The story

Marquis of Pombal

Marquis of Pombal

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Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo went down in history known for his title of nobility, Marquês de Pombal. His family was noble, but Sebastião's parents didn't have much money. The boy studied law for a year at the University of Coimbra and did not like it. He entered military service as a cadet and did not adapt either. After a busy bachelor life, she married Teresa de Noronha and Bourbon, Queen Mary Anne of Austria's lady.

When he turned 39 he began his public life: he was ambassador (representative of the Portuguese government) in England - where his wife died - and in Austria. There, his diplomatic work was to reconcile Pope Benedict 14 and Austrian Emperor Fernando Io, who were in conflict. At this time, Sebastião married for the second time with Leonor, Countess of Daun.

In 1750, when King Joseph ascended the throne of Portugal, after the death of John 5th, Sebastião was called back to the court of Lisbon to be minister of that king. Soon he became the leading figure in the Portuguese state.

His energy, after the 1755 earthquake that destroyed Lisbon and killed hundreds of thousands of people, gave him much prestige with the king. He was successively appointed Prime Minister, Count of Oeiras and Marquis of Pombal.

During his work as minister, Pombal made many reforms and conquered a large number of political opponents among the nobility, clergy and officers. He was primarily responsible for the expulsion of the Jesuits from Portugal and the colonies. Known for their efficient teaching method, the Jesuits acted as a Catholic force in Portugal.

They blocked projects from the Marquis, such as marrying a Protestant, the heir to the Duke of Cumberland, and giving Jews privileges in exchange for help rebuilding Lisbon after the earthquake. In the Brazilian colony, where the Jesuits had colleges (missions), Pombal accused them of supporting the indigenous in resisting Portugal. Friction with the religious order followed one another.

An attack on the life of King Joseph in 1758 gave Pombal the pretext to take powers from the nobility and expel the Jesuits, who had befriended the conspirators. Those involved, their families and servants, were tortured and killed. The time became known as the Pombaline Terror. The Marquis became the dictator of Portugal and people fell silent when they saw that enemies and critics were punished with life sentences, exile and death. The minister defended absolutism as a form of government, that is, all powers concentrated in the hands of the king.

Pombal was also known for the great impetus he gave to education in his country: this was part of his plan to upgrade Portugal from the rest of Europe. He authored laws that prohibited enslaving Indians and ended discrimination against new Christians (Jews converted to the Catholic faith at the time of the persecution of the Inquisition). Reformed the University of Coimbra, the Army and the Navy. It reorganized state finances, created the Royal Press and the School of Commerce, and boosted various manufactures to make Portugal less dependent on England.

Most people, especially the nobles and clergy representatives, did not like the reforms because they reduced their privileges and their power. When King Joseph died and Queen Mary 1a ascended the throne in 1777, the Marquis lost political power and was removed from government.

Maria 1a - who went down in history as D. Maria 1a the madwoman - was dominated by the nobles and priests. Two years later, Pombal was sentenced to exile on charges of corruption. He wanted to defend himself but could not be heard. The queen published a decision saying that she pardoned the marquis for his crimes and, as he was sick and old, would not be required to leave the country. This displeased Pombal, the crimes had not been proven, and he had done many services to the kingdom. He retired to his palace, where he remained until his death at the age of 83.

The fall of the marquis became known as the turning point. After her, Portugal fell back into England's backwardness and dependence until it was invaded by France in 1808 - when the royal family fled to Brazil.


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