90 Years Since the Death of King Manoel II of Portugal

The last photo of King Manuel II, 1932.

On 2 July 1932, King Manuel II of Portugal died at 2pm at his home-in-exile, Fulwell Park, Twickenham. His wife Queen Victoria Auguste was at his bedside when the last Portuguese monarch passed away. A malady of the throat was the case of death for the forty-three year-old king. King George V and Queen Mary immediately sent their condolences. 

The official statement of the passing of King Manuel read as follows:

We are authorised and regret to announce that His Majesty King Manoel of Portugal died suddenly this afternoon at two o’clock. 

His Majesty attended the tennis tournament at Wimbledon yesterday. This morning the King complained of a sore throat, but was free from fever and paid a visit to his laryngologist, who advised his immediate retirement to bed.

At 1pm His Majesty felt more ill and went to bed. 

At 1:40 there was an attack of breathlessness, which became worse with extreme rapidity, and death ensued from acute oedema of the glottis.

King Manuel had been visit by his laryngologist, Sir Milson Rees, on the morning of the day of his death. No doctor was present at the death of king owing to the rapid deterioration in his condition. However, a brief time after the king died, his consulting physician Lord Dawson of Penn arrived at Fulwell Park. The king’s mother Queen Amélie, who often resided at Fulwell Park with her son and daughter-in-law, immediately departed to England from her French residence, the Château de Bellevue at Le Chesnay near Versailles. 

Queen Victoria Augusta and Queen Amelia of Portugal arrive at Westminster Cathedral.

On 14 July, a High Mass of Requiem was held at Westminster Cathedral. Upon the casket of the late king was a crown, it was comprised of blue and yellow flowers, the colours of the Portuguese flag. Chief among the mourners were the widowed Queen Victoria Auguste, who wept silently with her head bowed, and Queen Amélie, who held her head erect…a woman who had now lived through the assassinations of her husband and eldest son and was witnessing the final rites for her youngest child. Both royal ladies were dressed in simple black mourning attire. The mass was also attended by King Alfonso XIII of Spain, King George II of Greece, and the Duke of Gloucester representing his father King George. Two thousand mourners were in the cathedral.

The funeral cortege of King Manuel makes its way through the streets of Lisbon.

The mortal remains of the last King of Portugal were transported from the United Kingdom to Portugal on the British cruiser Concord. The ship arrived at Lisbon on 2 August. The Republic of Portugal, lead by then by António de Oliveira Salazar, authorised state honours to be accorded to the events surrounding the burial of King Manoel. The Reverend C.G. Holland, honorary chaplain to the British embassy in Lisbon, recounted his recollections of King Manoel’s body returning to his beloved homeland for the The Sevenoaks Chronicle, Westerham Courier and Kentish Advertiser, on 12 August 1932:

The passing of Royalty has a poignancy wider and deeper than private obsequies however intimate such may be. For the King belongs to his country and his mourners are his subjects of all ages and of every class. But on the sadness of the cry, “Le Roi est mort,” there follows hard the shout of “Vive le Roi”; the slow sad music of death merging into the joyful coronation march as the new monarch ascends to the throne of his fathers. 

When the King has lost his throne and has died in exile, when he is the last of his Royal House to hold the sceptre, there is no fanfare of accession to drown the funeral dirge: “Le Roi set mort,” and with him Royalty dies.

Today I have witnessed such a passing, surely the strangest, most poignant, and most romantic of all Royal funerals, the homecoming of King Manuel II. of Braganza after an exile of 22 years.

As the sun rose in cloudless glory on yet another perfect summer’s day, the motor launch chartered by the correspondents of Reuters and Havas set off down the river to meet the British cruiser bringing the Royal coffin. A brisk “Nortade” was whipping up the broad estuary into short foam-crested waves as we crouched in the shelter of the canvas wind-dodger straining our eyes down stream to catch the first glimpse of the escorting destroyer.

Not until we had nearly reached the lighthouse which guards the bar of the Tagus did we see the tell-tale plume of smoke from the low funnels of Guardiana, the Portuguese destroyer, half-a-mile ahead of the cruiser. A few minutes later the light cruiser H.M.S. Concord came into sight, astern of her the little torpedo boat Lis.

Concord flew the white ensign astern, the Jack at the bow, and at her signal halyards the Royal Standard of the House of Braganza, red with the Royal arms in gold in the centre, all three at half-mast. Liner, tramp, bluff-nosed tug, and fussy launch, the graceful schooners of the Newfoundland cod-fishing, even the coal-hulks and lighters flew the right and green flag of the Republic at half-mast, the beaches and the quays were black with people, while over the city a thousand lowered flags were paying homage to Royalty. Where the river narrows at Belem stands the tower of Vasco da Gama on the spot where that famous voyager set off and returned on his voyage to the Indies. From the side of the Concord a flash and a cloud of light grey smoke, followed by a deep boom which echoed among the hills of the many-hilled city of Ulysses. An answering gun from the fort of Bom Successao; 21 guns from river and from land the salute of international curtesy. The vessels quicken speed, the little Lis plunging her bows into the waves as she works up to what must be for her, in her old age, full speed. A string of flags from Guardiana, answered in kind by the Concord; the International Code understood by all the ships of the world. The escort turns aside, the British cruiser with a wide sweep slows down the quay of the Sul e Oeste, hawsers are made ready and she edges into the quayside.

On the quay await the Minister of War, members of the Government, and foreign diplomats, among whom in the place of honour our own Ambassador, Sir Claud Russell, today enoye extraordinaire of King George V. There, too, await Cardinal Archbishop of Lisbon, with his Canons and his chaplain, the guard of honour, and a little crowd of reporters with notebooks, film and “still” cameras, the insignia of their trade.

Concord is now alongside, her decks manned for entering harbour. The coffin has been carried on the poop-deck, guarded by four bluejackets with arms reserved. Now covered with the Royal Standard it is borne by eight sailors down the gangway. A sharp command, the marines present arms, the buglers take up the plaintive notes of the “Last Post.” As the last note dies away the guard of honour on the quay repeats the call learnt more than a hundred years ago from Wellington’s army on the battlefields of Spain and Portugal. The bearers have reached the quay, and King Manuel is on his own soil and among his own people after 22 years of exile. A short religious ceremony at the catafalque inside the station on the pier in the midst of which four flash-lights explode and twenty cameras secure another “news photograph.” Again the coffin is lifted, this time upon the shoulders of eight Portuguese sailors. England has done her part, has paid her last act of homage to her Royal guest, and given back the King to his own people. 

Outside in the great Praca do Commercio, the citizens of Lisbon await their former King. Fifty deep they stand ringed by a line of armed soldiers in sky-blue uniforms and steel helmets. Alone in the midst of the great square, the dead King’s ancestor, King Jose I, carved in bronze astride his coal-black charger set high above all early Kings and Presidents, dominates the pageantry of passing Royalty. The coffin is lifted upon a gun-carriage drawn by six horses, and is made secure by four former officers of the Royal household. On the coffin rest the wreaths sent by the King and Queen of Italy and by the officers and men of H.M.S. Concord. Our own Royal wreath with hundreds of others fill to overflowing two large motor hearses.

The gun-carriage moves off, followed by the golden coaches of the Cardinal Archbishop and his clergy, each with six mules and mounted positions. On each side a line of infantry with arms reversed, a squadron of landers with pennons-a-flutter in the breeze, units from every regiment garrisoned in Lisbon, a detachment from the fleet, and the long, long line of motor cars. Out into the sunshine of the square where the pigeons wheel beneath the summer sky, amid the respectful homage of a people for a true patriot and a great cavalheiro who loved his country to the last and bequeathed his worldly goods to the nation which had rejected him. The sobs of the women, the set white faces of the men, the lofty buildings and the streets black with mourners, the jingle of the bits and the hoof-beats of the escort. King Manuel has come home at last, and all Lisbon is there to receive him. Past the very spot where before his eyes his father and elder brother had been shot down by the assassin, up the steep Rua da Graca to the Church of Ste. Vincente where his Royal forebears lies, among whom the English Queen, Catherine of Braganza, wife of our own Charles II.

Twenty-two years ago a British vessel, our Royal Yacht, Victoria and Albert, brought King Manuel to our shores, today a British vessel has given him back to his fatherland. Today in Lisbon there is neither monarchist nor republican, for today all are subjects of the last of the Kings. Tomorrow politics will blaze forth again and ancient feuds be renewed. Today “None is for a party and all are for the King.”

“Le Roi est mort” – yes, the King is dead; and yet he lives and will live on in the hearts of those who drove him from the land he loved so well and fain would have served so faithfully. As I write the guns are booming again: this time it is the Royal salute. The Republic is paying her last respects to the last of her Kings.

The body of King Manuel II was interred in the Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza in the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. 

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