Sunday, October 16, 2016

CYPRIAN FERNANDES: House of Braganca ... a work in progress (1)



The House of Braganca (at least the lineage) in Portugal began in 1640 when João IV, formerly duke of Braganca, took the Portuguese throne. The country had been controlled by Spain and João’s action set off the war for Portuguese independence. The restoration dominated his reign and that of his sons, Afonso VI (1658–68) and Pedro II, prince regent (1668–83) and king (1683–1706). The end of the war with Spain in 1712 allowed João V (1706–50) to focus on the creation of an absolute monarchy. Portugal was under Spanish control. The last Portuguese king, Sebastião, had died in 1578 and the two crowns united under Philip II of Spain (Philip I of Portugal). After years of discontent with Spanish rule, a group of provincial nobles convinced the duke of Braganca to accept the renascent Portuguese throne in 1640. Several historians have referred to most of the history quoted here.
The duke was the largest landowner in Portugal and overlord of some 80,000 people. He was crowned João IV on December 15, 1640. Philip IV of Spain, absorbed with mounting setbacks in the Thirty Years War and facing internal revolts such as the Catalan uprising, was unable to reconquer Portugal immediately. The new Portuguese king was neither a brilliant nor a particularly charismatic figure. He was cautious and stubborn and had relatively modest ambitions. Thus began the House of Braganca which was to rule Portugal until 1910. (Anon)
Move forward a few centuries after the Portuguese had made themselves lords of Goa and reigned supreme without much opposition from the local natives: Ricardo Afonso Cortes e Sousa Braganca was perhaps the richest man in Goa, before and after World War II. He was a descendant, even if the ancestry is rather convoluted, of the House of Braganca. But this fact was never advertised. He did not need to. He was the only son of Dom Francisco (part mixed blood, how much no one knew) and Dona Maria e Sousa Braganca of Candolim, in north Goa. Francisco’s forefathers had been an integral part of the Portuguese regime in Goa for more than 400 years. In some instances a Braganca was the power behind the throne so to speak.
There are many strands to Dom Francisco’s lineage; most are lost in the sands of time. For example, an unfamiliar uncle left him a fortune in Brazil. Both Francisco and his wife had some mixed blood running through their veins, mainly the so-called Goan nobility but they “passed” as Portuguese as did so many mixed bloods did in Brazil, other parts of South America and the US.
There was always a Braganca close to the Portuguese administration from earliest days of the conqueror Afonso de Albuquerque. Francisco himself, and later his son Ricardo, continued this tradition of having the ear of the governor or the viceroy of the day.
The Braganca estate was bordered in the west by a mile or more of the silver sands of Candolim beach. It took more than a day to ride around the estate on horseback. The centrepiece was of, course, the palatial home which had been renovated or rebuilt many times of the years. The current home, a little in the style of the Spanish hacienda, was still awe-inspiring. On the ground floor, a veranda with many arches decorated the four sides of quadrangle. All the living rooms were above the ground floor. The courtyard had the Goan sky for a canopy. There were several stages or raised platforms in various shapes including one that was circular, and a magnificent fountain was finished off with several circular floral borders. The scent from the flowers was intoxicating to say the least. Although there was a ballroom upstairs (which doubled up as a grand banquet hall for very, very special occasions, most of the dancing and parties were held here on this vast, polished concrete floor which had various sections made of cobbled stones.  However, time and grass had almost hidden the cobbled stones almost out of some unknown shame. Thus the whole quadrangle was safe for both man and beast, to say the least, every foot was safe. Outside, a fence line of large fruit trees, jack fruit, mango, guava, virtually every tropical fruit tree you could name somewhat shielded the house from the elements. Outside this boundary line, the hundreds of Goan peasant workers would gather to witness the miracle of song and dance. Out of earshot, they too had their music and danced the mandos and other Goan traditional songs with gay abandon. The Braganca courtyard was reserved for all things Portuguese but occasionally a Goan nightingale or a crooner would find an honoured place for a few minutes

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