Portuguese nobility

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Portrait of a Young Fidalgo; a 16th-century rendition of a typical Portuguese nobleman.

Portuguese nobility was the class of legally privileged and titled persons (nobility) acknowledged by the Kingdom of Portugal. During the absolute monarchy, nobles enjoyed the most privileged status and held the most important offices after members of the ruling dynasty and major hierarchs of the Roman Catholic Church.

With the introduction of the constitutional monarchy in 1834, the influence of nobles substantially decreased, although the erosion of their power had begun to accelerate from the time of the prime minister, the Marquis de Pombal, in the mid-18th century.

After Portugal became a republic in 1910, some descendants of the nobility continued to bear their families' titles according to standards sustained by the Portuguese Institute of Nobility (Instituto da Nobreza Portuguesa), traditionally under the authority of the head of the formerly ruling House of Braganza.


Noble Titles of Portugal
 Heraldic Crown of Spanish Dukes (Variant 2).svg Dukedoms of Portugal
 Heraldic Crown of Spanish Marchesses (2).svg Marquisates of Portugal
 Heraldic Crown of Spanish Count.svg Counties of Portugal
 Heraldic Crown of the Spanish Viscounts.svg Viscountcies of Portugal
 Heraldic Crown of Portuguese Barons.svg Baronies of Portugal

Portuguese nobility is traceable to the era of Alfonso VI of Leon, whose reign saw the sons of Leonese nobility become established as gentry in the north of Portugal, between the Minho River and the Douro River. All nobles were considered vassals of the King of Portugal. To rise in status, a noble was expected to demonstrate loyalty and service to the king.

By the time of the reign of Manuel I of Portugal, the Portuguese nobility was already registered, with records dating back to the twelfth century. It was also during the reign of King Manuel I that rules defining degrees of nobility (hereditary titles) and the use of heraldic arms began to establish the rights of the nobility and sought to prevent abuses.

The Marquise of Pombal, a noble by marriage
The Duke of Saldanha, an example of a powerful post-constitution noble.
The Marquise of Alorna, a noblewoman in her own right

Following the Proclamation of the Portuguese Republic in 1910, the nobility was officially disbanded and ennoblement was prohibited under the Portuguese Constitution.

Duarte Nuno, Duke of Braganza, created the Portuguese Council of Nobility during the Republic to study the former monarchy's laws and grants of nobility, and to update the genealogies of ennobled families, maintaining records on the transmission of hereditary titles in accordance therewith. During this time, no new titles were bestowed. The predominant activity of the Council was the identification of living heirs to historical titles.

After Dom Duarte Nuno's death, his son Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza, declared the Council of Nobility disbanded, receiving some criticism for doing so. Subsequently, he established what is now called the Instituto da Nobreza Portuguesa, which continues the work and maintains the records of the original Council of Nobility.

Noble ranks[edit]

The ranks of the titled nobility are as follows:

  1. Royal Dukedoms
  2. Hereditary Dukedoms
  3. Marquisates
  4. Countships
  5. Viscountcies
  6. Baronies
  7. Lordships
  8. Majorats
  9. Fidalgos
  10. Hereditary Knights

In Portugal (and Brazil), the honorific Dom (pronounced: [ˈdõ]) is often used for men who belong to the House of Braganza,[1] and for members of families of the titled nobility.[2] Unless ennobling letters patent specifically authorised its use, Dom was not attributed to members of Portugal's untitled nobility: Since hereditary titles in Portugal descended according to primogeniture, the right to the style of Dom was the only apparent distinction between cadets of titled families and members of untitled noble families.[2]

Royally-held noble titles[edit]

In addition to their royal titles, members of Portugal's dynasties have, at times, held noble titles, either through acquisition prior to the family's accession to the throne or by grant of the monarch. The following are titles that have been held at various times by Portuguese royalty:

Titles held by the monarch[edit]

Titles held by the heir to Portugal's throne[edit]

Titles held by the heir to the royal heir[edit]

Titles held by the monarch's children[edit]

Other titles bestowed on royalty[edit]

See also[edit]


References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Angus Stevenson, ed. (2007). Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Volume 1, A – M (Sixth edition ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 737. ISBN 978-0-19-920687-2. 
  2. ^ a b Tourtchine, Jean-Fred (September 1987). "Le Royaume de Portugal - Empire du Bresil". Cercle d'Etudes des Dynasties Royales Europeenes (CEDRE): III: 103. ISSN 0764-4426. 
  3. ^ Title held by the reigning monarch's 2nd child
  4. ^ Title held by the reigning monarch's 3rd child