Pedro Teotónio Pereira

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Pedro Teotónio Pereira (Lisbon, Mártires, 7 November 1902 – Lisbon, 14 February 1972) was a Portuguese politician and diplomat. He played a decisive role for the Allies, in drawing Spain with Portugal into a neutral peninsular bloc during World War II.


He was a son of João Teotónio Pereira, Jr. (Lisbon, 1869 - Lisbon, São Domingos de Benfica, 1948), administrator of the Companhia de Seguros Fidelidade, and wife Virgínia Hermann von Boetischer (Lisbon, Santa Engrácia, 1871 - Lisbon, 1969), paternal grandson of João Teotónio Pereira (1832–1916) and wife Clara Sobral (1840 - Freixo de Espada à Cinta, Fornos, 1910) and maternal grandson of the Prussian Maximilian August Hermann von Boetischer, an engineer, linked to the installation of the telephones in Portugal, and wife Maria José da Silva. His older brother Luís Teotónio Pereira was also a politician.


Teotónio Pereira, graduated in Mathematics by the University of Lisbon. After graduation, with the aim of following his family tradition in the insurance business, he made post-graduation studies in the actuarial science in Switzerland. Due to his expertise in life insurance and actuarial science he was called by Salazar to reform the Portuguese Social Security system. At the end of World War I a new legislation on compulsory social insurance had been introduced in Portugal but due to the lack of scientific studies the outcome of this experience of the Portuguese first Republic was weak. Together with Salazar, Teotónio Pereira launched new legislation and established the foundations of the Portuguese Social Security system under the Estado Novo.

He was one of the main builders of the corporativist politics of the Portuguese Estado Novo dictatorship.[1] He served as subsecretary of State (1933–1936) and Minister of Commerce and Industry (1936–1937).[1] Unlike Britain, Portugal supported Franco from the outset. In January 1938 Teotónio Pereira was appointed by António de Oliveira Salazar Special Agent of Portuguese government near Franco's government during the Spanish Civil War where he achieved immense prestige and influence.[1] Later, in April 1938, he Officially become Portuguese Ambassador to Spain, where he remained throughout World War II.[2]

During World War II[edit]

The prestige and influence he gained with the Spanish authorities proved to be of great support to allies during World War II. His role as an ambassador during World War II has been praised both by scholars and his fellow ambassadors. Scholars have used adjectives like brilliant, [1] or shrewd and observant [3] and Samuel Hoare, 1st Viscount Templewood, the British ambassador in Madrid from 1940 to 1944, in his book "Ambassador on Special Mission" describes Teotónio Pereira as an ally and a man of “outstanding ability and distinction".[4] Hoare says that Teotónio Pereira gave him his help and friendship from the day of his [Hoare's] arrival to Madrid in May 1940.[4]

Among other things, Teotónio Pereira, shared with the Portuguese dictator Salazar a profound attachment to the historic Anglo-Portuguese alliance, and during the war years in Madrid, Teotónio Pereira proved himself a good friend of Britain.[4] Mr. Carlton Hayes, his American Colleague in the diplomatic corps in those days, writes of him in his book, Wartime Mission in Spain : "His strong patriotism was at all times evident as was also his loyalty to the historic Anglo-Portuguese alliance. He recognized, as fully as we did, the danger both to Portugal and to the Allied cause in any Axis intervention in Spain or in any unneutral collaboration of Spain with the Axis. Though he distrusted Serrano Súñer and heartily disliked the Falange, his long and close association with other influential advisers of General Franco and with large segments of the Spanish people stood us, as well as himself, in good stead.. In his constant endeavor to draw Spain with Portugal into a really neutral Peninsular bloc, he contributed immeasurably, at a time when the British and ourselves had much less influence, toward counteracting the propaganda and pleas of our enemies."

Later in the same book, Mr. Carlton Hayes writes of a "prodigious number of refugees",[5] who began pouring into Spain in November and December 1942. Most were Frenchmen, half starved, without money or clothes and Hayes writes of the decisive intervention of Teotónio Pereira in favour of 16,000 refugees[6] of French military refugees who were trying in 1943 to get from Spain to North Africa in order there to join the Allied forces. In that group were also include Polish, Dutch and Belgian most of whom were soldiers or would-be soldiers. According to Hayes the Poles in particular were destined to perform brilliant feats in the later Italian campaign.[6]

In July 1945 he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Spanish Order of Charles III, the most distinguished civil award that can be granted in Spain, restricted to 100 Spanish citizens and very seldom awarded to foreigners.[7]

President Truman signing the document implementing the North Atlantic Treaty at his desk in the Oval Office, with Teotonio Pereira standing behind.

He considered himself a "faithful servant of Salazar"[8] and is remembered as one of the main accusers of Aristides de Sousa Mendes.[A]

Later career[edit]

He later became Portuguese ambassador in Brazil (1945–47), ambassador in Washington (1947–50), Ambassador to the Court of St. James, London (1953–58) and again in Washington (1961–63).

When Teotónio Pereira was named the Portuguese ambassador to Washington, there were protests from members of the Portuguese-American community, who considered him to be an "extreme nationalist.".[15]

As Portugal’s plenipotentiary in Washington he co-signed with President Truman, on 24 August 1949, the document implementing the North Atlantic Treaty.

He was board member of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

While ambassador in Washington, in 1963, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease which forced him to request an early retirement.

Sailing enthusiast and founder of Tall Ships' Races[edit]

In 1951, while he was ambassador in Washington, Teotónio Pereira invited the Australian Navy official Alan Villiers to get on board of the schooner Argus, a fine cod fishing four-masted schooner, and to record the last commercial activity ever to make use of sails in ocean-crossings. Villiers ended up publishing a book, "The Quest Of The Schooner Argus: A voyage to the Grand Banks and Grenland on a modern four masted fishing schooner".[16] The book was a great success in North America and Europe and was later published in sixteen languages. The Quest of the Schooner Argus made news on the BBC, in the main London newspapers, the National Geographic Magazine, and the New York Times.

In 1953, Teotónio Pereira, together with Bernard Morgan, inspired by the idea of bringing young cadets and seamen under training together from around the world to compete in a friendly competition, organized the first edition of the Tall Ships' Races that took place in 1956 from Torbay – south of England – to Lisbon.[17]

It was also due to the perseverant mediation of Teotónio Pereira that, in 1961, Portugal bought the Sagres the school ship of the Portuguese Navy.[18]

Marriage and children[edit]

He married Isabel Maria van Zeller Pereira Palha (Lisbon, Santa Engrácia, 26 October 1903 –), daughter of Constantino Nicolau Pereira Palha and wife and cousin Maria do Patrocínio Pereira Palha van Zeller, of a family of large landowners, and they had three children.

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ On June 12, 1940 despite the guarantees given by Franco, personally, to Teotónio Pereira, that even if Italy entered the war, Spain would remain neutral, [9]"[10] Spain took on the status of a nonbelligerent power and invaded Tangiers, further endangering Portuguese neutrality.[10][9] Then on June 20, the British Embassy in Lisbon sent a letter to the Portuguese Foreign Office accusing Sousa Mendes of "deferring until after office hours all applications for visas" as well as "charging them at a special rate" and requiring at least one refugee "to contribute to a Portuguese charitable fund before the visa was granted."[11] The complaint from the British embassy and the timing of Sousa Mendes's unilateral decision to start issuing visas without following procedures could not have been worse for Salazar and his attempt to preserve Portuguese neutrality. [12] Salazar had instructed the consulates in Spain and those in the south of France, Bordeaux, Bayonne, Perpignan, Marseilles, Nice, etc., to facilitate transit visas to British citizens. In addition, Teotónio Pereira also received complaints from the Spanish authorities. He drove from Madrid to the French-Spanish border. The border was chaotic. In Salazar and Pereira's view, Portuguese neutrality was being compromised by Mendes's actions. Pereira later said that Mendes’s behavior implied such confusion coupled with his disheveled appearance that he immediately informed the Spanish authorities that the visas granted by the Bordeaux consulate were null and void and that Mendes had lost the use of his faculties. Two days later, on June 26, 1940, the Spanish Minister Ramón Serrano Suñer told Pereira that Hitler would no longer tolerate the independent existence of an ally of Britain on the continent and that Spain would soon be forced to permit passage of German troops to invade Portugal.[13][14] Pereira counteracted with astute diplomatic actions that culminated in an additional protocol to Iberian Pact, signed on 29 July 1940, a key contribution to a neutral Peninsular bloc.


  • Almeida, Joao Miguel, "Correspondência política entre Oliveira Salazar e Pedro Teotónio Pereira (1945-1968)"- Círculo de Leitores : Temas e Debates : Instituto de História Contemporânea, 2008, ISBN 9789896440299
  • Cruz, Manuel Braga da (2004), Pedro Teotónio Pereira, Embaixador Português em Espanha durante as Guerras (PDF) (in Portuguese), Oporto: Estudos de Homenagem a Luís António de Oliveira Ramos, pp. 429–440, retrieved 18 March 2014
  • Hayes, Carlton J.H. (1945). Wartime mission in Spain, 1942-1945. Macmillan Company 1st Edition. p. 313. ISBN 9781121497245.
  • Hoare, Samuel (1946). Ambassador on Special Mission. UK: Collins; First Edition. p. 320.
  • Lochery, Neill (2011). Lisbon: War in the Shadows of the City of Light, 1939-1945. United States: PublicAffairs; 1 edition. p. 345.
  • Lucena, Manuel de (2015). Os Lugar-Tenentes de Salazar (in Portuguese). Lisboa: Alêtheia Editores. p. 374. ISBN 9789896226435.
  • Meneses, Filipe (2009). Salazar: A Political Biography. Enigma Books; 1 edition. p. 544. ISBN 978-1929631902.
  • Payne, Stanley (2008). Franco and Hitler: Spain, Germany, and World War II. UK: Yale University Press; 1st Edition. p. 336. ISBN 9780300122824.
  • Pereira, Pedro Teotónio (1987). Correspondência de Pedro Teotónio Pereira Oliveira Salazar (in Portuguese). Presidência do Conselho de Ministros. Comissão do Livro Negro sobre o Regime Fascista.
  • Pereira, Pedro Teotónio (1973). Memórias (in Portuguese). Verbo - 2 Volumes.
  • Rezola, Maria Inácia (Winter 2008). "The Franco–Salazar Meetings:Foreign policy and Iberian relations during the Dictatorships (1942-1963)" (PDF). e-journal of Portuguese History. 6 (2). Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  • Tusell, Javier (1995). Franco, España y la II Guerra Mundial: Entre el Eje y la Neutralidad (in Spanish). Ediciones Temas de Hoy. ISBN 9788478805013.


  1. ^ a b c d Cruz 2004, p. 431.
  2. ^ Cruz 2004, p. 432.
  3. ^ Payne 2008, p. 62.
  4. ^ a b c Hoare 1946, p. 45.
  5. ^ Hayes 1945, p. 113.
  6. ^ a b Hayes 1945, p. 119.
  7. ^ "El Embajador de Portugal" [The Portuguese Ambassador] (in Spanish). ABC. 20 July 1945. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  8. ^ Cruz 2004.
  9. ^ a b Rezola 2007.
  10. ^ a b Stone, Glyn (1994). The Oldest Ally: Britain and the Portuguese Connection, 1936-1941. Royal Historical Society. ISBN 9780861932276.
  11. ^ Lochery 2011, p. 47.
  12. ^ Lochery 2011, p. 46.
  13. ^ Payne 2008, p. 75.
  14. ^ Tusell 1995, p. 127.
  15. ^ Antonio Maciel, letter to the editor, Diario de Noticias (New Bedford, MA), 3 July 1947, p.7.
  16. ^ Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons; First American Edition (January 19, 1951)
  17. ^ "The First Tall Ships Race". Sail Training International. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  18. ^ "História". (in Portuguese). 2014. Archived from the original on 30 August 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2014.

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