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Afonso VI
Portrait in the National Coach Museum
King of Portugal
Reign6 November 1656 – 12 September 1683
Acclamation15 November 1657
PredecessorJohn IV
SuccessorPeter II
RegentsLuisa de Guzmán
Peter, Duke of Beja
Chief ministerCount of Castelo Melhor
Born21 August 1643
Ribeira Palace, Lisbon, Portugal
Died12 September 1683 (aged 40)
Sintra Palace, Sintra, Portugal
(m. 1666; ann. 1668)​
FatherJohn IV of Portugal
MotherLuisa de Guzmán
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Afonso VI (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐˈfõsu]; 21 August 1643 – 12 September 1683), known as "the Victorious" (o Vitorioso), was the second king of Portugal of the House of Braganza from 1656 until his death.[1] He was initially under the regency of his mother, Luisa de Guzmán, until 1662, when he removed her to a convent and took power with the help of his favourite, the Luís de Vasconcelos e Sousa, 3rd Count of Castelo Melhor.[2]

Afonso's reign saw the end of the Restoration War (1640–68) and Spain's recognition of Portugal's independence.[3] He also negotiated a French alliance through his marriage.[4] In 1668, his brother Pedro II conspired to have him declared incapable of ruling, and took supreme de facto power as regent, although nominally Afonso was still sovereign.[5] Queen Maria Francisca, Afonso's wife, received an annulment and subsequently married Pedro.[6] Afonso spent the rest of his life and reign practically a prisoner.[5][7][8]

Early life

Afonso was the second of three sons born to King John IV and Queen Luisa.[9] At the age of three, he experienced an illness that resulted in paralysis on the right side of his body.[10][11] The condition was believed to have also affected his intellectual abilities.[10][12] His father created him 10th Duke of Braganza.[13]

After the death of his eldest brother Teodósio, Prince of Brazil in 1653, Afonso became the heir apparent to the throne of the kingdom.[10] He also received the crown-princely title 2nd Prince of Brazil.


Portrait of Infante Afonso; José de Avelar Rebelo, 1653.

He succeeded his father, John IV, in 1656 at the age of thirteen.[11] His mother, Luisa de Guzmán, was named regent in his father's will.[11][14]

Luisa's regency continued even after Afonso came of age because he was considered mentally unfit for governing.[15][16] In addition to lacking intellect, the king exhibited wild and disruptive behavior.[11][10] In 1662, after Afonso terrorized Lisbon at night alongside his favorites,[17][18] Luisa and her council responded by banishing some of the king's companions that were associated with the raids.[18] Angered, Afonso took power with the help of Castelo-Melhor and Luisa's regency came to an end.[19][20][21] She subsequently retired to a convent,[22][14] where she died in 1666.[23]

Afonso appointed Castelo-Melhor as his private secretary (escrivão da puridade).[24][19] He proved to be a competent minister.[20] His astute military organization and sensible general appointments resulted in decisive military victories over the Spanish[25] at Elvas (14 January 1659), Ameixial (8 June 1663) and Montes Claros (17 June 1665),[26][27] culminating in the final Spanish recognition of sovereignty of Portugal's new ruling dynasty, the House of Braganza,[28][29] on 13 February 1668 in the Treaty of Lisbon.[30][31]

Colonial affairs

Colonial affairs saw the Dutch conquest of Jaffna, Portugal's last colony in Portuguese Ceylon (1658),[32] and the cession of Bombay and Tangier to England (23 June 1661) as dowry for Afonso's sister, Catherine of Braganza, who had married King Charles II of England.[33][34]


Melhor successfully arranged for Afonso to marry Maria Francisca of Savoy,[35] a relative of the Duke of Savoy, in 1666,[36] but the marriage was short-lived. Maria Francisca filed for an annulment in 1667 based on the impotence of the king.[37][38] The church granted her the annulment, and she married Afonso's brother, Peter II, Duke of Beja.[6][39]


King Afonso VI imprisoned in the Palace of Sintra, by Alfredo Roque Gameiro.

Also in 1667, Pedro managed to gain enough support to force Afonso to relinquish control of the government to him,[38] and he became prince regent in 1668.[37][6][36] While Pedro never formally usurped the throne, Afonso was king in name only for the rest of his life.[40][41] For seven years after Peter's coup, Afonso was kept on the island of Terceira[42] in the Azores.[29][43] His health broken by this captivity, he was eventually permitted to return to the Portuguese mainland, but he remained powerless and kept under guard. At Sintra he died in 1683.[42][44][45]

The room where he was imprisoned is preserved at Sintra National Palace.



  1. ^ McMurdo 1889, p. 407.
  2. ^ McMurdo 1889, pp. 416–417.
  3. ^ Ogg 1934, p. 334.
  4. ^ Ogg 1934, p. 325.
  5. ^ a b Livermore 1969, p. 195.
  6. ^ a b c Ames 2000, p. 35.
  7. ^ Helpful up-to-date information is available in Martin Malcolm Elbl, Portuguese Studies Review 30 (1) (2022): 131-198. "Through 'Deplorable' Eyes: Barlow in Lisbon (1661) ~ Elite Theatrics, King Afonso VI of Portugal, Bullfights, and a Common English Seaman". Retrieved 30 April 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ McMurdo 1889, p. 441.
  9. ^ Ames 2000, p. 25.
  10. ^ a b c d Livermore 1969, p. 185.
  11. ^ a b c d McMurdo 1889, p. 408.
  12. ^ Davidson (1908), p. 14.
  13. ^ Genealogy of the Dukes of Braganza in Portuguese
  14. ^ a b "Luísa Gusmão", Dicionário [Dictionary] (in Portuguese), Arq net.
  15. ^ Marques 1976, p. 331.
  16. ^ McMurdo 1889, p. 447.
  17. ^ McMurdo 1889, p. 414.
  18. ^ a b Livermore 1969, p. 189.
  19. ^ a b Marques 1976, p. 332.
  20. ^ a b Stephens 1891, p. 331.
  21. ^ For overview, with bibliography, in English, see Ricardo Fernando Gomes Pinto e Chaves, Portuguese Studies Review 30 (1) (2022): 113-130. "When the Desire (and the Obligation) Refuses to Work. The Sexualisation of the Prince's Power in the Context of Consolidation of the Dynastic States of Modernity". Retrieved 30 April 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ McMurdo 1889, p. 417.
  23. ^ Ames 2000, p. 30.
  24. ^ Livermore 1969, p. 190.
  25. ^ McMurdo 1889, pp. 423–425.
  26. ^ Ames 2000, p. 32.
  27. ^ Livermore 1969, p. 187.
  28. ^ Livermore 1969, p. 188.
  29. ^ a b Stephens 1891, p. 333.
  30. ^ Ames 2000, p. 37.
  31. ^ McMurdo 1889, p. 430.
  32. ^ Ames 2000, p. 28.
  33. ^ Ogg 1934, p. 185.
  34. ^ Dyer 1877, p. 341.
  35. ^ Stephens 1891, p. 332.
  36. ^ a b Livermore 1969, pp. 192.
  37. ^ a b Ames 2000, p. 34.
  38. ^ a b Dyer 1877, p. 342.
  39. ^ Livermore 1969, pp. 194–196.
  40. ^ Davidson (1908), p. 236.
  41. ^ The proceedings which the annulment of Afonso's marriage involved formed the basis of João Mário Grilo's 1989 film, The King's Trial.
  42. ^ a b Dyer 1877, p. 343.
  43. ^ Livermore 1969, pp. 196.
  44. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Alphonso s.v. Alphonso VI." . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 734.
  45. ^ Stephens 1891, p. 334.


5 Annotations

First Reading

Jeannine  •  Link

Alfonso VI was the brother of Catherine of Braganza (who married Charles II and became the Queen of England).

Pepys says on May 24, 1662

Jeannine  •  Link

Thanks to Pedro for supplying the following translation regarding Alfonso's illness as a child. His annotation read:


Pedro  •  Link

The King of Portugal, Afonso

Sam's entry on the 19th November 1662 mentions the King of Portugal sending the fleet and landmen back to England, but in reality this should read the Conde de Castello Melhor who is virtually running the country. Perhaps drawing together some points together may be of interest.

On the death of Catherine's father D.Joao, and her elder brother Teodosio in 1653, Afonso became heir to the throne at the age of 10 years. The Courts were divided as to whether to confirm this succession due to his health (discussed above) and his behaviour problems. Some hesitated but it was decided that, in those days of struggle against Spain, that a King must exist, and so Catherine's mother D. Luisa became Queen Regent. Although being of Spanish origin, she was well respected and considered one of the driving forces behind her husbands decision to lead the rebellion in 1640.

Luisa chose the Conde de Odemira to govern the King, but this was a thankless task, and by the time Odemira died in 1661 he had become ungovernable. The King spent most of his time riding, coursing bulls, and watching cock and dog fights, although it is said that he had a most prodigious memory. He had taken to roaming the streets with the "lower order" people in the Square, especially with a gang led by one Antonio Conti, of Italian origin. Conti was given many favours by the King and assumed the air of the Royal Favourite, even setting himself up with rooms in the Palace. Some factions in the Court sided with the King for their own interests.

Meanwhile Luisa was doing her best to cement alliances, for the benefit of Portugal, by the marriage of her daughter Catherine. She had tried to stand aside from the differences in the Court, but things had got so bad in 1659 that the balance of power that she maintained was being destroyed. She threatened to resign the Regency, in the hope that it would bring the factions together, and as she was urged not to do so by many, it seems to have worked.

After successfully agreeing the marriage treaty with England in 1662, she must have felt that her job had been completed, and she was tired of the enormous pressures that had been thrust upon her. In June she announced that she would resign in two months. In response the factions favouring Afonso's younger brother Pedro, agreed to remove Conti and ship him off to Brazil, and Luisa appealed to her son to prepare for government, and to refrain from unscrupulous company. He took no interest at all.

After the removal of Conti, the leader of another faction Conde de Castello Melhor saw his chance to move. He told Afonso that the same fate awaited him, and that he should go to Alcantara where a force was waiting for his defence. From there he advised Afonso to announce his takeover of the government, but in effect Castello Melhor alone had access to the King and issued orders and decrees in his name. Catherine's mother retired to a convent, and he purged the Court of his enemies and held power for 5 years.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

The King of Portugal was Alfonso VI., who ascended the throne in 1656, and was deposed in 1667.
---Wheatley, 1899.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

In the Diary years:

In need of support from Portugal against their mutual enemy, Spain, in 1665 Louis XIV arranged a marriage between 20-year-old Dona Maria Francisca of Savoy, Mademoiselle d'Aumale (his cousin, and an important member of the French nobility), and the Portuguese king, Afonso VI, an ill young man who was paralyzed on his left side and mentally unstable.

Mademoiselle d'Aumale was married by proxy to Alfonso VI whom she had never met on June 27 at La Rochelle, and departed from La Rochelle aboard the Vendôme under the command of the Marquis de Ruvigny on June 30, 1666.…

Upon Dona Maria Francisca of Savoy, Mademoiselle d'Aumale’s arrival in Portugal, she became known as Queen Maria Francisca Isabel de Sabóia.

Queen Maria Francisca Isabel de Sabóia was deeply disappointed with her new life at the court of Portugal. The wedding with Alfonso VI in person took place on 2 August 1666.

King Alfonso was unable to consummate the marriage.

Queen Maria Francisca soon decided to participate in a palace coup d'état that ended the government of Luís de Vasconcelos e Sousa, 3rd Count of Castelo Melhor, in cooperation with her brother-in-law, the Infante Pedro, Duke of Beja.

As the Portuguese Restoration War continued, the incapable Afonso VI became dominated by ambitious members of the nobility. Queen Maria Francisca began an affair with her brother-in-law, the Infante Pedro, Duke of Beja.

The Queen was revolted at her impotent and fat husband Afonso VI, and after 16 months of an unconsummated marriage, she had it annulled. [That makes the annulment as happening in January 1668]

Former queen Maria Francisca and the Infante Pedro, Duke of Beja, sponsored a revolt that finally forced Afonso VI to abdicate his powers and consent to exile in Terceira in the Azores in 1667.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.