Some Jewish and New Christian connections of the Portuguese House of  Braganza


Until 1501 the House of Braganza was based at Guimaraes (see note 6 below) near the Portuguese Lousada villages - and the regional town of Braganza is not far away (see map and also see note 7 below). Though this region was favoured by the ancestral Baruch Lousadas in their exit from Spain in 1492 there is no evidence that noble connections had anything to do with this. Indeed, we know little of the linkage between the old de Losada nobility, which had its origins in the Reconquista, and the House of Braganza, and nothing of any Baruch Lousada or indeed any Jewish link with the old de Losada nobility (see also note 1 below).

Jamaica was ‘the largest and the most important’ of the West Indian Sephardic communities; Mordechai Arbell (ref 14) explains that Colombus' hereditary governorship of Jamaica led to a settlement of Portuguese New Christians merchants. Inducements were offered for them to settle, as they were seen as being able to develop active commerce with the other Spanish colonies. Perhaps the early New Christian presence in Jamaica was related to Christopher Columbus being born to a family of Spanish Jews in Genoa (see note 5 below). Later Christopher Columbus' grand-daughter Isabella Colon (see note 4 below) inherited the Jamaican governorship and this upon her marriage passed to her husband a Portuguese nobleman Count de Galvez of the House of Braganza. This Portuguese-held Spanish fiefdom was a curiosity, and it was not surprising that after 1640 when Portugal separated from its 1580 union with Spain, retention of Jamaica was not a priority for Spain, allowing a low-key conquest by England in 1655. Some of the New Christian merchants stayed on – no doubt distinguishing themselves from Spaniards who were asked to leave – and became openly Jewish once the contemporaneous English resettlement of Jews under Cromwell and later Charles 2 acquired some robustness. 

We have found one proven account of a Jewish descent (see note 3 below) from the Portuguese Crown, and this has some significance in our family history. Conversely we found a less reliable account (ref 31) of the descent of the Portuguese House of Braganza from the Lousadas! It is well known that the Portuguese King Joao I (who reigned  from 1385-1433) had an illegitimate son Alfonso (Count de Barcelos 1370-1461) who was made the first Duke of Braganza in 1442. Our source suggested his mother was a Lousada but this is barely credible (see note 2 below). Then, as is well-known, the 6th Duke Joao married Catarina of Aviz in 1583 who was a granddaughter of King Manoel 1 and thus a claimant to the Portuguese throne. In 1640 as a consequence of his coup against the Spanish crown, the 8th Duke Joao was crowned King Joao IV of Portugal on 1 Dec (ref 31). Portugal and Spain went their separate ways, though the threat of Spanish reversal of the coup remained for some time. 

We also know that Luiza de Guzman, daughter of the 8th Duke of Medina-Sidonia, a relative of Don Gaspar de Guzman, married the Duke of Braganza on 12 Jan 1633. This was a source of shame to Don Gaspar de Guzman (the Count-Duke d’ Olivares, first minister of King Philip 4 of Spain in the 1625-43 period) in view of the fact that his official position opposed Portuguese independence and any accommodation of it. He wanted Luiza expunged from family history! But she became Queen of Portugal in 1640 after the cheeky coup of her husband who thus became Joao 4 of Portugal. The Olivares notes based on ref 70 show that Olivares himself made extensive use of Portuguese New Christians especially in his financial reforms.

 The 1662 marriage of Charles 2 of England with Catherine of Braganza (Luiza's daughter) was important for English/Portuguese relations but it was also important for the northern Portuguese Jews. Charles and Catherine were hardly close, but Charles was favorably pre-disposed to the Jewish merchants (ref 12). Portuguese Jews suggested the marriage of Catherine of Braganza and then helped Charles by negotiating and arranging the payment of a magnificent dowry, which included the ports of Tangier and Bombay – which gave the English a foothold in India - and a great deal of money (which - it is not hard to guess - helped in repayment of his debts to Portuguese Jewish financiers and the other royal financiers).



1. There is little if any connection between the old de Losada nobility and the more recent (from 1741) Italian title of the Duque de Losada. The first and only Duque (Jose Fernandez Miranda 1706-83) must have been personally earmarked for advancement as he became head of guards in 1749 to the future King Charles 3 of Spain who was then King of the Two Sicilies in Naples, and soon thereafter Miranda became ‘el sumiller de corps’ to the King. When they returned to Madrid in 1759 for Charles to become King of Spain Miranda retained this place at the King's side, conveniently already having the lofty title his role required. Miranda when in Italy was in contact with Barbara of Braganza (wife of Ferdinand 4 - Charles' predecessor as King of Spain) for he acted as her agent in the purchase of some paintings by Giordano for her to give to the singer Farinelli - ref 71.

2. Elsewhere she is named as Ines Esteves Pires, a person with origins that are admittedly controversial - some suggest she was New Christian, others that she was a daughter of a bearded Castilian Jewish shoemaker, while others perhaps in the majority suggest her ancestry was Old Christian.

3. In ref 35 is the history of the Curiels. The 1493-5 period, just after the expulsion, saw many desperate Jewish families in Portugal, and some in the nobility acquired Jewish concubines. One such case was that of Jeronimo de Saldanha who 'was a Visigoth and a direct male descendant of the 9th century kings of Leon and Asturias........and (through) Afonso Henriques.....Jeronimo de Saldanha was related to all the Portuguese titled nobility'. Afonso Henriques was the 1st King of Portugal 1139-85 from whom all the non-imposed Portuguese Kings descend and also the Dukes of Braganza. Jeronimo Saldanha's son Fernao Lourenco had a great grand-daughter Sarah Curiel who married Antonio Rodrigues Lamego of Rouen who was a probable ancestor of Aaron Lamego of Jamaica.

4. Columbus is the Latinized version of the family name Colon.

5. This is argued in ref 60 but contrary views may be found.

6. The man who gave his name to Guimaraes is commemorated in Porto.

7. Fernando son of Amador de Lousada was born in Braganza.