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Portugal, relations with

Portugal, relations with. The first treaty with ‘England's oldest ally’ dates from 1373. John of Gaunt led English forces in the mid-1380s on the side of Portugal against Castile, and the alliance was confirmed by the treaty of Windsor in 1386. The modern connection dates from a treaty concluded by Cromwell in 1654 which gave the English considerable trading advantages. Ties were further strengthened by Charles II's marriage to Catherine of Braganza in 1662. The Methuen treaty of 1703 was another milestone. The complementary character of the English and Portuguese economies, the importance of Portuguese independence and its colonies to Britain, the value of its ports (notably Lisbon and the Tagus estuary) to the Royal Navy in many parts of the world, and Portugal's need for a defender against its larger neighbour, together made for a strong but uneven connection. In 1808 the British initiated military operations in Portugal which developed into the ultimately victorious Peninsular campaign. Wellington for a time was forced to hold out around Lisbon behind the famous Torres Vedras lines. In 1826 a small British force arrived in Lisbon to defend the constitutional regime from reactionary groups assisted by Spain. In the early 1830s the British gave further indirect aid against the reactionary forces of Dom Miguel, and, with France, warned against meddling by the absolutist great powers. Britain under Palmerston continued to show a sometimes controversial interest in the independence and political stability of Portugal. With the fall of the autocratic regime of Dr Caetano in 1974 Britain (with other European states) provided support to parliamentary groups at a time when a communist take-over was considered possible.

C. J. Bartlett

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