Duke of Braganza

The Duchy of Bragança or Braganza is one of the most important titles of the Portuguese Royal Family. Since the accession to the throne of the Dynasty of Bragança, in 1640, the heir of the Portuguese Crown is the Duke of Bragança, a tradition that lasted even after the foundation of the Republic in October 5 1910.



The Duchy of Bragança was created in 1442 by king Afonso V of Portugal for his uncle Afonso, Count of Barcelos (natural son of John I of Portugal). Along with the duchies of Coimbra and Viseu created by João I for his sons Dom Pedro and Dom Henrique after their capture of Ceuta from the Moors in 1415, it is one of the first duchies of Portugal.

The Braganças soon became the most powerful house of the kingdom, due to the enrichment policies of Afonso, the first duke. He always sought royal favour with his father João I and his younger brother (King Duarte). When his six-year-old nephew became King Afonso V of Portugal, Afonso was the king's most cherished councillor. This would provoke a short civil war against his brother Pedro, Duke of Coimbra that ended in his death in the Battle of Alfarrobeira in 1449.

The growing power of the Braganças was suppressed in the next generation. King João II was very strict on where royal power should be and not to keen on allowing the development of a competing polity within his own borders. He executed the third duke, Fernando II, for treason, based on letters written to the king of Castile. Later the king annexed the Bragança lands and riches to the crown and exiled the four-year-old heir, Jaime, to Castile.

João II's successor, King Manuel I of Portugal was uncle of Jaime and, in 1500, he recalled his nephew to Portugal, returning to him the titles and (part of) the lands of Bragança. The house was once again at the peak. Jaime of Bragança ordered the construction of a monumental Palace at Vila Viçosa, which would become one of the royal palaces in the 17th century.

The sixth duke, João, married Princess Catarina of Portugal and sired the courageous seventh duke Teodósio, who fought actively in the Battle of Alcacer Quibir (1578) when only ten years old.

Meanwhile, the Portuguese kingdom was in crisis. King Sebastian I of Portugal disappeared from the face of the earth in Africa in 1578. He was childless and the crown was transferred to his great-uncle Cardinal Henry I of Portugal, an old man without sons himself. On Henry I's death in 1580, King Philip II of Spain became Philip I of Portugal and the country lost its independence.

By 1640 the wise policies of Philip II in respect of Portugal were long past. The country was overtaxed, Portuguese overseas possessions were left unprotected and the Spanish king, Philip IV of Spain (III of Portugal), no longer had the trust or support of the majority of the Portuguese nobility. He was especially loathed by the powerful Portuguese guild of merchants. Portugal was on the verge of rebellion and a new Portuguese king had to be found. The choice fell upon the eighth duke, João II of Bragança, who had a claim both through his grandmother, Princess Catarina, and through his great-great-grandfather, the 4th duke, nephew of King Manuel. The duke was a modest man without particular ambitions to the crown. Legend says that his wife, Leonor of Guzman, daughter of the duke of Medina-Sidónia, urged him to accept the offer saying, I'd rather be Queen for one day than duchess for a lifetime. He accepted the leadership of the rebellion, which was successful, and was acclaimed João IV of Portugal on December 1 1640.

After the accession of the Braganças to the throne, the duchy was linked to the Crown and the Duke of Bragança became the traditional title of the heir to the Crown, as Prince of Wales is in the United Kingdom.

In February 1 1908, king Carlos I of Portugal was murdered with his oldest son and heir, Luis Filipe, 21st duke of Bragança. He was succeeded by Manuel II of Portugal but for a short time: in October 5 1910, a Republic was instituted and the king was exiled to England. After this, the duchy of Bragança passed to Miguel II, son of the exiled king Miguel I of Portugal, who was living in the Austrian Empire. His branch of the Bragança family became heir to the crown in 1932 when Manuel II died without children. The Braganças were authorized to return to the country in 1950 and have lived there ever since.

Presently, the duke of Bragança and Portuguese heir is Duarte Pio of Bragança (born 1945). Unlike European countries like Greece, which continues to forbid the presence of the heirs of former royal houses in their lands, republican Portugal and its claimants to the throne have long been reconciled, with the current duke highly regarded throughout Portugal, a fact shown when among the guests at his wedding was the Portuguese President of the Republic and the country's prime minister. The Duke of Bragança is sometimes described as the living representative of the country's history, with the birth of his children, the next generation of Portugeses ex-royals, becoming a focus of national celebration.

Dukes of Bragança

Note: dates are birth and death; the intermediate date represents accession as duke

Claimants of the Duchy of Braganza

External link

it:Duchi di Bragança ja:ブラガンサ王朝 pt:Duque de Bragança


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