Childhood & Early Life
Manuel II of Portugal was born as Manuel Maria Filipe Carlos Amélio Luís Miguel Rafael Gabriel Gonzaga Francisco de Assis Eugénio de Saxe-Coburgo-Gota e Bragança on November 15, 1889, in the Palace of Belém, Lisbon. He was the third child and second son of King Carlos I, who had ascended the throne about a month ago, and Queen Amélie of Orleans, after Infante Luís Filipe and Infanta Maria Ana.
Born into the House of Braganza, he was styled as Duke of Beja from birth, and received the traditional education of a royal family member, even though he was not raised to become a king. He excelled in history, literature and languages; was trained in horse-riding, fencing, rowing, tennis and gardening; and loved to listen to music and play the piano.
He travelled to Egypt aboard the royal yacht Amélia in 1903, with his mother and older brother, to gain knowledge about the ancient civilization. He pursued a military career with the Portuguese Naval Academy in 1907, but his stint with the Navy was cut short following the Lisbon regicide the next year.
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On February 1, 1908, Manuel II of Portugal, along with the rest of the royal family, was returning from the Ducal Palace in Vila Viçosa to Lisbon when republican activist revolutionaries fired shots at them. His father King Carlos I was killed, and his brother Prince Luís Filipe succumbed to injuries soon after, while Manuel survived with an injured arm thanks to the alertness of his mother, who was unharmed.
Two attackers, Alfredo Luis da Costa and Manuel Buiça, later recognized as members of the Portuguese Republican Party, were shot by the royal bodyguard on the spot. During his first meeting with his Council of State as the new King, Manuel immediately sought the resignation of Prime Minister João Franco, whose policies supposedly caused the disaster.
Hoping to increase national unity, Manuel II of Portugal appointed a government led by distinguished Admiral Francisco Joaquim Ferreira do Amaral and affirmed his support of the constitution at the Royal Court Assembly on May 6, 1908. Unlike his father, he refrained from intervention in political matters and travelled across the country to connect with his subjects, who were sympathetic to the young King and received him warmly.
He also did away with the vanity of the royal court, but still failed to gain favors with the republicans whose hostility towards monarchy was widespread, as was revealed by investigations into the assassinations. Instead, he attempted to weaken the Republican Party by influencing the socialist party, which did not have representation in Parliament despite existing since 1875, but the plan never took off.
He attempted to gain foreign influence by visiting Spain, France, and the United Kingdom, and shaped his foreign policy after Great Britain, which appointed him 'Knight of the Order of the Garter' in November 1909. The court also considered his marriage to a British princess, however, following the death of his father's close friend Edward VII, the liberal British government showed little interest in the Portuguese monarchy.
The fragile political stability at home suffered as government changed seven times within two years and the anti-monarchist gained power in the parliament, culminating in a coup d'état following murder of a prominent republican. As the military refused to suppress the nearly two thousand soldiers and sailors that rebelled between October 3 and 4, 1910, Manuel was forced to flee from Palace of Necessidades under heavy bombardment.
He moved to the Mafra National Palace to reunite with his mother, Queen Amélia, and his grandmother, the Queen Mother Maria Pia of Savoy. On the morning of October 5, 1910, as the Republic was proclaimed, he embarked on the royal yacht Amélia IV and headed for Porto, narrowly escaping armed Republicans.
Learning that Porto had fallen to the Republicans, the royal family changed their route midway towards Gibraltar, finally arriving in the UK, where they were received by King George V. While he supported the monarchists' attempts at restoring the throne, he was against armed conflict and advocated gaining support through legislature, which encouraged some to offer the throne to descendants of Miguel I.
As multiple attempts to restore monarchy in 1911, 1912 and 1919 failed, he lived the rest of his life in exile in Fulwell Park, Twickenham – his mother's birthplace– where he participated in the local community.
Always a patriot, he closely followed political events in Portugal, and in 1915, expressed his wish to be buried in his country and declared that he wanted to transfer his possessions to the Portuguese State.
He supported Portugal siding with the Allies in WWI fearing loss of colonies to German aggression, but his requests to serve in the Portuguese army were declined. He was eventually assigned a post in the British Red Cross by the Allies, in which position he worked wholeheartedly despite being disappointed initially.
Personal Life & Legacy
Manuel II of Portugal fell in love with French actress and dancer Gaby Deslys after meeting with her during a visit to Paris in July 1909, following which he showered her with lavish gifts. Foreign newspapers in Europe and America regularly published stories about their affair, which continued even when he was in exile in London, but ended after she relocated to New York in the summer of 1911.
During his visit to Switzerland in 1912, he became interested in his second cousin, Princess Augusta Victoria of Hohenzollern, daughter of William, Prince of Hohenzollern. They married on 4 September 1913 and lived happily together for the rest of his life, but had no children.
Despite being in good health, he died due to suffocation under suspicious circumstances on July 2, 1932, following which Portuguese Prime Minister António Oliveira de Salazar authorized his burial in Lisbon. After his body reached there a month later, he was given a state funeral and was buried in the Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza in the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora.