Remembering the Queen

Portugal Unites with Britain in Grief

Both expats and Portuguese citizens mourned the death of Queen Elizabeth, who passed away at Balmoral on the 8th of September.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was quick to post a message of condolence on the official website of the presidency. The Portuguese President expressed his “most heartfelt and sincere condolences.” He also praised her for her unwavering dedication to public service.

He added that “the visits that Queen Elizabeth II made to our country in 1957 and 1985 will remain in the memory of each of us with unquestionable affection and appreciation. For me personally, I will not be able to forget the honour of meeting her when I travelled to London in 2016.”

On the 10th of September, His Excellency the President of the Republic went to the British Ambassador’s residence to sign their Book of Condolence on behalf of the Portuguese people. The British Ambassador Chris Sainty tweeted, “Thank you, Sir, for this beautiful gesture of affection and respect for Her Majesty.”

The Portuguese Government then approved a decree declaring national mourning for three days in honour of Queen Elizabeth II on the 18th, 19th and 20th of September.

The Portuguese President travelled to London for Her Majesty’s state funeral. He paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II at the Palace of Westminster in London, where her body lay in state. As he arrived at the balcony where parliamentary assistants escorted official representatives of foreign countries, the Portuguese President stepped down to the ground level to get closer and said his blessing as he passed by the coffin, close to the public and the guards. The Head of State was accompanied by the Portuguese Ambassador in London, Nuno Brito, and the Head of State Protocol, Ambassador Clara Nunes dos Santos.

The President then signed the official Book of Condolence at Lancaster House before attending a reception at Buckingham Palace. The reception was hosted by King Charles III for international leaders who had travelled to attend the funeral ceremonies with state honours on Monday.

The British Ambassador wrote in an article in Diarios de Noticias, “Since arriving in Portugal four years ago, I have been struck by the great affection that so many Portuguese felt for our Queen. She made two State visits to Portugal – in 1957 and in 1985. She told me about her fond memories of those visits and the many people she met here. I know that the sense of loss that all of us in the British Embassy feel is shared by many Portuguese people. We have been deeply touched by the many kind, thoughtful and moving messages we have received from people all over the country.”

Just four years after her coronation, Queen Elizabeth II made her first official visit to Portugal in February 1957. She disembarked from the Royal Yacht moored in the Tagus River. At the time, Portugal was a dictatorship. She was welcomed by António Oliveira Salazar. 

Visit to Portugal of Queen Elizabeth II, 1957 © Hemeroteca Municipal de Lisboa, published in Revista municipal N.º 72, 1º trimestre de 1957

The Portuguese state spared no expense in welcoming her, buying a Rolls Royce, especially for the occasion. Queen Elizabeth II was greeted with enormous enthusiasm by the Portuguese people. It was even reported that students of Coimbra University threw cloaks on the ground, ready for the Royal car to drive over.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh stayed in the Queluz National Palace in Lisbon. A parade in their honour was given in the Praça do Comércio. They were entertained at a banquet at the Palácio Nacional de Ajudá and visited the Monasteries of Santa Maria, Alcobaça, Santa Maria da Vitória in Batalha, and Nazaré.

The young Queen Elizabeth attracted much international interest and’ LIFE’ magazine covered her visit extensively. 

On her second visit, in March 1985, the Queen arrived aboard a royally outfitted British Airways jetliner and was later joined by her husband, Prince Philip, aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. Her host was President António Ramalho Eanes, who welcomed the royal party outside Lisbon at the 16th-century Tower of Belem, and she was gifted a stallion in the courtyard of the Belém Palace.

The Queen wore Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik Tiara at the state banquet held in their honour and hosted by the President. The Duke of Edinburgh was pictured attending a banquet given by the British Ambassador to Portugal at the Palace of Queluz in Lisbon, which was followed by a Gala Performance at the São Carlos National Theatre.

Receiving a rapturous welcome wherever she went, Queen Elizabeth II visited many of the sights of Lisbon, including the Estufa Fria, the National Assembly and the National Theatre. She was awarded the Medal of Honour of the City of Lisbon. The royal itinerary also included the Roman temple to Diana, while other events included a Tour of the Jerónimos Monastery. She then visited Évora by train before flying to Porto. 

She is also fondly remembered by ex-pupils of St Julian’s school, where she opened a new school building named in her honour by unveiling a plaque.

As Queen Elizabeth II enters eternal rest and the realms of history, she remains in the hearts of her British subjects and those around the world who encountered her.

You can read more about the Queen’s special relationship with Portugal in Vaughan Willmore’s article from 2021:

Main Image: President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa signing the Book of Condolence


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