Battle of Montes Claros

The Battle of Montes Claros was fought on 17 June 1665, near Vila Viçosa, between Spanish and Portuguese as the last major battle in the Portuguese Restoration War. It was a great Portuguese victory and is considered as one of the most important battles in the country's history.


Retrato de D. António Luis de Menezes, 1º marquês de Marialva
António Luís de Meneses, 1st Marquis of Marialva, commander of the Portuguese army during the battle

By 1665, the Portuguese Restoration War had been raging for 25 years. Despite numerous setbacks, King Philip IV of Spain was determined to crush the Portuguese insurrection. After a disastrous campaign in Southern Portugal culminated in the 1662 Battle of Ameixial, the Spanish court re-evaluated the performance of the Spanish Army and came to the conclusion that the war could only be ended by decisive action. The court believed that the Portuguese insurrection could only be ended by the capture of a major Portuguese city or by the complete destruction of the Portuguese Army. Luis de Benavides Carrillo, Marquis of Caracena, a veteran of campaigns in Italy and the Netherlands, was appointed to lead the new invasion of Portugal. Carrillo had served as a field commander and as a military governor, and his organizational skills were lauded. Carrillo planned to end the war by capturing the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. To reach the city, he planned first to take Vila Viçosa, followed by Setúbal.

Once he was in command, Carrillo wanted to gather his army's strength to ensue that he outnumbered whatever Portuguese army chose to engage him. However, the worsening illness of King Philip caused the court to order him to proceed with the invasion, as they feared that the death of Philip would strengthen foreign support for the Portuguese. The Spanish crown was also facing financial difficulties, and there was a legitimate fear that the army would have to be disbanded for lack of funds if the war continued.[5][6]

The Portuguese were prepared and had foreseen such an attack. 3,500 men were moved from Trás-os-Montes in the north to Alentejo in the south. A further 7,800 men came from Lisbon, under command of António Luís de Meneses, who had defeated the Spanish in the Battle of the Lines of Elvas six years earlier. They were reinforced by a veteran English contingent of 2,000 men under the command of the Duke of Schomberg.

A veteran commander who had been defending the Portuguese border with Spain for over 20 years, Meneses was aware that there were any number of ways for Carrillo to invade the country. As such, he reinforced the border garrisons of Elvas and Campo Maior, hoping to harden the frontier defenses and in doing so influence the route Carrillo would take. Having been present during the Portuguese victory at Ameixial, Meneses was well aware that the Spanish faced logistical challenges when invading Portugal, and as such he planned to keep Carrillo's army trapped in the border hinterlands as long as possible to wear down their numbers. The Portuguese were also conscious of the failing health of the Spanish king, and Meneses suspected that this would force them to attack.[7]

Carrillo's army moved into Portugal on 25 May. He first took Borba without resistance after it was abandoned by the Portuguese garrison. He then laid siege to Vila Viçosa, which was better defended and offered a stiff resistance to the Spanish attackers.

The Portuguese decided to exchange land for time, as it was hoped that the rough terrain of the hinterlands would degrade Carrillo's army. Despite this strategy, Meneses was determined to engage the Spanish army on a battlefield of his choosing. The main body of the Portuguese army set itself in motion towards the Spanish force surrounding Vila Viçosa, but it stopped in Montes Claros, halfway between Vila Viçosa and Estremoz.[7][8]

Carrillo, who was at that time furthering the siege of Vila Vicosa, was fast losing men to attrition. By June, attacks by Portuguese militias were taking a heavy toll on his lines of supply, Vila Vicosa continued to put up an unexpectedly fierce defense, and the Spanish court was demanding action. In spite of these setbacks, Carrillo continued to rely on his previous plans for the capture of Lisbon. However, when informed that Meneses's numerically inferior force was advancing on him from Estremoz, Carrillo decided to engage the Portuguese.


Meneses deployed his army in a defensive formation adjacent to and at the southern end of a long ridge. A dense forest and hills lay further to the south of the Portuguese positions. By defending the space between these two terrain features, Meneses planned to limit the amount of Portuguese and Spanish soldiers fighting at any one time and as such counter the superior Spanish numbers. He positioned his heaviest infantry, composed of seasoned veterans, foreign volunteers, and mercenaries under the command of Frederic Schomberg in two lines in this gap and positioned his artillery to support them. The rest of the Portuguese army was held in reserve and ordered to prevent the Spanish from scaling the ridge line. Carrillo was well aware of the Portuguese defenses and massed his cavalry and artillery for an all out attack on the gap between the ridge and the forest.[9]

Batalha de Montes Claros - gravura
Contemporary Italian engraving of the battle

The battle opened with the Spanish artillery firing into the Portuguese positions, opening gaps in the first line of infantry. The Spanish cavalry then charged the Portuguese lines and overran several units. The Portuguese infantry organized themselves into squares to fend off the cavalry, but this left them vulnerable to the Spanish artillery. The Duke of Schomberg's men gathered around some buildings on the left flank of the Portuguese army, using the structures and a vineyard wall to break up the advancing mass of Spanish cavalry.[8] The Portuguese cannon fired repeatedly into the ranks of Spanish cavalry, inflicting many casualties. As the first Spanish charge retreated, Meneses ordered his first line back and consolidated it into the second line. When a Spanish cannonball killed Sir Francisco da Silva Moura, the commander of the Portuguese contingent of the second line, Meneses took command in person.[10]

A second Spanish cavalry attack and barrage again caused many casualties in the Portuguese infantry lines, but was forced to withdraw due to the Portuguese artillery.

Carrillo then ordered a massive third charge, incorporating both cavalry and infantry, into the Portuguese defenses. The battle raged on and the fighting was extremely intense. The Duke of Schomberg had his horse shot from underneath him and was nearly captured by the Spanish. The Portuguese artillery in particular was devastating as shot after shot was fired into the advancing mass of Spaniards, while the Spanish cannon were soon forced to cease in their firing for fear of hitting their own men. The assault collapsed, and Spanish infantry and cavalrymen were soon pressed tightly together, becoming easy targets for the Portuguese. The Spanish cavalry alone suffered over 1,200 casualties in the third charge against the Portuguese line.[9][6]

The Portuguese forces remained mostly intact, while the already diminished Spanish army - who had placed all their hopes on the cavalry charges - started to lose hope.[8] Having failed to breach Meneses's defenses, Carrillo began to slowly withdraw to the north.[8]

Then, After 7 hours of ferocious fighting, the Portuguese launched a counterattack. The Portuguese cavalry led by D. Luis Melo e Castro, which had until this point played a limited role in the battle, charged and overcame the weakened left flank of the Spanish army. The Spanish army started to fall apart and fled in disorder towards Juromenha, leaving behind all their artillery and many dead and wounded. Thousands of Spanish soldiers were captured and made prisoners, with eight Spanish generals being among the captured.[3]

Almost all of the 1,500 Spanish fugitives who had taken refuge in the many woods around Vila Viçosas for fear of being killed if they surrendered eventually died as a result of their wounds and hunger in the weeks following the battle.[11] A great many arms and armaments were captured by the Portuguese. The total Spanish casualties in this campaign to conquer Portugal amounted to 4,000 killed in the battlefield, 1,200 to 1,500 killed during the siege of Vila Viçosa (before the battle), almost 1,500 fugitives who died in the immediate weeks after the battle and eventually 6,000 prisoners and 4,0000 wounded. The Portuguese suffered some 700 killed and more than 2,000 killed.


The Battle of Montes Claros effectively ended major combat operations during the Restoration War and definitively secured Portuguese independence from Spain. The Spanish did not attempt another invasion; instead the defeat led to a treaty being signed between England and Spain at Madrid in 1667. As a result of this England mediated the Treaty of Lisbon which was signed by Portugal and Spain a year later. Portugal's new ruling dynasty, the House of Braganza was recognized.

See also


  1. ^ "Regimentos ingleses ao serviço da Coroa portuguesa (1662-1668)". Guerra da Restauração Blog de História Militar dedicado à Guerra da Restauração ou da Aclamação, 1641-1668.
  2. ^ a b c d e Contemporary anonymous author- Relacion verdadera, y pontual, de la gloriosissima victoria ... de Montes Claros, Oficina Henrique Valente de Oliveira, 1665, pp. 16,17.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Edward McMurdo, p.424
  4. ^ Anonymous- Relacion verdadera, y pontual, de la gloriosissima victoria ... de Montes Claros, Oficina Henrique Valente de Oliveira, 1665, p. 47.
  5. ^ Tuell, Marcus (1952). History of War in the Iberian Peninsula. Baltimore: William & Wilkins Publishing House. pp. 242–244.
  6. ^ a b McMurdo, Edward (2010). The History of Portugal - From the Reign of D. Joao II. to the Reign of D. Joao V. - Volume III. Volume 3. Read Books Design. ISBN 9781444695694.
  7. ^ a b Tuell, 242
  8. ^ a b c d White, L. (2007). Strategic Geography and the Spanish Habsburg Monarchy's Failure to Recover Portugal, 1640-1668. The Journal of Military History, 71(2), 373-409. JSTOR 4138273
  9. ^ a b Tuell, 243-44
  10. ^ McMurdo.
  11. ^ Contemporary author- Relacion verdadera, y pontual, de la gloriosissima victoria ... de Montes Claros, Oficina Henrique Valente de Oliveira, 1665, pp. 46,47.
  • Anonymous (1665). Relacion verdadera, y pontual, de la gloriosissima victoria ... de Montes Claros. Oficina Henrique Valente de Oliveira.
  • John, Childs, (1976). The Army of Charles II. University Of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0415846110.
  • McMurdo, Edward (2010). The History of Portugal - From the Reign of D. Joao II. to the Reign of D. Joao V. - Volume III. Volume 3. Read Books Design. ISBN 9781444695694.
  • Riley, Jonathon (2014). The Last Ironsides: The English Expedition to Portugal, 1662-1668. Helion & Company. ISBN 978-1909982208.
Alvor (Portimão)

Alvor is a civil parish (Portuguese: freguesia) in the municipality of Portimão, in the southern Algarve of Portugal. The population in 2011 was 6,154, in an area of 15.25 km².

António Luís de Meneses, 1st Marquis of Marialva

António Luís de Meneses, 1st Marquis of Marialva and 3rd Count of Cantanhede (13 December 1596 – 16 August 1675) was a member of the Forty Conspirators and a Portuguese general who fought in the Portuguese Restoration War, that ended the Iberian Union between Portugal and Spain.

Battle of the Lines of Elvas

The Battle of the Lines of Elvas (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈɛɫvɐʃ]), was fought on 14 January 1659, in Elvas, between Portugal and Spain during the Portuguese Restoration War. It ended in a decisive Portuguese victory.

English expedition to Portugal (1662–1668)

The English expedition to Portugal also known as the British Brigade in Portugal was a brigade raised during the reign of King Charles II for service in Portugal during the ongoing Portuguese Restoration War against Spain in August 1662. The brigade, many of which were veterans of the English Civil Wars and the Dutch Revolt, then fought in all the major battles and skirmishes under the command of Frederick Schomberg, 1st Duke of Schomberg and remained in Portugal until the end of the war being subsequently disbanded by mid 1668. The brigade under Schomberg's leadership, proved a decisive factor in winning back Portugal's independence.

History of Portugal (1640–1777)

From the restoration of the House of Braganza in 1640 until the end of the reign of the Marquis of Pombal in 1777, the kingdom of Portugal was in a period of transition.

Having been near its height at the start of the Iberian Union, the Portuguese Empire continued to enjoy the widespread influence in the world during this period that had characterized the period of the Discoveries. By the end of this period, however, the fortunes of Portugal and its empire had declined, culminating with the Távora affair, the catastrophic 1755 Lisbon earthquake, and the accession of Maria I, the first ruling Queen of Portugal.

The opulent use of Brazilian gold, the absolutist regime, the movement toward the independence of Brazil, the Methuen Treaty and the Lisbon earthquake contributed to the collapse of Portugal's position in Europe and the world. These events, those at the end of Aviz dynasty, and the period of Iberian Union forced Portugal to depend more on its colonies, first India and then Brazil. This shift from India to Brazil was a natural consequence of the rise of the Dutch as well as the British Empire. A similar shift occurred after Brazil gained its independence, which led Portugal to focus more on its possessions in Africa.

The early 18th century, known as the Pombaline Era after Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, Marquis of Pombal, was a period of dictatorship and wide-ranging reforms. The Marquis of Pombal was appointed by Joseph I, who had little inclination to rule. He initiated many reforms intended to modernize the country and attacked the power of the privileged nobility and clergy, notably in the case of the Távora affair and the expulsion of the Jesuits. He was also the leader of the reconstruction of Lisbon after the earthquake in 1755. However, historians also argue that Pombal's "enlightenment," while far-reaching, was primarily a mechanism for enhancing autocracy at the expense of individual liberty and especially an apparatus for crushing opposition, suppressing criticism, and furthering colonial economic exploitation as well as intensifying book censorship and consolidating personal control and profit.Soon after the death of Joseph in 1777, his daughter Maria I dismissed Pombal, and prohibited him from coming within 20 miles of her.

Iberian Union

The Iberian Union was the dynastic union of the Kingdom of Portugal and the Spanish Crown between 1580 and 1640, bringing the entire Iberian Peninsula, as well as Spanish and Portuguese overseas possessions, under the Spanish Habsburg kings Philip II, Philip III and Philip IV. The union began as a result of the Portuguese crisis of succession and the ensuing War of the Portuguese Succession and lasted 60 years, until the Portuguese Restoration War in which the House of Braganza was established as Portugal's new ruling dynasty.

The Habsburg king was the only element of connection between the multiple kingdoms and territories, who ruled by six separate government councils of Castile, Aragon, Portugal, Italy, Flanders and the Indies. The governments, institutions, and legal traditions of each kingdom remained independent of each other. Alien laws (Leyes de extranjeria) determined that the national of one kingdom was a foreigner in all the other kingdoms.

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Luis de Benavides Carrillo, Marquis of Caracena

Luis Francisco de Benavides Carrillo de Toledo, Marquis of Caracena, Marquis of Fromista (20 September 1608 in Valencia – 6 January 1668 in Madrid) was a Spanish general and political figure. He served as Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands between 1659 and 1664.

Raised in a noble Spanish family, he made a career in the army during the many battles in Italy and Flanders between 1629 and 1659. He conquered the fortress of Casale Monferrato in 1652.

He was Governor of Milan between 1648 and 1656. After the defeat of John of Austria the Younger in the Battle of the Dunes (1658), Caracena was appointed to succeed him. After the conclusion of the Treaty of the Pyrenees, the Habsburg Netherlands saw a period of relative peace. Despite this fact, governing wasn't easy for Caracena, since by then various wars had pushed Spain to the brink of bankruptcy.

In 1664 he returned to Spain to assume command of the war against Portugal, which was going poorly after a series of military setbacks, most recently after the defeat in 1663 in the Battle of Ameixial, near Estremoz of the same John of Austria the Younger. Caracena's command of the Spanish forces in Portugal was brief; he was decisively defeated by António Luís de Meneses at the Battle of Montes Claros in 1665. The defeat effectively ended the War of Restoration in favor of the Portuguese.

After the battle, Caracena was charged with treason and cowardice. He defended himself by claiming that he was not to blame, but rather the defeat was due to the poor state of the Spanish army, intrigue in the Spanish Court, and the lack of funds to protract a war against Portugal. Afterwards, he was disregarded by the Spanish Crown and died of disease in 1668.

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Monument to the Restorers

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The history of Portugal from the dynastic crisis in 1580 to the House of Braganza monarchs was a period of transition. At its beginning, the Portuguese Empire spice trade was near its height. It continued to enjoy widespread influence after Vasco da Gama had finally reached the East by sailing around Africa in 1497–1498. Vasco da Gama's achievement completed the exploratory efforts inaugurated by Henry the Navigator, and opened an oceanic route for the profitable spice trade into Europe that bypassed the Middle East.

Throughout the 17th century, the increasing predations and beleaguering of Portuguese trading posts in the East by the Dutch, English and French, and their rapidly growing intrusion into the Atlantic slave trade undermined Portugal's near monopoly on the lucrative oceanic spice and slave trades. This sent the Portuguese spice trade into a long decline. To a lesser extent, the diversion of wealth from Portugal by the Habsburg monarchy to help support the Catholic side of the Thirty Years' War also created strains within the union, although Portugal did benefit from Spanish military power in helping to retain Brazil and in disrupting Dutch trade. These events, and those that occurred at the end of the House of Aviz and the period of the Iberian Union, led Portugal to a state of dependency on its colonies, first India and then Brazil.

Portuguese Army

The Portuguese Army (Portuguese: Exército Português) is the land component of the Armed Forces of Portugal and is also its largest branch. It is charged with the defence of Portugal, in co-operation with other branches of the Armed Forces. It is one of the oldest armies in the world, with its origins going back to the 12th century.

The Portuguese Army is commanded by the Chief of Staff of the Army (CEME), a subordinate of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces for the operational matters and a direct subordinate of the Ministry of National Defense for all other matters. The CEME is the only officer in the Army with the rank of General (Four-star rank).

Presently, the Portuguese Army is an entirely professional force made of career personnel (officers and NCOs) and of volunteer personnel (officers, NCOs and enlisted ranks). Until the early 1990s, conscripts constituted the bulk of the Army personnel, with a cadre of career officers and NCOs responsible for their training. Conscription was however gradually reduced since the middle 1990s, until being finally formally abolished in 2004.

As 2014, the Portuguese Army employed 5,667 career personnel and 10,444 volunteers, this representing a total of 16,111 military personnel. Of the total military personnel, 2,669 were officers, 3,917 were NCOs and 9,595 were other ranks. Further, the Army also included 1,897 civilian employees.

Portuguese Restoration War

The Portuguese Restoration War (Portuguese: Guerra da Restauração; Spanish: Guerra de Restauración portuguesa) was the name given by nineteenth-century Romantic historians to the war between Portugal and Spain that began with the Portuguese revolution of 1640 and ended with the Treaty of Lisbon in 1668. The period from 1640 to 1668 was marked by periodic skirmishes between Portugal and Spain, as well as short episodes of more serious warfare, much of it occasioned by Spanish and Portuguese entanglements with non-Iberian powers. Spain was involved in the Thirty Years' War until 1648 and the Franco–Spanish War until 1659, while Portugal was involved in the Dutch–Portuguese War until 1663.

In the seventeenth century and afterwards, this period of sporadic conflict was simply known, in Portugal and elsewhere, as the Acclamation War. The war established the House of Braganza as Portugal's new ruling dynasty, replacing the House of Habsburg. This ended the so-called Iberian Union.

Spanish omelette

Spanish omelette is the English name for a traditional dish from Spanish cuisine called tortilla española, tortilla de patatas or tortilla de papas. It is an omelette made with eggs and potatoes, sometimes also with onion and/or chives or garlic; fried in oil and often served cold as an appetizer. It is part of the cuisine of Spain.

Timeline of Portuguese history

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Timeline of Portuguese history (Fourth Dynasty)

This is a historical timeline of Portugal.

Treaty of Lisbon (1668)

The Treaty of Lisbon of 1668 was a peace treaty between Portugal and Spain, concluded at Lisbon on 13 February 1668, through the mediation of England, in which Spain recognized the sovereignty of Portugal's new ruling dynasty, the House of Braganza.

Treaty of Madrid (1667)

The Treaty of Madrid (also known as Lord Sandwich's Treaty) was a treaty adopted and signed on May 27, 1667 between England and Spain. The treaty was the first step in ending the Anglo-Spanish conflict which had officially lasted since 1654.

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