Dukes of Cadaval

Dukes can be dangerous. Most European monarchies have suffered at one point or another from over-powerful uncles with ducal titles: Bedford and Gloucester for Henry VI of England, Burgundy and Anjou for Charles VI of France, or those more distantly related to the king, usually known as the princes of the blood. In some cases, these are the strongest supporters of the monarchy, but in others they can be its fiercest challengers. In the case of Portugal in the 17th century, the dukes of Cadaval were able to help make a king, João IV, but also to unmake one, João’s son Afonso VI. Yet riding high can also mean having a great fall, and after having been the largest landowners and most powerful aristocrats in the 18th century, the dukes of Cadaval backed the wrong horse in the civil war of the 1820s and spent much of the rest of the century in exile.

Nuno Álvares Pereira de Melo, first Duke of Cadaval

The dukes of Cadaval, or the House of Melo (more fully Álvares Pereira de Melo), were a junior branch of the House of Bragança, which was itself an illegitimate cadet branch of the royal dynasty of Portugal, the House of Avis. Afonso de Portugal, natural son of King João I, was created Duke of Bragança in 1442 by his half-brother, the Duke of Coimbra acting as regent for the young King Afonso V. He was already a wealthy man, having married the heiress Brites Álvares Pereira, daughter of the Constable of Portugal, the famous Nuno Álvares Pereira, a general in the Portuguese wars of independence of the 1380s and ultimately canonised by the Catholic Church (the ‘Santo Condestável’).

the Constable of Portugal

The second Duke of Bragança added to this by marrying Joana de Castro, heiress of Cadaval, a large estate in the hills to the north of Lisbon. They had four sons who dominated the court and administration of Afonso V in the 1470s. The youngest of these, Álvaro, made yet another great marriage to an heiress, Filipa de Melo, Lady of Ferreira de Aves. He founded a new lineage who took a new compound name, Álvares Pereira de Melo, lords of Ferreira, Cadaval, Melo, Tentúgal and so on. These lands extended the reach of the family up into the more northerly parts of the Kingdom, mostly in the province of Beira, from the highlands (Melo and Ferreira) to the lowlands nearer the coast (Tentúgal). Álvaro had been head of the judiciary in Portugal, as Grand Chancellor, but fell from favour—along with most of the great magnates—in the new reign of King João II (r. 1481-95), went into exile in Castile, and became one of the chief counsellors of Queen Isabella, who compensated him for his lost estates in Portugal with large estates newly conquered in the south of Spain. He also increased his family’s riches significantly by backing Christopher Columbus in his dispute with the Crown over his rights to revenues from new discoveries, in exchange for a grant of 10% of the profits from the New World. At the start of the new century, he was recalled to Portugal by King Manuel and restored to his lands and offices. Having two sons, he was able to divide his patrimony and his interests, between Portugal and Castile, with the latter branch becoming even closer to Columbus by marriage to his grand-daughter, and starting a new dynasty in Spain, Colón de Portugal, dukes of Veragua—a topic for another blog post.

The elder son, Rodrigo, remained in Portugal and was created Conde de Tentúgal in 1504 (with the right to be addressed by the king as ‘nephew’), then Marquês de Ferreira in 1533. Like most Portuguese noblemen, he took part in the great overseas expansion of the 16th century, acting as governor of Tangier. This interest in North African affairs eventually led to disaster, however, with the battle of Alcácer-Quibir (al Quasr al-kibr) in 1578, in which King Sebastião, intervening in a Moroccan succession dispute, lost his life, along with much of the high Portuguese nobility. His death ultimately ushered in the long period of Habsburg rule in Portugal, from 1580 to 1640.

It is in 1640 where the story of the dukes of Cadaval really takes off. The Portuguese nobility and urban elites had been bristling under the rule of the Habsburgs from Madrid for a while, and looked to the extant branches of the former ruling house for leadership: the senior-most of these, headed by the Duke of Bragança, was encouraged by the next in line, the Marquis of Ferreira, to proclaim himself king. And in 1640, while the armies of Philip IV of Spain were otherwise occupied with fighting in the Thirty Years War in the Rhineland and the Low Countries, and simultaneously facing a serious rebellion in Catalonia, they made their move, led by a group of forty noblemen in Lisbon known as the ‘Conjurados’. In early December, Bragança was proclaimed king as João IV in Lisbon, followed soon after by a similar proclamation by Ferreira in his family’s regional power base of Évora, the chief city of the Alentejo Province, an important region to secure, as the borderlands facing Castile. At the formal coronation of the new king, Ferreira bore the Sword of State as Constable of Portugal.

the coronation of King João IV–the Marquis of Ferreira holds the sword of state

The next two decades were a struggle to maintain this new independence; Francisco de Melo, Marquis of Ferreira was an important part of this, making use of his international standing to act as ambassador to France in 1641 to secure crucial French support against Spain, while at home he helped run the new court as Grand Master of the Household, and in the field he commanded the cavalry in battles along the eastern frontier. It is interesting to note—though not that unusual in the history of grandee families, especially those with properties on or near border zones—that there were two men of roughly the same age, cousins, who were both called Francisco de Melo, and while the Marquis of Ferreira is remembered as one of the chief supporters of the Portuguese Restoration, the other, the Count of Assumar, was one of the leading generals and statesmen in Spain, commanding armies in Flanders, then serving in succession as viceroy of Sicily, the Low Countries, and Catalonia, and representative of the King of Spain at the peace talks in Westphalia in 1648. By this date, the year of the end of the Thirty Years War, Ferreira was dead, but King João wished to honour him, and named his son, Nuno Álvares Pereira de Melo, first Duke of Cadaval, in April 1648, as part of the celebrations of the birth of a second royal son, Dom Pedro.

the Marquis of Ferreira, father of the 1st Duke of Cadaval

The new dukedom gave this family a rank enjoyed by no other in Portugal, and was accompanied by recognition that they were in line of succession to the throne, should the line of Bragança fail. Cadaval was a large territory, consisting of about twenty villages, and the Duke set about constructing new residences to match his status. One of these was the Palace of Muge, on the Tejo northeast of Lisbon (originally a royal residence, it was a property acquired by his marriage to Maria de Portugal-Faro, Condessa de Odemira, from another branch of the House of Portugal). This estate, its palace destroyed by the great earthquake of 1755, is still run by the family, now as a major Portuguese winery, the Casa Cadaval.

The first Duke also enlarged a house nearer to Lisbon, known as Pedrouços, in the area of suburban villas along the Tejo waterfront west of Belém, which later became a sometime royal residence, and a fashionable seafront retreat in the early 19th century. Part of the estate rising on the hillside above retains a hint of the former association with the dukes of Cadaval, the fort of Alto do Duque, one of the western defences of the city of Lisbon built in the 19th century. Mostly a ruin by the late 20th century, it has recently undergone renovation as part of the urban regeneration of this section of Lisbon.

Pedrouços in the 1930s

But the real symbol of the new ducal family’s power and prestige was in Évora, the Palácio Cadaval, which remains the primary ducal seat today. Located in the heart of the city, near the Cathedral and the ancient ruins of a Roman temple, it was originally a Moorish then Visigothic fortress—with even older Roman foundations—rebuilt as a castle in the 14th century by the de Melo family, renovated in the early 16th century in what is called ‘Manueline’ style (after King Manuel I—the style of the famous Jerónimos Monastery in Belém, Lisbon), and then given a new façade in the 17th century. It still retains its most notable feature, the medieval five-sided tower. It was restored in the 1990s, and today hosts concerts and cultural events.

Palace of the Dukes of Cadaval, Évora

The 1st Duke of Cadaval was only ten when the dukedom was created, but he became one of the most important men of the reign of the second Bragança king, Afonso VI, whose reign began in 1656 when he was still a child. Cadaval served the Queen Regent, Luisa de Guzmán, as a general and a councillor of state, but when her son came of age in 1662 he was pushed out, along with the pro-English faction at court. In 1667, he returned to power, with the help of the French-born queen, Marie-Françoise of Savoy-Nemours, and the King’s younger brother, Dom Pedro. In a rather scandalous turn of events, the Queen and her brother-in-law deposed the King (on grounds of mental health), she acquired an annulment (claiming non-consummation), and within a year had married Pedro, who was proclaimed Prince Regent and later succeeded as King Pedro II. Cadaval was named Constable of Portugal and Mordomo-mor (Head of the Household) of the Queen, and retook his seat on the Council of State and the Council of War. He was now (and would remain) very pro-French, and solidified this stance through a second marriage, in 1671, to Marie-Angélique de Lorraine, daughter of the Comte d’Harcourt; then after her death in 1674, to her cousin, Marguerite de Lorraine, daughter of Louis, Comte d’Armagnac. As a historical phenomenon, it is fascinating to note that there are several other marriages between the high aristocracies of France and Portugal in the reign of Louis XIV, which is what drew me to the history of the Cadaval family to begin with while I was researching the Lorraine princes for my doctorate. I think there is more to this story—was Louis trying to wrench Portugal away from its traditional alliance with England?—and it would make for a good Phd dissertation—contact me if you are interested!

1st Duke of Cadaval

As a sign of his heightened international prestige, the Duke of Cadaval was sent to Spain in 1681 to negotiate peace, and to Nice in 1682 to pick up a groom, Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy, for his marriage to the heiress to the Portuguese throne, Infanta Isabel Luísa, Princess of Beira, and to deliver him safely back to Lisbon. This marriage had been arranged by the couple’s mothers, who were sisters, but had been rejected from the start by the Savoyard prince, and he refused to board the boat commanded by Cadaval, who therefore returned home groomless. The unfortunate Infanta—known as Sempre-noiva, ‘always-engaged’—died in 1690, but Cadaval’s fortunes continued to rise: although Pedro II now had a male heir, he was only an infant, and the only other Bragança offspring was an illegitimate daughter, Luisa, sometimes known as the Princess of Carnide, who was married in 1695 to the heir to the Duke of Cadaval, Luis Ambrosio (known as the 2nd Duke since his father resigned his titles to him in 1682). She then remarried his brother, Jaime, after her first husband’s death from smallpox in 1700 (and Jaime became the 3rd Duke of Cadaval). It isn’t hard to see that the Portuguese royal family was closing ranks and preparing for a Cadaval succession should the senior line die out; alternatively, we can see this as an emulation of Louis XIV’s policy of marrying illegitimate royal offspring to the first prince of the blood (as indeed Louis had done with the grandson of the Prince of Condé and his daughter Mlle de Nantes in 1685). There were no offspring from either of these marriages, however, and by 1697, Pedro II had four healthy sons.

The new reign of King João V began in 1707, and the 1st Duke of Cadaval, was still one of the leading men at court, in the government and in the army. In 1707, he was named Governor of the Army in its on-going war with Bourbon Spain, though actual command in the field was given to younger men, and he finally died, nearly 90, in 1725. His son, the 3rd Duke, had taken over his seat on the Council of State, and acted as Estribeiro-mor (Grand Equerry) of the King. He too married a princess from the House of Lorraine, Henriette, daughter of Louis, Prince de Lambesc, in 1739. Portugal was now, however, even more firmly pro-British—was this another Cadaval attempt to forge an alternative pro-French policy?

the 3rd Duke of Cadaval

The 3rd Duke died in 1749 and was succeeded by his son, Nuno Caetano, the 4th Duke, who doesn’t seem to have left much of an impression on history. More impressive is the 3rd Duke’s brother’s widow (who was also his niece), Ana Maria de Lorena de Sá e Meneses, who was honoured with her own title, Duchess of Abrantes when she became Camareira-Mor of the Queen, the highest position for a woman at the Portuguese court, in 1753. The high office and the ducal title were re-granted to her daughter, Maria Margarida de Lorena. The name Lorraine thus persisted through several generations of female succession, a fascinating cultural difference in naming practices from most of the other aristocracies of Europe that were much more strictly patrilineal. The second Duchess of Abrantes (a town in the very centre of Portugal) had no children, so the estates and titles passed to a cousin from the Sá e Meneses family on her death in 1780.

allegorical portrait of Ana Maria, Duchess of Abrantes (identifiable through the coat-of-arms on her shield) as Athena

Portugal, like much of Europe, then entered the revolutionary era, and the Cadaval family would not emerge from it unscathed. Shortly after the outbreak of the French Revolution, the 5th Duke of Cadaval, Miguel Caetano, married yet another French woman of the highest rank, Marie-Madeleine de Montmorency-Luxembourg, daughter of the Duke of Luxembourg who had emigrated to Portugal. The 5th Duke and Duchess themselves fled the Revolutionary wars when they reached Portugal in 1807, and departed with the royal family for Brazil, where the 5th Duke died. In the period following the restoration of Portugal’s independence, the 6th Duke, Nuno Caetano, sided with the uncle of the new queen, Maria II, and with others who wished to suppress the liberal constitution and restore absolutism. The Duke was already a member of the Regency Council (the Queen was only 7 years old), and when her uncle, Miguel, seized the reins of government as King Miguel in 1828, the Duke of Cadaval served as his prime minister, and was recognised once more as first prince of the blood and cousin of the King. The Duke and his brother, Segismondo, had solidified their position further by marriage to the two daughters and heiresses of the senior-most illegitimate branch of the royal house of Bragança, the Duke of Lafões, a leading political figure in the later 18th century. The ensuing civil wars known as the ‘Guerras Liberais’ (Liberal Wars) were fought between those who supported Queen Maria and a liberal constitution, and those who supported King Miguel (the ‘Miguelists’), until the later were defeated in the Spring of 1834 (it is notable that their last stand was in Évora, Cadaval territory). Miguel and his followers were all banished from the Kingdom. Cadaval left for France, never to return.

6th Duke of Cadaval

According to official sources, the title Duke of Cadaval then became extinct on his death in 1837, because, according to Portuguese custom, most titles were not legally hereditary, but had to be re-confirmed for each holder, and since the Duke’s heiress, Maria de Piedade, did not recognise the Constitutional regime, she was never confirmed as 7th Duchess. Of course, in 1837, she was only 10, so she was looked after by her uncles, the Duke of Lafões and his younger brother, Jaime, who married her a few years later. They soon had twin sons, Nuno and Jaime, and settled in a villa they purchased on the outskirts of the town of Pau, in the far southwestern corner of France. This building, still known as the Villa Cadaval, remained the family seat until the 1930s, then served as the refuge of the deposed Bey of Tunis in the 1940s, and was sold to the French state in 1955.

Villa Cadaval in Pau

The 8th Duke of Cadaval, Jaime II, was recognised only by the Miguelists who remained in exile in various parts of Europe, as was his son Nuno, the 9th Duke, who joined the Portuguese Expeditionary Force fighting with the Allies in northern France during World War I. He and his brother Dom Antonio were allowed to return to Portugal when the ban was lifted in 1930—by this time Portugal was no longer a monarchy, and the senior line of the House of Bragança was extinct, leaving only the descendants of King Miguel, who took over the responsibility of unofficially regulating the Portuguese nobility as the Crown would normally do, and thus formally recognised the 10th Duke of Cadaval, Jaime III, when he succeeded his father in 1935. The Duke, along with his cousins (his uncle’s two daughters), set about restoring the estates in Évora and Muge and the forests and parkland at Mata do Duque, and lived a long life until 2001.

10th Duke of Cadaval

His succession was complicated: the Duke had married twice, but the first marriage was civil only, not religious, as the bride was a divorcée. The two daughters from his second marriage therefore did not recognise the two daughters from the first, and were supported by much of the traditional aristocracy. The Duke of Bragança, as head of the royal house of Portugal and head of the Council of Nobility stepped in to broker a deal by which the elder daughter of the second marriage, Diana, became the 11th Duchess of Cadaval, and her much older half-sister, Rosalinda, was given the titles Marquesa of Ferreira and Condessa of Tentúgal, the traditional titles borne by the heir to the dukedom, and in the meantime he created a new title for her, Duchess of Cadaval-Hermès, in recognition of her marriage to Hubert Guerrand-Hermès, heir to the Hermès fashion dynasty. Diana de Cadaval has raised her family’s profile, as an author and as organiser of cultural festivals at the Cadaval Palace in Évora, and also due to her high-profile marriage in 2008 to Prince Charles-Philippe de Bourbon-Orléans, Duc d’Anjou, first cousin of the current Orléanist pretender to the French throne. Genealogy geeks like me find this marriage particularly interesting as both of them are descended in direct male line from Hugh Capet, the founder of the Capetian Dynasty in the 10th century. The Cadavals have always wanted to be recognised for their royal blood, and now, to royal watchers and French royalists at least, she is styled HRH Princess of Bourbon-Orléans. Both France and Portugal are republics today, nevertheless in certain circles these titles bring a high level of social caché.

the Duchess of Cadaval and Prince Charles-Philippe d’Orleans, in front of a wall hanging with the Cadaval coat-of-arms

(images from Wikimedia Commons and other open-source websites)

My sincere thanks go to Hélder Carvalhal for reading over this text to ensure I haven’t said anything completely daft about Portuguese history!

A link to the gorgeous website for the Palace of the Dukes of Cadaval in Évora:


Published by Jonathan Spangler

I am a historian of monarchy and the high aristocracy of Europe. I focus primarily as an academic on the early modern period and France, but my interests range from early medieval Ireland to 20th-century Russia. I teach history at Manchester Metropolitan University in Manchester, England, and am the senior editor of The Court Historian, the journal of the Society for Court Studies. I am also a musician and an avid traveler. I love heraldry and genealogy. My ancestors came from Germany to the American colonies in the 18th century and I am a proud Virginian.

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