Bragança, House of

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Bragança, House of

House of Bragança, noble house of Portugal whose members founded the Bragança dynasty that ruled Portugal from 1640 to 1910 and Brazil from 1822 to 1889. Descended from Dom Afonso (natural son of Dom João I of Portugal) and Dona Beatriz Pereira Alvim (daughter of Condestável Nuno Alves Pereira), who married in 1401; the family takes its name from the city of Bragança, in the northeastern extremity of Portugal. Land donations by Dom João and Condestável Pereira formed the nucleus of the dukedom, which later included extensive holdings in a large number of villages, manors, and fortresses. The dukes appointed ecclesiastical, administrative, judicial, and fiscal authorities throughout their lands and they enjoyed the prerogatives of royal princes outside the line of succession: they granted titles of nobility, and attended meetings of the Council of State, presiding in the king's absence. Despite such privileges, the House of Bragança entered into conflict with Dom João II, of Aviz, who at the beginning of his reign (1481–1495) sought to strengthen his royal power by demanding from the nobility a pledge of allegiance according to a new formula that linked and subordinated the nobles to royal power far more than the previous pledge. The duke of Bragança, Dom Fernando II, protested the wording of the new formula as too rigorous and demeaning to his dignity. Although the duke eventually swore allegiance, when Dom João II ordered a new survey of all the land in the kingdom, without exception, Dom Fernando and other other nobles conspired against the king. Dom Fernando was brought to trial, decapitated, his family exiled, and all the holdings of the House of Bragança confiscated and distributed among the favorites of Dom João II. In 1497 all rights were restored to the house.

In 1580 the Aviz dynasty ended with the death of Dom Henrique I. Philip II of Spain assumed the Portuguese crown, and Portugal remained united to Spain until 1640. In 1637 the idea of restoration began to take root, and the natural choice for a sovereign was Dom João II, eighth duke of Bragança. The duke and his followers used the outbreak of the Catalunian rebellion in Spain to proclaim the separation of Portugal from Spain, and in 1640 the duke became João IV, king of Portugal. The Braganças governed Portugal during some of its most challenging periods: the recovery from the economic and fiscal devastation left by its former union with Spain, the threat of Spanish military intervention, the animosity of the pope who supported Spain, and the Dutch conquest of Brazil. During the eighteenth century the dynasty experienced a golden age under João V, impelled by his administrative and political acumen and the wealth from the Brazilian gold mines. The nineteenth century brought the Napoleonic invasion, the escape of the Bragança in 1809 to Brazil (where they remained until 1821), and finally the loss of Brazil.

In 1822 Dom Pedro, prince regent of Brazil and heir to the Portuguese throne, proclaimed Brazilian independence and became Pedro I of Brazil. The Brazilian branch of the Bragança dynasty came to govern Brazil and Portugal under constitutional monarchies. Pedro I became Pedro IV of Portugal upon his father's death in 1826, but in the same year he abdicated the throne of Portugal in favor of his daughter, Maria II, and 1831 he abdicated the throne of Brazil in favor of his son, Pedro II. The last Bragança monarchs tried, without success, to forestall the republic but the Republic of Brazil was proclaimed in 1889, and Pedro II exiled. Portugal was proclaimed a republic in 1910, causing Dom Manuel II to leave the country.

See alsoPedro II of Brazil .


João Ameal, História de Portugal (1968).

Neill Macaulay, Dom Pedro (1986).

Additional Bibliography

Dias, Paulo. Real panteão dos Bragança: Arte e memoria. Porto: Antília Editora, 2006.

Howe, Malcolm S. The Braganza Story: A Visit to the Royal Pantheon of Portugal. London: British Historical Society of Portugal, 1999.

Machado, José Carlos L. Soares. Os Bragançaos: História genealógica de uma linhagem medieval (séculos XI a XIII). Lisbon: J.C.L.S. Machado, 2004.

                               Lydia M. Garner