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Portugal Old and Young
An historical study by George Young (1917)


THE writer of this delightful book is a true lover of Portugal, and wishes to make the reader love that beautiful country as he does himself, and by the charm of his style and his enthusiasm he has his reader to a great extent in his thrall. He traces the history of Portugal from the Roman times to the present, when, as oldest ally of England, it is now fighting side by side with Britain in France. And he shows why this is so. He tells how the alliance between England and Portugal, then a struggling kingdom only recently carved out of Galicia and the Moorish territories,  began in 1147, and has lasted ever since. English troops assisted the Portuguese in their crusades with the Moors, at Aljubarotta in 1383 against the Spaniards, and have since helped them at every difficult period, save when the religious differences interfered. The first King of the House of Aviz, married Philippa of Lancaster, and the royal line for a time was greatly under English influence. The writer describes the great discoveries and conquests of Portugal under Prince Henry the Navigator and King Manoel, and shows how the reign of the latter with his policy of Spanish marriages, rich and prosperous as it seemed to be, was really leading up to the moral bankruptcy of Portugal, when, after the loss in Africa of the visionary King Sebastian, it fell, through the death of an effete Cardinal, to swell the Spanish Empire of Philip II., and so, for a period, lost its independence. One wishes that Camoens had had more followers stirred by his song of the glories of the past to oppose the Spanish yoke, and one wonders what might not have been had Queen Elizabeth only supported Dom Antonio with more vigour.

The author is a little less convincing when he describes the Portuguese 'revolt' or War of Freedom in 1640, for he does not explain the reason satisfactorily while writing of the Portuguese captivity.' The reason we take it is very much the same as that which prevented Scotland being merged in England. The Portuguese must have, through Galicia or Lusitania, absorbed some forgotten race absolutely hostile in mind to Spanish morgue^ and it was the spirit of this people which time and again separated the two countries, which, geographically, were almost one. It is strange how the marriage of Charles II. to the Portuguese Infanta still unites their two peoples further, though through it Portugal lost Bombay and much of its Indian territory, and its chief town in Morocco. Into the latter history, the Methuen Treaty which almost gave the pleasant city of Oporto to the British, the Napoleonic changes which forced the Court to flee to Brazil, and the Peninsular War, we need not enter except to praise the way they are dealt with ; we also pass the Civil wars which led to the fall of the odious Miguel and the rise of the not romantic Maria da Gloria. The Saxe-Coburg Kings are well described, and, except for the excellent phrase, 'the Court and through it the country were controlled by barons of finance, many of them German Jews, whose pillaging and plunderings were all too recent to be respectable,' the writer is temperate about their virtues and vices. He is also calm about their removal from the Throne and the discomforts of their adherents. He is illuminating on the Republic, its beginnings, policy, and doings, and we are grateful for his political instruction.

We think he is a little too insistent on the prevalence of the Jewish strain in Portugal, and not enough so about the very mixed, Oriental and African, blood in the nation, which in its native alliances has followed the deliberate policy of Albouquerque. We think also he is not a very careful genealogist. One or two of his statements need scrutiny, and Isabella the Catholic especially would be much surprised to see herself (twice) called 'sister'  of La Beltraneja!

A. Francis Steuart

You can download this book in pdf format here


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