Portuguese history meme — five deaths/assassinations/executions [1/5]
The Távora Affair
The Távora affair was a political scandal of the 18th century Portuguese court. The events triggered by the alleged murder attempt of King José I of Portugal in 1758 ended with the public execution of the Távora family (high nobility) and its closest relatives in 1759.
On the night of 3rd September 1758, King José I was riding in an unmarked carriage on a secondary, unfrequented road on the outskirts of Lisbon. The king was returning to the tents of Ajuda after an evening with his mistress, Teresa de Távora. Somewhere along the way two or three men intercepted the carriage and fired on its occupants. José I was shot in the arm and his driver was badly wounded, but both survived and returned to Ajuda.
Secretary of State (equivalent to today’s Prime Minister) Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo took control of the situation. Concealing the attack and the king’s injuries, he initiated a swift enquiry. A few days later two men were arrested for the shootings and tortured. The men confessed their guilt and stated that they were following the orders of the Távora family, who were plotting to put the Duke of Aveiro on the throne. Both men were hanged the following day, even before the attempted regicide was made public.
- Arrest, trial and sentence
In the following weeks the Marchioness Leonor of Távora, her husband the Count of Alvor, and all of their sons, daughters and grandchildren were imprisoned. Alleged conspirators, the Duke of Aveiro and the Távoras’ sons-in-law, the Marquis of Alorna and the Count of Atouguia, were arrested with their families. Gabriel Malagrida, the Jesuit confessor of Leonor of Távora, was also arrested.
All were accused of high treason and attempted regicide. The evidence presented in their common trial was simple: a) the confessions of the executed assassins; b) the murder weapon belonging to the Duke of Aveiro; and c) the assumption that only the Távoras would have known the whereabouts of the king on that evening, since he was returning from a liaison with Teresa of Távora (who was also arrested).
The Távoras denied all charges but were eventually sentenced to death. Their estates were confiscated by the crown, their palace in Lisbon destroyed and its soil salted, their name erased from the peerage and their coat-of-arms outlawed.
The original sentence ordered execution of entire families, including women and children. Only the intervention of Queen Mariana and Maria Francisca, heiress to the throne, saved most of them.
The Marchioness, however, was not spared. She and the other defendants sentenced to death were publicly tortured (they had already been so in private in order to obtain confessions) and executed on 13th January 1759, in a field near Lisbon. The king was present with his bewildered court. The Távoras were their peers and kin, but the prime minister wanted the lesson driven home.
The execution was violent, even for those times. Different parts of the men’s bodies were crushed (legs, arms, chest), heads were decapitated, the rest of their bodies burned and their ashes thrown into the river Tagus. The Marchioness Leonor was beheaded.
Afterwards the ground was salted, to prevent future growth of vegetation.
Gabriel Malagrida was burned at the stake in September 1761 and the Jesuit Order outlawed that same year. All its estates were confiscated and all Jesuits expelled from Portuguese territory, both in Europe and the colonies.
The Alorna family and the daughters of the Duke of Aveiro were sentenced to life imprisonment in various monasteries and convents. Only after the beginning of Queen Maria I’s reign in 1777, who had been deeply affected by these events, were they freed.
Sebastião de Melo was made Count of Oeiras for his competent handling of the affair, and later, in 1770, was promoted to Marquis of Pombal, the name by which he is known today.
- Guilty or innocent?
The guilt or innocence of the Távoras is still debated today by Portuguese historians. On the one hand, the tense relations between the aristocracy and the king are well documented. The lack of a male heir to the throne displeased most of them and, indeed, the Duke of Aveiro was a possible candidate for succession (this title had first been given to João de Lencastre in 1547, the son of Jorge de Lencastre, who in turn was the bastard son of King João II).
On the other hand, some refer to a convenient coincidence: with the conviction of the Távoras and the Jesuits, all enemies of Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo disappeared and the nobility was tamed. Moreover, the Távoras’ defenders argue that the attempted murder of José I might have been a random attack by highway robbers, since the king was traveling without guard or sign of rank on a dangerous Lisbon road. Some say that the shots were for Pedro Teixeira (owner of the carriage where the king travelled undercover), with whom the Duke of Aveiro had problems. Another clue to possible innocence is the fact that none of the Távoras or their allies tried to escape from Portugal in the days following the attack. [x] [x] [x]
John II of Portugal (1455-1495)
The Perfect Prince ( o Príncipe Perfeito) was the son of King Afonso V of Portugal by his wife Isabella of Coimbra. Queen Isabella died when John and his older sister Joanna were still very young, and both grew close to their aunt, Filipa, an artist and scholar who wrote the first extant poetry by a Portuguese woman. Prince John was provided with an education suitable for a royal, which included fluency in Latin and a knowledge of science and art. He was married to his cousin Eleanor of Viseu in 1471. Prince John was 15 at the time, and his spouse just 12. They had two sons, but only one of them survived childhood. Even at a young age, John was not popular among the peers of the kingdom since he was immune to external influence and appeared to despise intrigue. The nobles were afraid of his future policies as king.
John participated in his father’s conquest of Arzila in Morocco, where he was knighted, and was given a separate household at Beja in southern Portugal. In 1474 his father entrusted him with the “trade of Guinea” and the African explorations. When Afonso V claimed the Castilian throne in opposition to Isabella I, plunging Portugal into war, he appointed John his regent. The Prince mobilized an army and marched to support his father, but the venture was a disastrous one. In August 1481, he succeeded Afonso V and became King John II of Portugal.
John II was an astute politician and statesman, and a patron of Renaissance art and learning. John II took a series of measures to curtail the overgrown power of his aristocracy and to concentrate power in himself. Immediately, the nobles started to conspire. Letters of complaint and pleas to intervene were exchanged between the Duke of Braganza and Queen Isabella I of Castile. In 1483, this correspondence was intercepted by royal spies. The House of Braganza was outlawed, their lands confiscated and the duke executed in Évora. In the following year, the Duke of Viseu, John’s cousin and brother-in-law, was summoned to the palace and stabbed to death by the king himself for suspicion of a new conspiracy. Many other people were executed, murdered, or exiled to Castile including the bishop of Évora who was poisoned in prison. Following the crackdown, no one in the country dared to defy the king and John II saw no further conspiracies during his reign. The nobles who sided with John II or surrendered were forced to make public pledges of loyalty; in return they were given certain privileges, yet they still had to pay taxes.
John II took in Jewish refugees from Spain’s famous 1492 expulsion, and founded what was the most modern medical facility in the world at the time, All Saints Hospital in Lisbon. John II’s royal treasury financed numerous expeditions that mapped out the African coast. King John refused to help Columbus, whom he thought a dreamer, but he encouraged the search for an eastern sea route to India. In 1484, Diogo Cão discovered the Congo, and in 1488, Bartholomeu Diaz discovered the Cape of Good Hope. John II maintained peace with Spain and signed the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, setting bounds for Spanish and Portuguese colonial expansion. Her son Prince Afonso died in a horse riding accident, and four years later, King John II died at Alvor aged only 40 years old, without leaving a male heir apparent. He was succeeded by his first cousin Manoel I. King John II of Portugal was admired as one of the greatest European monarchs of his time. Isabella I of Castile usually referred to him as El Hombre (The Man).
Álvaro Monje played John II of Portugal in TV Series “Isabel”
Chapel of Saint John the Baptist at Saint Roch Church. Lisbon.
Carolina Beatriz Ângelo (1878 - 1911) was a feminist, republican activist and suffragette. She was the first woman to vote in the elections of the Assembly the year after the implementation of the Republic, in 1911.
The law stated that citizens above the age of 21 and «chefes de família» - householders - were allowed to vote. In portuguese, the masculine plural of householders doesn’t descriminate gender, as there is no neutral form and most commonly the masculine is used as plural form. Carolina took advantage of that as she became a widow and demanded her right to vote as the law did not descriminate gender and she was, in fact, the householder, seeing as her husband had passed.
She voted on May 28th and passed away in October. She was also the first female surgeon in São José Hospital, Lisbon, later becoming a gynocologist.