VILLAREAL , family name of Portuguese notables. The best known is Manoel Fernandez *Villareal (1608–1652). His son, josÉ da villareal, migrated to France, where he served as a professor of Greek at Marseilles from about 1695.
Other bearers of the name include josÉ da costa villareal (d. 1731), who was comptroller of the Portuguese royal army during the 1720s. A charge of Judaizing was brought against him, and in 1726 his arrest was ordered. Taking advantage of a conflagration then raging in Lisbon, he slipped away to London by sea with 17 members of his family and 300,000 pounds sterling of his wealth. In London the group re-entered the Jewish fold, when all the males in the family were circumcised and each marriage was recontracted "according to the law of Moses and Israel." As a token of thanksgiving they founded the Villareal girl's school. His widow was later sued for breach of promise by her profligate cousin Philip (Jacob) da Costa. The consequent publication, "The proceedings at large in the Arches Court of Canterbury, between Mr. Jacob Mendes da Costa and Mrs. Catherine da Costa Villareal, both of the Jewish religion, and cousin Germans. Relating to a marriage contract" (London, 1734), throws much light on social conditions in 18th-century Anglo-Jewry. Philip lost the case. When Kitty later married William Mellish, a non-Jew, she and her children by Villareal were baptized, the daughter marrying the future Viscount Galway.
The name is attested throughout the Marrano *Diaspora. manuel lopez villareal took an important role in European business activity and established commercial ties between Hamburg and Amsterdam during the 1660s. In the New World the name Villareal appears at Hampstead, Georgia, where isaac villareal (villaroel) was a Jewish settler around 1733. The origins of Benjamin *Disraeli have been traced back to the Villareals of Portugal. The Jewish descent of the Villareal family, and in particular of Manoel Fernandez Villareal, was indicated by the researches of Cecil Roth – a position also held by Martin A. Cohen and other scholars in the field. On the other hand, Antônio Jose Saraiva (see bibliography) concluded that Fernandez Villareal was probably neither Jewish nor a New *Christian, but that the Inquisition had used Judaism as a pretext for discrediting of Fernandez Villareal's liberal pronouncements and confiscating his property. Saraiva goes on to generalize that the majority of confessed Judaizers were not Marranos, but that they made confessions because they could escape death at the hands of the inquisitors only in this way.
M. Kayserling, Geschichte der Juden in Portugal (1867), 310f.; idem, Sephardim (1859), index; C. Roth, MenassehBen Israel (1934), 136–9, 324; Roth, Marranos, index; A.J. Saraiva, Inquisição e Cristãos-Novos (1969); Rosenbloom, Biogr Dict, 172; H. Kellenbenz, Sephardim an der unteren Elbe (1958), 176; American Sephardi, 4 nos. 1–2 (Autumn 1970), 103.