Portugal’s Miguelite Wars Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

When Miguel usurped the Portuguese throne from his niece Maria II, his action prompted a civil war between the conservative absolutist Miguel and Maria’s father, the liberal constitutionalist Emperor Pedro I of Brazil. The war concluded in 1834, when Miguel was defeated and exiled and Maria II was restored to the throne.

Summary of Event

The occupation of numerous European countries during the early nineteenth century by Napoleon I resulted in the overthrow of various royal regimes. With Napoleon’s defeat, these regimes were restored. However, while conservatives sought the restoration of absolutist regimes just as they had been before the Napoleonic Wars, liberals urged the establishment of constitutional monarchies, with written charters defining royal and parliamentary rights and responsibilities. Miguelite Wars (1828-1834) Portugal;Miguelite Wars Pedro I [p]Pedro I[Pedro 01];and Miguelite Wars[Miguelite Wars] Maria II Miguel [kw]Portugal’s Miguelite Wars (1828-1834) [kw]Miguelite Wars, Portugal’s (1828-1834) [kw]Wars, Portugal’s Miguelite (1828-1834) Miguelite Wars (1828-1834) Portugal;Miguelite Wars Pedro I [p]Pedro I[Pedro 01];and Miguelite Wars[Miguelite Wars] Maria II Miguel [g]Portugal;1828-1834: Portugal’s Miguelite Wars[1380] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;1828-1834: Portugal’s Miguelite Wars[1380] [c]Government and politics;1828-1834: Portugal’s Miguelite Wars[1380]

The debate over constitutional monarchy occurred in Portugal under circumstances distinctly different from those that obtained in the rest of Europe. After Napoleon’s invasion of the country in 1807, the Portuguese monarchy had fled to Brazil, Brazil;and Portugal[Portugal] Portugal;and Brazil[Brazil] establishing that colony as the seat of the royal government. Long after the defeat of Napoleon, however, John VI John VI lingered in Brazil. By 1821, the Portuguese parliament demanded that the king return and that he agree to the establishment of a liberal constitution for the country. The king acceded to these demands. In departing, however, he left his elder son and heir, Prince Pedro, in Brazil as the colony’s regent. He took his younger son, Prince Miguel, back to Portugal with him.

The following year, Pedro declared the independence Brazil;independence of of Brazil and was crowned as its first emperor, granting the country a constitution. In 1826, John VI died and Pedro was acclaimed as king of Portugal. Under the terms of the new Brazilian constitution, however, Pedro was not allowed to become the sovereign of any other state so long as he ruled Brazil. Therefore, after granting the country a liberal constitution, he abdicated the Portuguese kingship and placed his daughter on the throne as Maria II, arranging at the same time that his brother (her uncle) should marry her and become regent of the country.

Reactionary forces opposed such a compromised regime and supported Miguel to become king in his own right. They overthrew Maria II in 1828. These forces included Miguel’s mother, the Infanta Carlota Joaquin, daughter of the king of Spain, and reactionary European courts opposed to the moderate constitutional measures John VI had allowed. The northern trading city of Porto became a center of liberal constitutionalism opposed to the new regime. An uprising there, however, was suppressed by the miguelistas, the supporters of Miguel, who then pursued a general persecution and exiling of liberals.

Some constitutionalists fled to England or to the island of Terceira in the Atlantic Portuguese archepelago of the Azores. The miguelistas attempted to suppress this nucleus of liberal opposition in the Azores, but they failed. The liberal constitutionalists made the Azores their stronghold. Meanwhile, in 1831, in the midst of the anti-liberal campaign, Pedro was forced to abdicate the Brazilian throne. He decided to return to Portugal and restore his daughter as queen. To place her back on the throne, however, Pedro would have to invade Portugal. He prepared for this invasion by augmenting the liberal armed forces on the Azore Islands. With British and French support, Pedro assembled an army of almost eight thousand men, including foreign mercenaries.

In 1832, Pedro invaded Portugal, attacking in the north at Porto, where constitutionalist sympathy remained strong. The invasion was successful, occupying the city in a few days. Although the absolutist forces were larger and better equipped, Pedro’s army had the advantage of surprise. The miguelistas had not been prepared for an invasion at Porto, because they had expected such an action to occur at the southern capital, Lisbon. The miguelistas had sufficient force, however, to lay a powerful siege on Porto. They bombarded the city throughout the autumn and winter and blocked supplies of food from entering it. Plague ravaged the city during the winter. Porto, nonetheless, held out for a year. To weaken the hold of their besiegers, the liberals organized a naval expedition to the south of the country during the summer of 1833. Off the coast of the Algarve and then on the Tagus River, near Lisbon, they defeated the absolutist naval forces. These defeats demoralized the absolutists, and desertions resulted. Liberal guerrilla uprisings occurred in other parts of the country. Finally, the liberals occupied Lisbon, the miguelistas fled, and Pedro entered the capital at the end of July.

During September of 1833, the absolutists attempted unsuccessfully to retake Lisbon, and they continued to lay siege to Porto. However, suffering further military defeats, by the spring of 1834 Miguel surrendered to the now victorious Pedro. The treaty ending the war was signed at Évora-Monte on May 26, 1834. Miguel left for exile in Italy in June, and Maria II returned to Lisbon and was reestablished as queen by September.


The end of the Miguelite Wars witnessed many misfortunes. By the autumn of 1834, Pedro, residing at the royal palace where he had been born in 1798, died of tuberculosis Tuberculosis . The Portuguese economy, after years of war and internal conflict, was in ruins. The country was extensively indebted to foreign powers. Moreover, since Pedro and Miguel were both now gone from the Portuguese political scene, the nation’s liberal and conservative forces, which continued at odds, had to reconcile themselves by making political compromises without their former leaders to guide them.

The legacy of the war created a fragile nucleus for parliamentary government in Portugal. The constitutionalist conflict was not a democratic debate but rather one between competing elites. On one side lay the traditional aristocracy, landed gentry, and religious hierarchy; on the other side rose a growing class of wealthy urban merchants, professionals, and the newly ennobled. The latter relied on foreign intellectual and financial support, so popular opinion came to associate Portuguese liberalism with external influence and the incursion of alien forces in the national character. The alienation of the majority of Portuguese from the limited economic, political, and cultural franchise of liberalism gave a powerful weight to authoritarian and corporate forces in Portugal. These came to the fore and dominated most of the country’s modern history until the last decades of the twentieth century.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Anderson, James Maxwell. The History of Portugal. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000. A volume for general readership that describes events of early nineteenth century Portugal, from the end of Napoleonic occupation to the beginning of the constitutionalist period, within the context of the country’s larger history.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Birmingham, David. A Concise History of Portugal. 2d ed. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Noted British historian provides a succinct account of cultural contradictions and the uneven development of constitutionalism within the larger context of Portugal’s political history.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bragança Cunha, Vicente de. Eight Centuries of Portuguese Monarchy: A Political Study. New York: J. Pott, 1911. Places the monarchs involved in the Miguelite Wars in relation to the Portuguese sovereigns who preceded and followed them.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cardozo, Manoel S. “Review of D. Pedro IV e D. Miguel 1826-1834.” The Hispanic American Historical Review 21, no. 4 (November, 1941): 632-634. This review of a book on the parallel lives of Manuel and Pedro includes this remark of the former regarding the latter, “My brother and I were both unfortunate. On his side was intelligence without honor; on mine, honor without intelligence.”
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">D’Auvergne, Edmund Basil Francis. The Coburgs: The Story of the Rise of a Great Royal House. London: S. Paul, 1911. One chapter provides the biography of Maria II of Portugal, who was married to Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lambert, Francis J. D. The Cortes and the King: Constitutional Monarchy in the Iberian World. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, Institute of Latin American Studies, 1981. Traces the development of critical constitutional relations between the monarchy and the parliament in nineteenth century Portugal.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Macaulay, Neill. Dom Pedro: The Struggle for Liberty in Brazil and Portugal, 1798-1834. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1986. The final sections of this biography detail the political and military campaigns of Pedro I to restore his daughter, Maria II, to the Portuguese throne.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Manchester, Alan K. “The Paradoxical Pedro: First Emperor of Brazil.” The Hispanic American Historical Review 12, no. 2 (May, 1932): 176-197. Examines the contradictory character of Pedro within the context of the final denouement of his life, restoring his daughter to the throne of Portugal.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Marques, A. H. Oliveira de. History of Portugal. Vol 2. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972. The opening section traces political differences and military developments between the opposing forces in the Miguelite Wars, doing so within the wider context of data and trends on social and economic features of the period.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rocha, António da Silva Lopes. Injust Proclamation of His Serene Highness the Infante Don Miguel as King of Portugal. . . . London: R. Greenlaw, 1829. Contemporary Portuguese volume, translated into English, denouncing the juridical claims of Manuel to the throne of Portugal.

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