12, 1670. The construction work began on April 17, 1671, under architect Elias Bouwman project. On August 2, 1675, the Esnoga was finished.

Portuguese Esnoga

The Portuguese Jewish Community had a very important role in the cultural and economic development of the Netherlands, as you will see, if you visit not only the Esnoga, but also the Jewish Historical Museum of Amsterdam.

Franeker (Netherlands): an ancient Portuguese discovery

In the Netherlands we can also find more references to Portugal. Do you know Franeker in Friesland?

In this old town in the north of the Netherlands is located the oldest planetarium of the world: Koninklijk Eise Eisinga Planetarium. There you will find references to the Portuguese invention of the backstaff or back-quadrant (a navigational instrument used to measure the altitude of a celestial body, in particular the sun or the moon) used in the Portuguese Maritime Discoveries.

Koninklijk Eise Eisinga Planetarium

Brugge (Belgium): a Portuguese princess

Another beautiful city with Portuguese references is Brugge in Belgium. Our Princess Isabel, daughter of John I and Philippa of Lancaster, married there, with Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. They settled their court in Brugge, attracting many artists, bankers, and other prominent personalities from all over Europe. They are considered to have played a major role in the history of the Netherlands by recent historiography.


Regensburg (Germany): Christmas with relatives!

Finally, and because we are already in Christmas time, I think it would be fun to go to Regensburg, in Germany, and visit the Christmas Market in the Castle of the Prince of Thurn and Taxis. They are cousins of the Portuguese Royal Family. The late Prince was first cousin of the current Duke of Bragança.

Regensburg Christmas market

Photos used in this post are copyright of Sandra and her blog Presepio com Vista para o Canal.

Read more:
Portuguese blogs on Blogs of the World
Portugal in Japan: tempura and its origins
Rotterdam’s open market

About the author

Sandra Silva has been living in the Netherlands since December 2007. Photography and travel writing are Sandra’s main activities, alongside learning Dutch and organizing a life abroad. She is a passionate lover of her country, history, photography, poetry, her cat and old photos. Main hobbies are reading and travelling.