History, Republic Day, 5th October

Republic Day, 5th October

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Republic Day (Dia da República) is celebrated on 5th October and commemorates the end of the monarchy and the establishment of Portugal as a Republic in 1910. Dissatisfaction with the monarchy had been growing since King Carlos ascended the throne in 1889 due to his weakness, extravagance, reactionary attitude, close relationship with the Catholic Church and attempts at dictatorial rule.

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King Carlos, photo by Vidal and Fonseca, National Coach Museum, Belém

By 1908 he, along with his very unpopular Prime Minister João Franco, had alienated most sectors of the country. At the same time the Portuguese Republican Party was gaining strength, with an agenda aimed at making the country socially and politically stable. On 1st February 1908 King Carlos and his son and heir to the throne, Luís Filipe, were assassinated in the former Terreiro do Paço (Palace Square, what is now the Praça do Comércio) in Lisbon.

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Italian magazine cover showing the assassination of the King Carlos and Prince Luís Filipe, Lisbon Story Museum, Lisbon
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Praça do Comércio, Lisbon

The attack is not believed to have been carried out by the Republican Party, but by one of the secret societies (such as the Carbonários), which had activists in their ranks, and it is possible that the intended target was the detested João Franco rather than the royal family. King Carlos’ 18-year-old younger son became King Manuel II and his ineffectual rule witnessed seven changes of government in two years, during which time republicanism was spreading among the urban population, including the army and navy. By early October 1910 large numbers of the armed forces were starting to rebel and were outnumbering the royalist forces. On the night of 4th October 1910 the Republican forces attacked the Palácio das Necessidades where the King was staying. He escaped initially to Mafra and then fled the country, living the rest of his life in exile in the United Kingdom until his death in 1932. By the morning of 5th October 1910 the royalist troops were defeated and Portugal was declared a Republic. A provisional government came into power, led by Joaquim Teófilo Braga, which introduced liberal reforms, including separating the Church and the State. The anti-clerical stance of the government made it very unpopular in rural areas. The first election was held in May 1911, but it marked the start of a period of instability marked by repression, anarchy and military uprisings. There were 45 changes of government in 16 years and in 1926 there was another revolution which paved the way for Salazar’s Estado Novo (New State) and 48 years of military dictatorship until Portugal finally gained democracy after the ‘Carnation Revolution’ in 1974.

Two of the symbolic changes made after the 1910 revolution are still used as official symbols of Portugal today: the flag and the national anthem. The royalist blue and white flag was replaced with the current green (representing hope) and red (representing fight) flag with the Portuguese coat of arms in the middle. The national anthem was replaced with ‘A Portuguesa’ with its rousing lyrics:

Heróis do mar, nobre povo, / Nação valente, imortal, / Levantai hoje de novo / O esplendor de Portugal! / Entre as brumas da memória, / Ó Pátria, sente-se a voz / Dos teus egrégios avós, / Que há-de guiar-te à vitória! / Às arma!, Ás armas! / Sobre a terra, sobre o mar, / Às armas! Ás armas! / Pela Pátria lutar / Contra os canhões marchar, marchar!

(Heroes of the sea, noble people, / Brave nation, immortal, / Rise up again today / Portugal’s splendour! / Through the mists of memory, / Oh Fatherland, hear the voice / Of your illustrious forefathers, / That will lead you to victory! / To arms! To arms! On land, on sea, / To arms! To arms! / To fight for our Fatherland / Against the cannons march on, march on!)

The 5th October is a public holiday in Portugal, but it is fair to say that it has been superseded in importance by Freedom Day (25th April), when the Portuguese overthrew another dictatorial leader.

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