Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1373
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The Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1373 was signed between King Edward III of England and King Ferdinand and Queen Eleanor of Portugal. It established a treaty of "perpetual friendships, unions [and] alliances" between the two seafaring nations. It is the oldest active treaty in the world.
It was reinforced throughout history, including in 1386, 1643, 1654, 1660, 1661, 1703, 1815 and by a secret declaration in 1899. It was recognized in the Treaties of Arbitration in the 20th century between Britain and Portugal in 1904 and 1914.
The treaty was temporarily void during the Iberian Union from 1580 to 1640, when the monarchies of Spain and Portugal were in a dynastic union. However, with Portugal's restoration of independence, the alliance returned and came to a new height during the Napoleonic wars when the British sent their best general, the Duke of Wellington, to sap Napoleon's armies in the Peninsular War.
It was activated again during the Second World War, whereupon the Portuguese remained neutral, in agreement with Britain, which did not want to bring the war into the Iberian Peninsula, until 1943, when it was fully reactivated by the National Government of Winston Churchill and Portugal. Britain, after three months' negotiations, was accorded aerodrome and nautical facilities in the Portuguese Azores to help combat the U-boat threat. The British also cited the treaty during the 1982 Falklands War.
"In the first place we settle and covenant that there shall be from this day forward... true, faithful, constant, mutual and perpetual friendships, unions, alliances, and needs of sincere affection, and that as true and faithful friends we shall henceforth, reciprocally, be friends to friends and enemies to enemies, and shall assist, maintain, and uphold each other mutually, by sea and by land, against all men that may live and die."
Second World War
In 1943 the Portuguese Government leased to Britain what became a major Allied air and naval base in the Portuguese islands, the Azores. Prime Minister Winston Churchill recounted reporting on the lease to the House of Commons:
"I have an announcement", I said, "to make to the House arising out of the treaty signed between this country and Portugal in the year 1373 between His Majesty King Edward III and King Ferdinand and Queen Eleanor of Portugal." I spoke in a level voice, and made a pause to allow the House to take in the date, 1373. As this soaked in there was something like a gasp. I do not suppose any such continuity of relations between two Powers has ever been, or will ever be, set forth in the ordinary day-to-day work of British diplomacy.
- "Closing The Ring", Churchill, Sir Winston Spencer, 1951.