President prepares landmark ceremony with King Charles III to celebrate the 650th anniversary of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance
By Natasha Donn – [email protected]
President Marcelo is bound for the UK this week, for a ceremony with King Charles III to mark the 650-year anniversary of the ‘oldest alliance in the world’.
Says Lusa, the ceremony in London on Thursday will culminate years of work by the Portugal-UK 650 initiative, created to promote the values of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance.
Maria João Rodrigues de Araújo, president of the unofficial, voluntary and non-profit initiative, hopes the programme that has promoted more than 300 activities over the last four years, has served to strengthen the already close ties between the two countries.
“I think we left an important legacy for future generations with young people who participated in these events,” she told Lusa today.
The treaty of the Alliance was signed on June 16, 1373 in London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, by Edward III of England, and Fernando 1 and Leonor of Portugal.
It was preceded by a treaty (Treaty of Tagilde) signed in Portugal the year before between the Portuguese king and representatives of the son of Edward III (John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster), which has always been considered to have constituted the first legal foundation of the historic Anglo-Portuguese Alliance.
Says SIC today, 13 years after the signing 650 years ago, there was another treaty (the Treaty of Windsor) which determined the marriage of João 1 of Portugal, and Philippa of Lancaster who then became known as Filipa de Lencastre – the mother of, among others, Henry the Navigator.
So much history between the two countries that made a point of committing themselves to “true, faithful, constant, mutual and perpetual peace and friendship, union and alliance and bonds of sincere affection” no doubt spurred on the work of the Portugal-UK 650 initiative, whose president tells Lusa she has done her utmost to be an ambassador of these ancient values.
A lecturer and music researcher at Oxford University, Maria Joao Rodrigues de Araújo, started working on this project in 2016, still without a clear plan for the format of the celebrations, Lusa explains.
In the following years, she held meetings in Portugal with the government, Camões Institute, and the British Embassy and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, which paved the way for official sponsorship from the then Prince Charles and President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
Multiple contacts included the British government, the Portuguese General Staff of the Armed Forces and the Vatican, with Pope Francis even blessing the initiative.
The first event took place in 2019, at the time to remember Peace Day on 19 July 1919: Portuguese servicemen joined a large parade through the streets of the British capital to celebrate the end of the First World War (1914-18).
A mass was held in the Queen’s Chapel of Saint James’ Palace, which was formerly used by the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza, who married the English King Charles II, and it is in this chapel where Thursday’s celebrations will take place.
Says Lusa, the Portugal-UK 650 estimates has organised at least 300 activities in the last few years, amassing more than 200 partners in areas like academic research, education, culture, economy and the military.
Events have involved wine tasting, concerts, seminars by videoconference, academic conferences, exhibitions, theatre and dance performances, poetry and drawing competitions, even school activities.
The English National Ballet launched the project “Dance in Perpetuity”, which saw a performance in Braga’s Praça do Município last year.
Ceramics company Vista Alegre produced a limited edition commemorative plate, the CTT (post office) a postcard evoking the Tagilde Treaty, the Artistic School of the Calouste Gulbenkian Conservatory in Braga created an opera on the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance.
“We tried to involve not only authorities but civil society so that more people could learn about the values of the alliance,” Ms Rodrigues de Araújo told Lusa – stressing the guiding principle throughout was that events, as much as possible, should be accessible, free and decentralised, to “avoid being elitist and not be commercial”.
President Marcelo will arrive in London for this extremely special celebration on Wednesday (June 14).