The Old Alliance: England and Portugal

V. G. Kiernan


"I have an announcement to make to the House arising out of the treaty signed between this country and Portugal in the year 1373 . . . reinforced in various forms by treaties of 1386, 1643, 1654, 1660, 1661, 1703 and 1815, and in a secret declaration of 1899." So said the Right Hon. Winston Churchill on October 12, 1943. He went on to recite Article 1 of Edward 111's treaty of 1373, and then came to the point by informing the House that Portugal was to allow the Allies to use the Azores as a base against German submarines. Churchill had a strong sense of history, and no qualms about turning pseudo-history into claptrap. Earlier in the War the dictator Salazar had a long confabulation one day with the Nazi envoy at Lisbon, and, the latter reported to Berlin, "was more emphatic than ever in embracing the cause of the reorganization of Europe" by Hitler; he expressed his disgust at Britain's refusal to realize that the democracies were finished, and his resentment at British pressure over the Azores: he was reinforcing the islands' defenses in case of a British attempt on them, and called this "his contribution to the defense of Europe". It was 1941, when there might be the excuse of Salazar feeling compelled to kowtow to the Nazis; but as late as 1944 the Foreign Office was engaged in a wrangle with him because he was still supplying them with wolfram, and Smuts of South Africa was called in to reason with him as an old friend.

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