Today marks the Restoration of the Portuguese Monarchy, an important day in the Portuguese calendar. The 60 years of Spanish domination, before D. João IV won back independence, was caused by the impetuous actions of Portugal’s young king, D. Sebastião.
In 1578 the king set sail for Morocco to claim more land for the growing Portuguese empire. A very religious man, he also had plans to discover the legendary Prester John, a fabled Christian king in Africa. Foolishly he brought him almost all of his nobility and relations.
He marched inland and was met in battle by the local leader at Alcácer Quibir. In what amounted to a crushing defeat, Sebastião was lost in the melee. The throne past to his great uncle, Henrique. Unfortunately for Portugal he was a cardinal, known as ‘the Chaste’, therefore he had no offspring of his own. This led to the accession of Felipe II of Spain to the Portuguese throne.
For 60 years, Portugal was under Spanish domination. In these years grew a belief amongst the Portuguese that Sebastião would return and reclaim the throne for an independent Portugal. This belief was strongest during the Iberian Union, when 4 pretenders in total tried to claim the throne.
Later, the idea of Sebastianism became synonymous with a return to glory for Portugal. Even to this day it is prevalent; when the crisis hit, the Portuguese still hoped to see their saviour D. Sebastião emerge from the mist!
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