The last King of Portugal. Regicide and shame.

Manuel II 1889-1932

The history of the demise of  Portugese royalty is every bit as shameful as that of Russia in that it was in the 1900s, when mankind had advanced so far  in so many ways … to kill off the Royal family in these brutal and churlish manner when society had advanced a long way in regard to slavery, divorce rights, votes for women, medicine, politics, engineering, travel …..  It beggars belief.

The English committed regicide in 1649, at a time when letting blood and applying leeches was still considered a good idea.  The murder was massively regretted and the dead king’s son, Charles II, eventually came to the throne and reigned for a long time, a much-loved and strong monarch.  The French committed regicide over a  hundred years later when they murdered Louis XVI and his poor wife, Marie Antoinette.  What they wanted to kill her for I have no idea, but then they went through terrible years of killing off everybody in sight, almost regardless.  In fact 1 million people died! But that was in 1793.  To be still doing this kind of appalling thing in the 1900s, in the years when my granny and grampy were alive, shocks me greatly.

Manuel II of Portugal

Manuel, Duke of Beja, was born the younger son of what, as far as we can tell, was a happy family.  He was a very talented pianist and, as the younger son, was not expected to become king, so a career in the navy was carved out for him.  From an early age Manuel disliked the pomp and ceremony of the Court and preferred a simpler way of life.

However, things were taken out of his hands in 1908, when he was just 18 years old, and his father and brother were both murdered in their coach as they travelled home. Manuel and his mother were also in the coach, and Manuel was hit in the arm.

The Portugese people on the whole were not anti-Royalty, but there was a very stong dictator-like Republican party, as indeed there had been in Russia, France and England before this.


Manuel then became Manuel II in 1908, and he reigned for just two years during which time he tried to get the Socialist party a place in government; he also travelled a great deal to meet the people of his country.  He said he did not wish to govern, merely to reign, and that he wished to work for the people.  Reading through his letters, he seems to have been a thoughtful and careful man with a genuine concern for doing what he felt to be right.

Despite his efforts, and the efforts of most of his government (who had a large majority on the side of the king) the Republican party was powerful, and in 1910 the monarchy was dissolved.

Manuel and his family were exiled and moved to England, where the English monarch, Edward VII, accomodated them.  Edward VII had been a close friend of Manuel’s murdered father.  Manuel died in England aged only 43. The circumstances of his death were suspicious and many claim that he was murdered in a continuing Portugese plot.

Wedding of Manuel II

The British Royal Family feature constantly – constantly! – in French magazines.  Indeed, such is the French hunger for a glimpse of royalty that our Princess Diana was killed thanks to French reporters hounding her.  The French also regularly feature items about the Monaco royal family.  I wonder if, like France, Portugal hankers after these snippets of glamour and ceremony ?  There is nothing very interesting about Hollande doing this or that, but it becomes fascinating when it is Prince William.  Sarkozy’s new baby featured here and there in France, but when a royal baby is born it is international news.  You only have to look at all the delighted people thronging the streets or glued to the TV (the wedding of Prince William springs to mind) to see what a huge and important social role royal families play, quite apart from the massive amount of money they bring in to the country through tourism – massively more than they cost.  Who is going to queue up in delight to catch a glimpse of Coelho ? Nobody.



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Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. Her books are available on Amazon and Kindle, or can be ordered from most leading book stores and libraries.  More about her and her work on

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Posted on 09/05/2013 by Catherine
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  • CatherineBroughton

    Copied from an e-mail. Thank you to the person who sent it – I have not printed your name for obvious reasons.
    Hi Catherine I found your post on Manuel II of Portugal, read it, enjoyed it and decided to just say hi. It is not everyday that one finds a person born in South Africa, interested in history and writing something about a King that was basically abandoned by Portugal despite the fact that the monarchy had been running the country since 1139. 770 of history abandoned for no great reason. Portugal has not been able to do much ever since and it is now in danger of folding as a nation. I was born in Mozambique in 1953. My grandfather on my mom’s side was actually born there as well. In 1975 Portugal did the same to all of us as what they did to Don Manuel II and abandoned us, after having used us as their front line in Africa. I had no choice but to run to Brazil where I lived 3 years and then to Portugal where I lived another 3 years. While I was in Portugal I was not only called ‘returnado’ – returnee but was also harassed by the Portuguese military which claimed that I had left Mozambique and the Portuguese military whitout permission. Imagine! Right then and there I renounced the Portuguese nationality forever. I also love history and I have been trying to get more information about Don Manuel II because in school we were not allowed to know anything about him. This from a government that criticized Frelimo in Mozambique for excluding all the colonial past from their history books. Anyway I could be here forever and I just wanted to say hi to you and wish you and your family the best. I always leave a message when something like this happens in my life and the coincidence was interesting. One never knows why we cross paths. Thank you for the post on Don Manuel II. Interesting that only foreigners care about the Portuguese royal family. Regards C.

    • ReyAnderson

      Portugal had ‘abandoned’ king Manuel II, but before that the British had ‘abandoned’ Portugal with the British Ultimatum of 1890. That was what sparked the republican revolution in Portugal, and subsequently the king had eventually exiled at his mother’s home in London.

      It was an ironic destiny, indeed.

      If his mysterious assassination (or simply death) was not cleverly orchestrated by someone, why the identity of the suspicious intruder found at his property at that time, was never revealed?

      • CatherineBroughton

        Oh, this is fascintating – tell me more! I should find a book about it. Can you recommend one ?

  • Shirley Fox

    I am reading Mountbatten by Phillip Ziegler. On page 34 it says that his sister Louise refused to marry the “loathsome King of Portugal.” The only King who fits the time period is Maual II. I have been searching to find what was “loathsome” and have found nothing even approaching that. Any idea what that’s about?

    • No, no idea. I will see if I can find something !

    • Catherine

      Hmmm … I wonder ? I really cannot think of a reson to call him loathsome, except that the Mountbattens were very strong royalists and Manuel was not … the Mountbattens were also tall and handsome, whereas Manuel was short and just OK-ish. Interesting question!

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