Monarchism in Portugal

Filipe d'Avillez
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

The monarchist movement in Portugal dates back, obviously, to the beginning of the 20th century when in 1910 a republican coup took power in Lisbon and abolished the monarchy. At the time the republicans were a small minority but had a majority following in Lisbon; in those days he who controlled the capital controlled the country, and so it was. The following years were a succession of revolutions and coups, some tragic, others simply hilarious, as when a monarchist officer led his men and a piece of artillery to the top of a hill overlooking Lisbon to threaten shelling parliament if the monarchy was not restored, only to see the cannon roll down the hill again when his men forgot to "anchor" it, or the story of the monarchist conspirators who spent the night waxing the street outside the cavalry barracks so that when the cavalry were called out to quash the insurgency the next day, they skidded and slid all over the place. But the only serious and almost successful attempt to restore the monarchy took place in the North; almost the whole of the North rose up in 1919 against the republic, but reinforcements sent from Lisbon ended the dream after one or two months of restoration.

The monarchists were always a powerful force in the country until 1928 when a revolution ended the 1st republic and ushered in the "New State" which would be run by Salazar soon after until his accident in the late 1960's, and by his successor until 1974. During those years of dictatorship the monarchist movement, which tended to be conservative and Catholic was appeased by the new government which brought order, peace and economic stability, ending the anti-clericalism of the 1st republic.

Salazar very effectively used the monarchists, kept them quiet and on "his side" by occasionaly throwing them bones. But Salazar, unlike Franco, was a politician and if there is one lesson I have learned as a monarchist it is that the worst enemies of monarchism are politicians who tend to think that the only ones wise enough to rule are themselves. No restoration occured and the monarchist movement, having been put to sleep, took too long to wake up after the revolution in 1974, at which time to be a monarchist was to be branded a reactionary and a conservative.

Around that time the Popular Monarchist Party (PPM) had been formed by monarchists who had indeed been pro-democrats and had a good standing. The PPM was an important force for monarchists at the time and participated successfully in coalition governments over the following years.

After the end of the coalition however, many monarchists who had voted PPM because they knew that a vote for them was a vote for the coalition, ceased to vote for them and took to voting for the bigger center-right wing parties. This is understandable. As I have said before, the only thing that all monarchists have in common is the belief that a monarchy is a better system, other than that we can be liberal or absolutist, support this heir or that, be right or left wing, pro or anti abortion, etc. etc. etc. To not exclude any monarchists a monarchist party must have only one point on its agenda, that is the restoration of the monarchy. Any other political stand points will always drive some monarchists away. However, the problem with a one point party, is that not many people will be willing to vote for it, for they will feel that it won't represent their opinions regarding all the other important points concerning daily life. The PPM was and is therefore in a catch-22 situation. The result is that it has since dwindled. It is alive, and surprisingly almost elected a member to the European Parliament about a decade ago, and got a city hall in the municipal elections about 6 years ago, but nothing more.

Seeing that a political party was not the solution, monarchists, following the request of HRH formed non-political associations known as Royal Associations. The Royal Associations are geographically based, by district, i.e. the Royal Association of Lisbon for Lisbon, of Oporto for Oporto, and Algarve for the Algarve etc. etc. Each Royal Association has the responsibility of uniting the monarchists in its district and spreading monarchist ideas. Needless to say, some work better than others, but it is fair to say that they have all grown quite a lot in the last few years. Nowdays they coordinate their activities under the supervision of the Royal Cause, a federation of the Royal Associations.

The biggest boom in monarchism came after the wedding of HRH in 1995. The eldest of three bachelor brothers, HRH D. Duarte was around 50 when he married. Nobody expected that he would by then, nor his brothers, and hopes of the continuation of the royal family were small. The wedding changed all that, and the birth of an heir the next year boosted enthusiasm even more. I was present at the wedding and the three baptisms, outside, with the crowds, and I can tell you that it was amazing. However, TRH can't go on having babies forever, and enthusiasm was bound to decrease as time went on, so right now we are experiencing the calm after the storm as people lose hope once more.

The way I see it, we have a message. It's a clear and simple message, that many understand and accept, i.e. that a monarchy would serve Portugal better than a republic for many reasons which I obviously don't have to explain to you.

We are willing to give people that message, but the problem is, people simply are not interested in listening to it right now. They see no reason to change, all seems to function properly, why should they worry about regime change now?

This is understandable. We can read our message out, but we can't force people to be interested, nor can we make them accept or understand the message. All we can and must do, in my opinion, is keep the message alive and well. There will always be monarchists, even if we are a minority, we must make sure that the monarchists of tomorrow are educated, know why they are monarchists, know how to answer republican arguments, and all that, and have some sort of organization. Because harder times will come, people will eventually be dissatisfied with this republic and want a change, and then is when we must leap forth, with a structured plan, and logical arguments to take advantage of the change in atmosphere. If we do not, then we risk having to live through a 4th and 5th republic.

As Joseph Crisp has pointed out quite correctly, monarchists are rarely willing to destroy their country and kill their countrymen in order to achieve their goals as this runs contrary to the spirit of true monarchism. Therefore restoring a monarchy will always be more difficult than destroying one, which to me is proof of the system's virtues rather than its faults. Cruel and evil regimes tend to be harder to tear down.

The principal enemy of monarchists in Portugal has never been republicans, or free-masons, or communists. Our main and most consistent enemy has been ourselves. Inner bickering and petty discussions motivated more by vanity than anything else have been hindering the monarchist cause since its earliest days, and much continues today. We must put a stop to this before we try to convince our countrymen of the wisdom of our ideals.

A good friend of mine, and a firm Brazilian monarchist, has a more encouraging thought that I might end with, specially since I know I am writing to at least some Catholics and Christians.

One of the things Our Lady told the shepherds in Fatima was that her Holy Heart would triumph in the end. I find it difficult to see that happening in a world dominated by republics that go to great pains to distance themselves from anything to do with the Church or with Christianity.

And I end on this lighter note.


Columns Archive 2003, January-June