“Forgive me, dear sir, but, as you will appreciate, I cannot reveal what His Majesty intends to say to you. I know it is an important matter and that His Majesty requested the meeting be kept a secret. However, you will appreciate that a trip to Vila Viçosa will help blow away the Lisbon smog and, moreover, I can guarantee you will eat extremely well.”
Equator, by Miguel Sousa Tavares
Unlike the main character of this novel, neither did we get to see the king nor eat at the Ducal Palace. Apart from that though, Vila Viçosa offered us a unique glimpse into those early 20th century days that witnessed the death of the Portuguese Monarchy and the birth of the Republic.
King Carlos I spent the better part of the autumn and winter in Vila Viçosa. Under a cold deep blue winter sky, the old palace is absolutely mesmerising. Vila Viçosa kept the king away from the capital perhaps too much, and he failed to sense the changing tides that resulted in his assassination in 1908. His was succeeded by his 19 year old son, Manuel II, who held on to the throne for a mere two years. In 1910, the Portuguese Republic was born.
Vila Viçosa, once a royal bastion, was quickly forgotten by the new republic. Twenty odd years later Manuel II died in exile, leaving the family’s estate to the care of a foundation. Vila Viçosa’s old winter palace, after years of neglect and isolation, was renovated and filled with the family’s furniture, art and book collections. By then, Vila Viçosa’s marble was also in high demand, further helping to restore this small town to its former glory.