We return to Portugal today, on the anniversary of the birth of King Joseph I, aka The Reformer. However, what has taken my interest was a very specific incident in the history of the country, one that proved catastrophic for Portugal and was to change Joseph's life and that of his court.
|Joseph I of Portugal by Miguel António do Amaral, 1773|
As the sun rose on 1st November 1755, the royal court attended mass and then left Lisbon to spend All Saint's Day away from the city, according to the wishes of one of the king's daughters. It was to prove a fortuitous decision as, just after nine o'clock that morning, a massive earthquake tore through Lisbon; in its wake came tsunami and raging fires, laying waste to the city. Tens of thousands of people died in the tragedy and the vast majority of the capital was razed to the ground, leaving the population and landscape devastated.
|An engraving depicting panic at sea and fires on land following the earthquake, 1755|
As work began to rebuild the shattered city and restore morale to the survivors, it became apparent that for all his efforts to help in the rebuilding of Lisbon, Joseph was suffering from a psychological disorder of his own.
Although he was safely away from the city when the earthquake struck, the traumatised king developed a case of claustrophobia so severe that he refused to live in a palace again. Instead the entire court took up residence in a series of luxurious pavilions and tents on what was later to be the site of the Ajuda Palace. Away from the danger of collapsing masonry and falling walls the king's fears finally began to settle and for many years, the Lisbon court was a tented one.
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.