Luisa de Guzman (1613–1666)

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Luisa de Guzman (1613–1666)

Duchess of Braganza who played a decisive role in the restoration of Portuguese independence in 1640 and became queen of Portugal as a result. Name variations: Louise de Guzman; Luísa de Gusmão, Luisa de Gusmao, Luisa Maria de Guzmán. Born Luisa Francisca de Guzman on October 13, 1613, in San Lúcar de Barremeda in southern Spain; died on November 27, 1666, in Lisbon, Portugal; daughter of Juan Manuel Pérez de Guzman, duke of Medina Sidonia, and Juana de Sandoval; married João or John (1604–1656), 8th duke of Braganza or Bragança, later John IV the Fortunate, king of Portugal (r. 1640–1656), on January 12, 1634; children: Joanna of Portugal (1636–1653); Catherine of Braganza (1638–1705); Afonso or Alphonso VI (1643–1683), king of Portugal (r. 1656–1667); Teodósio or Teodosio (1645–1653), 9th duke of Braganza; Pedro or Peter II (1648–1706), king of Portugal (r. 1667–1706).

Born on October 13, 1613, in San Lúcar de Barremeda in southern Spain, Luisa Francisca de Guzman was the daughter of Juan Manuel Pérez de Guzman, duke of Medina Sidonia, and Juana de Sandoval . A close relative was the Count-Duke of Olivares, the chief minister of Philip IV, king of Spain. In 1633, Olivares saw an opportunity to advance family and state interests through Luisa's marriage to John, duke of Braganza (later John IV the Fortunate, king of Portugal). Since 1580, Spain had ruled Portugal, which nonetheless rebelliously sought an opportunity to reclaim its independence. Many Portuguese nationalists saw John as the legitimate claimant to their throne. Olivares believed that as a loyal Spaniard and John's wife, Luisa would help control Braganza's political activities. Thus, he helped arrange their marriage, which was celebrated on January 12, 1634, in Vila Viçosa, Portugal.

[John IV] might not have risked his vast possessions in a long and arduous struggle for the throne had it not been for the resolution of his Spanish wife, Luisa de Guzman.

—H.V. Livermore, A New History of Portugal

Luisa de Guzman proved to be more ambitious and independent-minded than Olivares had imagined. Her husband was the largest landholder in Portugal and the nationalists' prime candidate to head a revolt against Spain. Yet he proceeded cautiously, refusing to commit himself to the rebels' conspiracy. He was still temporizing in 1640 when crisis enveloped Spain and provided the opportunity for Portugal to seize its freedom. Olivares ordered John to raise troops to help put down a revolt in Catalonia. The conspirators selected nine o'clock on the morning of December 1 for their uprising, and Luisa pressed her husband to grab the chance. Her influence proved critical. The nationalists of Lisbon rose on the agreed day, and shortly thereafter John proclaimed himself king. Early in 1641, the Portuguese cortes (parliament) officially acclaimed him monarch. Luisa's ambition had helped make her queen of Portugal.

Of course, the new monarchy had to create an effective government and resist Spanish retaliation. When Olivares learned of the Portuguese rebellion, he refused to believe that the duke of Braganza, whom the Count-Duke called "stupid and drunk, without a glimmer of intelligence," could have carried out the coup d'état of December 1, 1640. Olivares found Luisa's behavior outrageous and ordered her name erased from their family genealogy.

Earlier, Luisa had given birth to two children. Joanna of Portugal was born in 1636. Her sister Catherine of Braganza arrived in 1638. Three other children were born after 1640: Alphonso (VI), heir to the throne (1643), Teodósio (1645), and Peter (1648, later Peter II). Sickness claimed Prince Teodósio in 1653.

On November 6, 1656, John IV died. Incapacitated by gout and lethargy, he had increasingly allowed Luisa and her confessor, Father Daniel O'Daly, to establish royal policy and negotiate an alliance with France to protect Portugal from Spanish revenge. Luisa governed as regent because Alphonso VI was only ten when the king died. Furthermore, illness had left the boy physically crippled and "mentally incapable" (in the words of a Portuguese historian), and the queen would have preferred Peter to inherit the throne. Nonetheless, the Braganzas had only recently gained the crown, and many advisers thought it important to proclaim Alphonso VI king. To guarantee France's help against Spanish aggression, Luisa hoped to marry her daughter Catherine to Louis XIV. When Spain and France signed the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659, however, Louis decided to marry a Spanish princess, Marie Teresa of Spain (1638–1683), thereby blocking Luisa's plans.

By 1661, a group of ambitious courtiers had won Alphonso VI's confidence, and they pressed him to govern personally. Unruly and poorly educated, Alphonso lacked the qualities to govern effectively, but he and his coterie insisted that Luisa end the regency and declare him of age to rule. Luisa turned power over to him on June 23, 1662.

Before doing so, however, she had laid the necessary foundations for Portugal's survival as an independent nation with her descendants on its throne. From 1657 to 1661, Luisa and Alphonso's ministers had reorganized and strengthened Portugal's armed forces to resist Spanish aggression. In the spring prior to Alphonso VI taking the throne, she had completed negotiations for an alliance with the English, including the marriage of her daughter Catherine to Charles II, king of England. British forces helped repel several Spanish invasions of Portugal between 1662 and 1665, when Philip IV of Spain died, leaving his crown to Charles II, a disfigured and retarded four-year-old. This forced Spain to focus inward, and thus Portugal's security was increased.

Luisa de Guzman remained in the palace until March 1663, when she retired to the relative serenity of the Discalced Carmelite convent in Xabregas. She died there on November 27, 1666, leaving her adopted nation in her debt. Portugal owed "her the conditions for survival of the New Dynasty," writes Portuguese historian Joaquim Veríssimo Serrão, who continues, "no one can deny to the widow of [John IV] the merit of having defended vigorously the Restoration, of which she became one of the symbols."


Elliott, J.H. The Count-Duke of Olivares: The Statesman in an Age of Decline. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986.

Livermore, H.V. A New History of Portugal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966.

Raposo, Hippólito. Dona Luisa de Gusmão; Duquesae Rainha, 1613–1666. Lisbon: Empresa Nacional de Publicidade, 1947.

Serrão, Joaquim Veríssimo. História de Portugal. 5 vols. Lisbon: Editorial Verbo, 1979.

Kendall Brown , Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

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