Independence Restoration Day is a Portuguese holiday that comes every 1 December to remember the day in 1640 when Portugal revolted against Spanish rule and regained its independence.
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Independence Restoration Day is a Portuguese holiday that comes every December 1st to remember the day in 1640 when Portugal revolted against Spanish rule and regained its independence. It is not much celebrated these days, but it is of great historical importance.
For hundreds of years, Portugal had been an independent nation, when, in 1581, it came under Spanish control because the Portuguese king died without an heir. King Filipe II of Spain was among the contenders for the crown, and he had the military power to make his claim succeed over his competitors.
For 60 years, Portugal remained under Spanish control, but when taxes were raised on Portuguese merchant ships, an attempt was made to make Portugal a region of Spain instead of a separate possession, and the Portuguese nobility lost its influence both in Madrid and in Portugal itself, a revolution began to brew. There were some revolts earlier in 1637, but the revolt that began the Portuguese Restoration War, originally called “the Acclamation War,” came on December 1st, 1640.
December 1st was chosen because the Spanish nobles who held posts of authority in Portugal would be going home for Christmas at this time, and 1640 was chosen because it was that year that a revolt broke out in Catalonia in northeastern Spain. The war lasted for 28 years, from 1640 to the recognition of Portugal’s independence by Spain in 1668. During that time, the preoccupation of Spain with Catalonia, with the Thirty Years’ War in Germany, with the Franco-Spanish War, with conflicts against England and Netherlands, and with its large colonial empire helped Portugal win in the end.
There were only five major battles, however, in the 28 years. It was mostly small skirmishes and raids, especially of towns near the Spanish-Portuguese border region. The English and Dutch also helped Portugal during the conflict, in the interests of weakening their common enemy Spain. The Portuguese House of Braganca gained the throne of Portugal as a result of the revolt, and would rule their overthrow by republican forces in the early 20th Century.
Should you visit the land of Portugal for Independence Restoration Day, you may wish to visit some of the main cities with historic reminders of Portugal’s monarchical days, which Restoration War reestablished, including these three:
- Sintra, not far from Lisbon, in the hill country just below the Sintra Mountains. This city was long a royal retreat area, and today, it is a resort town. It features the Sintra National Palace, with its beautiful tile work and two, towering chimneys. There is also the Pena National Palace, which dates from the 19th Century. And, besides the palaces, the forested hills and the quaint, colourful villas of Sintra are themselves a sight worth seeing.
- Braganca, in Portugal’s extreme northeastern corner, and also in mountainous terrain. Here, you will see the oldest town hall in all Portugal, which dates from the 12th Century, a Renaissance-era cathedral, the old city walls, and the Castle of Braganca. You can also tour some local museums and a theater.
- Almeida, a small village on the north-central Spanish border that is heavily fortified. A fortress, shaped a little like a star, surrounds the village, guarding the border road from Spain, and there is also a castle to explore.
Even if there are few official events for Independence Restoration Day in Portugal, it is an appropriate time to explore Portugal’s history firsthand, especially the remains of its monarchical period.