The Portuguese Navy and the Liberal Wars

The first liberal Portuguese constitution was approved on September 22nd 1822 and sworn in by King João VI on October 1st of the same year.

In 1826, after the death of João VI, the Regency Council, under the presidency of the Infanta Isabel Maria, considered Dom Pedro II, then Emperor of Brazil, as King of Portugal. The new king, has his prerogative, granted the Portuguese a Constitutional Charter, abdicating to his under-age daughter, Maria da Glória.

In May 1828, he declared his abdication definitive and appointed Miguel regent in the name of Maria II. Born February 1828, Dom Miguel returned to the Kingdom after a brief exile, to marry his niece, Maria da Glória, and rule the country, which lead to declare himself as absolute king.

Batalha naval no Cabo de S.VicenteBiblioteca Central de Marinha

There began to appear pockets of resistance from liberal soldiers, particularly in Porto, where a government was formed (May 1828), which spread to other parts of the country, namely the islands, with the transport of men and arms to Madeira and then to the Azores.

The repression and violence of the Miguelists could not prevent the rebellious movements of the liberals in exile in England and France, where they organised themselves and gained support thanks to changes favourable to their cause in European politics, despite the differences that arose within them.

Batalha naval no Cabo de S.VicenteBiblioteca Central de Marinha

The Navy was divided in the support to both causes, both in administrative terms, naval resources and men, including, of course, the Royal Navy Brigade and the Naval Battalions. 

Batalha naval no Cabo de S.VicenteBiblioteca Central de Marinha

The Liberal squadron essentially comprised the frigates Rainha de Portugal and Dom Maria II, the corvettes Portuense, Regência and Constituição, the brigs 23 de Julho and Vila Flor. 

Batalha naval no Cabo de S.VicenteBiblioteca Central de Marinha

On the other hand, the Miguelista group is formed by the ship Dom João VI, the frigate Princesa Real, the corvettes Cibele and Isabel Maria, and the brigues Tejo and Audaz.

In 1829 the Queen's volunteers landed on Terceira and in June the Duke of Terceira arrived in Vila da Praia as Captain-General, appointed by the Duke of Palmela in London. Expeditions left Lisbon to subdue Terceira and in July the blockade of the Government fleet began. On August 11th 1829, the Miguelistas tried to land in Vila da Praia, but were repelled by the Liberals, who withdrew the fleet. In 1831, there were expeditions from Terceira to the Western Islands and to Terceira Island. The Count of Vila Flor took care of the archipelago until 1831.

In April 1831 the Lisbon Government broke with France and in July the French fleet, commanded by Roussin, entered the Tagus, arresting Portuguese ships.
Dom Pedro left the throne in Brazil to lead the independence process, to fight for his daughter.

In February 1832, after the expedition had been organized in England, Dom Pedro arrived in S. Miguel. After having tried in vain to end Dom Miguel's hold on Madeira, the Constitutional squadron lifted the blockade in March 1832 and in June headed for the mainland, carrying artillery and thousands of men, who disembarked on July 8th 1832, on the beach at Pampelido, near Mindelo. The Miguelist garrison left the city without fighting, reorganizing later and beginning a siege of Porto. In the north, combat and battles took place on land and sea.

In June 1833, the English Vice-Admiral Carlos Napier, who replaced Sertorius, commanded the Liberal fleet to carry out a landing expedition in the south of the country without great resistance and receiving the support of the population.

Batalha naval no Cabo de S.VicenteBiblioteca Central de Marinha

On July 5, 1833, in front of Cabo de São Vicente (Cape St. Vincent), the Liberal fleet, commanded by Napier faced the Miguelista fleet, defeating it and seizing some ships.

Batalha naval no Cabo de S.VicenteBiblioteca Central de Marinha

At the same time, on July 24th, Terceira enters Lisbon, evacuated by the Miguelistas who, in August, will try to reconquer the city. Queen Dom Maria entered the Tagus in September 1833.

Batalha naval no Cabo de S.Vicente, From the collection of: Biblioteca Central de Marinha
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In 1834, the Miguelistas accumulated defeats in Leiria, Pernes and Asseiceira. Santarém is abandoned. Their forces were fought almost everywhere, from north to south, pockets of resistance were crushed.

Dom Miguel, on 17th May 1834 withdrew to Évora, where he ended his opposition to Liberal involvement by signing the Évora Monte Convention on May 27th 1834. Miguel had no choice but to go into exile, where he left on June 1st, aboard the British Frigate Stag.

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