Spain Recognizes Portugal’s Independence Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Portuguese monarchy passed to Spanish Habsburg rule in 1580 after the death of the Aviz Dynasty’s last ruler, Henry. In 1640, Portugal reasserted its independence under a new dynasty, the Braganza, but Spain did not recognize Portuguese independence until 1668, with the Treaty of Lisbon.

Summary of Event

A sovereign country for more than eight centuries, Portugal lost its independence for a period of sixty years, from 1580 to 1640. The last member of the Aviz Dynasty died without an heir in 1580. The most powerful monarch in Europe was the neighbor of Portugal, Philip II Philip II (king of Spain) , king of Spain and heir of the powerful Habsburg Dynasty. He laid claim to and obtained the Portuguese throne, ruling in that country as Philip I of Portugal. [kw]Spain Recognizes Portugal’s Independence (Feb. 13, 1668) [kw]Independence, Spain Recognizes Portugal’s (Feb. 13, 1668) [kw]Portugal’s Independence, Spain Recognizes (Feb. 13, 1668) Government and politics;Feb. 13, 1668: Spain Recognizes Portugal’s Independence[2340] Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Feb. 13, 1668: Spain Recognizes Portugal’s Independence[2340] Spain;Feb. 13, 1668: Spain Recognizes Portugal’s Independence[2340] Portugal;Feb. 13, 1668: Spain Recognizes Portugal’s Independence[2340] Portugal;independence from Spain

Initially, the Spanish monarch was accepted by the Portuguese. He was the center of a constellation of kingdoms and territories in the Iberian Peninsula, Austria, portions of Italy and the Netherlands, the Americas, Africa, and Asia. His realm was centered in Castile, the kingdom that was the core of the Spanish Empire and ruled by the Habsburg Dynasty, which had originated and was based in Austria.

The acceptance in Portugal of the Spanish monarch occurred for several factors. Philip agreed to leave the administration of Portugal in the hands of Portuguese nobles, ecclesiastics, and bureaucrats. As the king of Portugal, he would be advised concerning Portuguese affairs by a council, comprised exclusively of Portuguese members. Significant economic and cultural advantages complemented this political autonomy and stability.

Portugal and its colonies obtained access to the vast wealth and markets of the Spanish Empire in the Americas. Portuguese shippers and merchants were no longer limited to the Portuguese colony of Brazil but could trade throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean. The Portuguese led in the trade of African slaves to these regions. Moreover, there was vast Spanish wealth to pay for Portuguese goods because of the growing exploitation of silver from mines in Upper Peru (Bolivia). Mining;Peru

The economic, political, and military power of Spain elevated its language and culture to central importance in Europe. Portuguese writers and artists could circulate their ideas and works in Europe through their proximity and relationship with Spain.

Not everyone in Portugal accepted the loss of the country’s sovereignty. The situation was more favorable to the ruling classes than to others. There were incidents of isolated popular rebellion. An illegitimate offspring in the Aviz Dynasty claimed to be the rightful king of Portugal and led a short-lived rebellion. However, this movement died out.

Initially, to the Portuguese ruling class, therefore, the loss of national sovereignty had more advantages than disadvantages. However, changing circumstances in Spain and its empire gradually altered that balance; and the disadvantages mounted. Philip died in 1598, succeeded by his son Philip III (Philip II in Portugal). The new king inherited not only the throne but also an accumulation of debt and royal bankruptcies consequent to his father’s war and military engagements throughout the world. The mineral wealth of Spain from the Americas was in decline, and European competitors, especially the French, Dutch, and English, preyed upon that wealth. As resources declined, however, Philip III Philip III (king of Spain) had no perception of the need or inclination to restrict the expenditures of his government. This economic situation worsened throughout his reign. When he died in 1621, his son Philip IV Philip IV (king of Spain) (Philip III in Portugal) inherited a vastly debilitated and desperate Spanish monarch and empire. Portugal, intimately a part of this realm, grievously suffered the consequences.

One of the great enemies of Catholic Spain was the Protestant Netherlands, which had long challenged Habsburg rule over its region. Steadily throwing off this foreign control, the Dutch became a rising maritime power. As such they preyed upon the Portuguese empire, the weakened subordinate of Spain. Throughout the early seventeenth century, Portugal lost control of its colonies in Brazil, Africa, and Asia to Dutch aggression.

The Portuguese empire increasingly came under attack because of its association with Spain. Within the Spanish empire, Portuguese merchants, traders, and merchants increasingly met opposition to their successful inroads.

Not only did the Portuguese increasingly lose territorial and economic advantages because of their forced association with Spain, they also began to suffer fiscally and politically. As the revenues of the Spanish Empire declined, the Spanish government attempted to increase its income by raising taxes and duties. Uprisings against these measures erupted in various parts of the Habsburg realm. To quell them, Spain demanded greater levies of soldiers and arms from other parts of its domains. To ensure that Portugal conformed to the new Spanish measures, Spanish administrators came increasingly to replace Portuguese administrators in the government of Portugal.

Under the circumstances of mounting territorial, economic, financial, political, and military losses, the Portuguese ruling class resolved to reassert Portugal’s independence. The task of leading this secession fell to one of the principal aristocrats, John, the duke of Braganza, a leading landowner with the strongest claim to the Portuguese throne. (The duke became king of Portugal as John IV John IV (king of Portugal) in 1640.)

The initial declaration of Portuguese independence could not be immediately countered by Spain. Catalonia was also in revolt, and this threat was aggravated by Catalonia’s establishing an alliance with France, the most powerful threat to Spain in Europe Catalans, Revolt of the (1640) . Only after 1656, with the death of John and devastating wartime losses by Spain to France, did the Spanish government try to amend its loss of Portugal by reconquering the country.

This task was given to the Spanish military leader, John of Austria John of Austria , an illegitimate son of Philip IV. In 1663, his forces penetrated southern Portugal and occupied the city of Évora. They then tried to advance farther west into the country but were overextended. In trying to return to Évora, the Portuguese pursued and defeated the Spanish in the Battle of Ameixal Ameixal, Battle of (1663) that summer. This defeat repeated itself three years later at the Battle of Montes Claros Montes Claros, Battle of (1666) . John of Austria met the Portuguese forces under the leadership of the skilled German general Friedrich Hermann Schomberg, Schomberg, Friedrich Hermann who was supported by the governments of two of Spain’s principal enemies in Europe: England and France. Realizing with the defeat at Montes Claros that it could not reconquer Portugal, Spain recognized the country’s independence by the Treaty of Lisbon Lisbon, Treaty of (1668) on February 13, 1668.


With support from Spain’s European rivals, Portugal obtained Spanish recognition of its independence in 1668, more than a generation after declaring it in 1640. This Portuguese victory, however, had come at great cost. After numerous worldwide conflicts with the rising Dutch maritime empire, the Portuguese confronted the loss of most of their rich colonies in Asia. Portugal had been able to regain the northeast portion of Brazil, which the Dutch had occupied, and its slave-producing colonies in western Africa. However, just as Portugal had only been able to regain its independence through foreign (European) aid, it also was able to regain Brazil and its African colonies only through Brazilian (foreign) support. From the middle of the seventeenth century on, Brazil steadily became the sustaining force of the Portuguese economy. Indeed, after 1645, the heir to the Brazilian throne bore the title of prince of Brazil.

Spain’s loss of Portugal was part of the larger disintegration of Spanish and Habsburg power in Europe through the last half of the century. The heir of Philip IV, and stepbrother of John of Austria, was Charles II Charles II (king of Spain) . A physically and mentally disabled monarch, he left no heirs. When he died in 1700, the Habsburg Dynasty in Spain ended, as had the Aviz in 1580. The successor to Charles II came from the archenemy of Spain, the Bourbon Dynasty, beginning there with Philip IV, grandson of French king Louis XIV.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Darby, Graham. Spain in the Seventeenth Century. London: Longman, 1994. Examines the economic, political, and military conditions of the reign of Philip IV in relation to the Spanish administration of Portugal and other areas of the Habsburg realm.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Elliot, John Huxtable. Imperial Spain, 1469-1715. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1964. Analyzes economic conditions and sociopolitical developments in the rise and fall of the Spanish Empire.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Marques, Antonio de Oliveira. History of Portugal. New York: Columbia University Press, 1976. Volume one examines conditions that ended the Aviz Dynasty in Portugal and brought about the rise of the Braganza Dynasty.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Russell-Wood, A. J. R. The Portuguese Empire, 1415-1808: A World on the Move. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. Includes analysis of the functioning of the Portuguese Empire under the period of Spanish rule from 1580 to 1640.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wheeler, Douglas L. Historical Dictionary of Portugal. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2002. Includes entries for the principal figures and events for the period of Spanish rule in Portugal and the movement for Portuguese independence.
Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i>

Catherine of Braganza; Charles II (of Spain); John of Austria; John IV; Count-Duke of Olivares; Philip III; Philip IV; Cardinal de Richelieu; Friedrich Hermann Schomberg. Portugal;independence from Spain

Categories: History