EUROPEAN ROYAL HOUSES

 

 

 

A BRIEF RESPONSE TO STATEMENTS MADE BY THE SUPPORTERS OF THE LATE MARIA PIA DE SAXE-COBURG-BRAGANÇA, HER GRANDSON CARLOS MIGUEL BERROCAL Y BLAIS, and HER ALLEGED COGNATE ROSARIO POIDIMANI IN RESPECT OF THEIR CLAIMS TO THE THRONE OF PORTUGAL.

 © Guy Stair Sainty

INTRODUCTION

 

The late D. Maria Pia de Saxe-Coburg-Bragança (a name she assumed in adulthood) claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of King Carlos II of Portugal, and that she was de jure heiress to that throne. In making this claim, she and her supporters claimed that the line of Dom Miguel, represented today by H.R.H. Dom Duarte de Bragança, Duke of Bragança, is permanently excluded from the Portuguese succession. In actuality she was of modest Cuban birth, and named Hilda Toledano. She did not announce her purported claim until after the death of her supposed half-brother, King Manoel II, for obvious reasons.  

This lady distributed titles and orders to her supporters, unfortunately apparently paying little attention to the standing and character of the recipients. 

The Poidimani faction of this fantasy maintain a web site at http://www.theroyalhouseofportugal.org and www.realcasaportuguesa.org which include a series of links to pages that are remarkable not only for their poor English grammar, but for the misleading information they give.  

The simple responses to her claim, as presented in various texts and on the above web site, are as follows: 

THE PORTUGUESE ROYAL HOUSE 

(1)  The ancient dynasty of Portugal had become extinct in 1580, at which time the Portuguese Crown had been inherited by the Spanish. In 1640, however, having tired of rule from Madrid, the Portuguese people rose up and offered the Crown to the greatest noble of the Kingdom, the Duke of Braganza, who himself descended from King João I of Portugal, although from an illegitimate son of that King. He was also a descendant of the ancient dynasty in the legitimate, but cognatic line, through a sister of the last legitimate King. The Duke of Braganza led the Portuguese to victory and established a sovereign and independent Kingdom under their rule.

(2)  Succession to the Crown is by mixed male and female succession, males having priority over females.

(3)  Dynasts must be born Portuguese and must have Portuguese citizenship in order to transmit succession rights. Loss of citizenship results in the loss of succession rights.

(4)  Illegitimacy is a bar to succession to the Portuguese Crown, although in the past illegitimate children have been legitimated. Legitimation was not extended to the issue of adulterine unions, however.

(5)  The line headed by HRH Dom Duarte, Duke of Braganza, is the only representative branch of the Royal House of Portugal entitled to the Portuguese royal styles and titles.  

THE ALLEGED ORIGINS, BIRTH AND BAPTISM OF MARIA PIA 

The documents produced as evidence of this claim, and reproduced on the above web site, share the strange common feature that they appear to have been mangled and torn, and little attempt been made to keep them in the kind of order that one would normally expect of such important documents. No explanation for this is offered by the producers of this site. 

(6)  Maria Pia “de Saxe-Coburgo de Bragança’s pretension to the Portuguese throne is based on her purported illegitimate birth to the penultimate Portuguese King, Carlos I, by a hitherto unrecorded mistress of the King.

(7)  Maria Pia’s pretensions were rejected by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice at Lisbon on 14 Apr 1983, and her claim to inherit the properties of the Foundation of the House of Bragança and the Foundation Dom Manoel II (of which the President is HRH Dom Duarte, Duke of Braganza) was rejected.

(8)  The Court described her as of “unknown parents”. A recent action before the Sacred Rota of the Holy See determined that the later transcription of her alleged baptismal certificate and which described her father as Don Carlos de Saxe-Coburgo de Casa de Bragança de Portugal, was authentic. Nonetheless this did not mean that she was of legitimate birth. In deciding this action, the Sacred Rota acted on the basis of the attestations made in 1939, not being able to interview the alleged witnesses.

(9)  The evidence for this claim appears to be a birth certificate issued in Madrid on 28 July 1939, some twenty-two years after her alleged birth in Lisbon on 13 March 1907, on the basis of representations made by the lady herself that cannot apparently be substantiated in any documents, other than the record of her purported baptismal certificate. This same certificate states her alleged place of baptism to have been a Church in Madrid, although this has seemingly been erased and re-written.

(10)         On the 22 Oct 1958 she obtained a certificate of baptism from the Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de Carmen y San Luis in Madrid, referring to an extract of her alleged baptism at the Parish Church of San Fermin de las Navarros also in Madrid. Since the latter was apparently a parish Church, one might inquire as to why this certificate was issued (some fifty-one years after the alleged baptism, of which no earlier records appear to have been issued), by a different parish.

(11)         The certificate claimed that her father was Don Carlos de Saxe-Coburgo de Casa de Bragança de Portugal. It is interesting that this description of her purported father fails to note that he was actually King of Portugal at the time. It also fails to take account of the fact that he was married to someone else and, even if Maria Pia had been the child of the Portuguese King, he was not free to marry and as the issue of an adulterous relationship she could not therefore come within the category of a child who could be legitimated by subsequent marriage, or considered anything other than illegitimate. There were canon law issues at that time (subsequently repealed) concerning the baptism of illegitimate children that seem to have been ignored. This evidently much-abused document is not, in fact, an extract from the baptismal records of the Church at which the alleged baptism took place.

(12)         A typed and elaborated copy of this same baptismal certificate was issued by the Lisbon Church of San Isabel, referring to the Madrid baptism, on 28 February 1975. Another Church, in another country, issued this certificate rather than the actual Church where the alleged baptism took place.

(13)         These certificates note in both cases that the alleged god-parent (padrino) of the child was a certain Conde de Monteverde. No title of this denomination exists in the registers of either the Spanish or Portuguese nobility, however.

(14)         A further certificate was issued by the parish of Nuestra Señora de Carmen y San Luis, again referring to the baptism in another Church, on 9 June 1984. This time, however, the description of her alleged father is different (he is named here as Carlos de Sajonia-Coburgo y Saboya), thus indicating that this is not actually an “extract” at all since the same original entry, if it existed, would not describe the same person differently.

(15)         Documents produced on the above web site state that alleged the original baptismal records were destroyed in the civil war, and that the issuance of the certificate in 1939 was based on the testimony of the priest who conducted the alleged baptism and who claimed to remember the name of this child, and the name of the alleged father. At best, however, it would seem that a Brazilian woman unknown to this priest turned up in Madrid, in 1907, seeking the baptism of her child whom she claimed (without actually stating his proper title) to be the daughter of the reigning Portuguese King. No attempt was apparently made to ascertain the accuracy of this claim, nor was there any reference in contemporary Portuguese or Spanish government archives attesting to this birth and baptism. It is extremely puzzling that the priest remembers the alleged father (who of course was not present) not as “the King of Portugal” but as “Carlos de Sajonia-Coburgo de la Casa de Bragança de Portugal.”

(16)         A document issued by the Diocese of Madrid-Alcalá includes the text of a purported act of recognition by King Carlos I of Maria Pia as his daughter, in which he allegedly created her an Infanta of Portugal. The attestation to the veracity of this is based on a statement by A. Giocoechea who did not, however, witness the original document whose existence was unrecorded and whose purpose, to supposedly create this illegitimate daughter an Infanta and give her succession rights to the throne, was entirely beyond the legal authority of the King, even if he had issued such an act. The original of this alleged document has never been produced.

(17)         Various other persons have made statements to the effect that this young woman was introduced in the 1930s as the daughter of the late King Carlos of Portugal; none were witnesses to her birth or claimed contemporary knowledge of the alleged relationship between the King of Portugal and her mother. Several statements by officials are also included on the site, making reference to the authenticity of the documents issued in 1939 by the Spanish Ecclesiastical authorities. These documents, however, all depend for the accuracy of the claims made therein on the attestation by the priest who supposedly baptized Maria Pia and who, twenty-two years later remembered her name and alleged paternity.

(18)         A letter appears on the site that appears to be from Alfonso XIII of Spain, dated Schloss Metternich 8 August 1939 (three weeks before the outbreak of World War II). This is signed “Alfonso XIII”, rather than Yo el Rey (the usual signature of Spanish Kings before the present Monarchy) or just Alfonso, as he wrote to his family. Despite being written in Germany, the envelope reproduced on the same page bears a Spanish postage stamp with the image of the Generalisimo, Francisco Franco. Furthermore, there is an attached card from “Principe Alfonso Jaime de Borbon” signed “Alfonso”. There was not a single adult member of any branch of the House of Bourbon with the forenames “Alfonso Jaime” living in 1939. In fact of course, this card and the letters following are not written by Alfonso XIII as advertised at the top of the page [http://www.theroyalhouseofportugal.org/html/framesetintro1.html] but much later by the late Alfonso de Borbón, Duke of Cadiz, who is evidently in each case responding politely to missives he received from Maria Pia. It is thus a gross misrepresentation to claim them as communications from Alfonso XIII, who died in 1941. It is worth noting that before her appearance as the purported daughter of King Carlos I, she was claiming to be the illegitimate daughter of Alfonso XIII. Inconveniently, however, King Alfonso XIII was living in Rome and able to deny such a claim; King Carlos I and her alleged half-brother, King Manoel II, were both dead.

(19)         Among the various other letters included, most of which seemed to be replies to requests for meetings with various august persons, are a series of letters from the Secretary of the Spanish Chief of State. These, evidently written by Maria Pia hoping that she would get an invitation or perhaps one letter from the Spanish head of State himself, are evidence more of her persistence than anything else. Perhaps one of the more amusing is the letter of introduction to former Italian Prime Minister Craxi, whose indictment for alleged corruption led him to flee Italian Justice and take up residence in Tunisia.

(20)         The most extensive cycle of documents reproduced were issued in connection with the declaration by the Sacred Rota that her baptismal certificate would stand and be considered valid, on the basis of the attestations made in 1939. The Sacred Rota refused to remove the name of the alleged father, and allowed this record to stand. The act of the Sacred Rota also states, however, that it has no interest in the matter of the Portuguese succession.  

THE SUCCESSION CLAIMS BY MARIA PIA AND THE CLAIMS REGARDING THE EXCLUSION OF THE DYNASTIC LINE

(21)         The exclusion of the Miguelist line in 1834 is entirely irrelevant to the legitimacy of the claim of the present Head of the Royal House of Bragança, H.R.H. Dom Duarte Pio, Duke of Bragança. This claim is made on the simple basis of legitimate, male line descent from the royal house, and the extinction of the other dynastic lines, as a result of which HRH Dom Duarte is the senior Prince of a line that remained Portuguese. Being Portuguese is an absolute requirement for a Portuguese dynast, since the Portuguese have wanted to exclude any possibility of their throne being joined with another by inter-marriage into a foreign dynasty.

(22)         Exclusionary laws or laws of permanent exile were passed against many other former reigning dynasties, including the French (1886), Romanian (1947), Yugoslavian (1946), Greek (1974 and ff), Bulgarian (1945), Italian (1947), etc, without these having any effect on the legitimate dynastic claims subsequent representatives of these dynasties. The Constitution of 1826 was merely one among many in the history of Portugal and has been long superseded. More ancient laws dictate the royal succession, and it is as the senior male representative of the King who gave Portugal its independence that confers upon HRH Dom Duarte his special position today.

(23)         Portugal itself proclaimed a Republic in 1910, and sent the King into permanent exile. On 15 Oct 1910 it passed a law of exile on the King and his family and collaterals, even stricter than that imposed on Dom Miguel, and confiscated all the property of the Dynasty – an act of legalized theft.

(24)         The Constitution of 1826 is irrelevant to the claim of the Miguelist line, which is descended in the direct legitimate male line from the ancient Kings of Portugal. This could no more deprive the Dom Miguel line of any royal rights than the present Constitution of Spain deprives those members of the Spanish Royal Family, who were dynasts under the Constitution of 1876, of their historic dynastic rights. It merely states that the Crown of the Constitutional Monarchy is hereditary in the person of Queen Maria da Gloria, and then passes to the collateral line.

(25)         The decree of 1834 stripping Dom Miguel of his Princely rank has no more validity than similar acts by later republican regimes that stripped former reigning dynasties of their rank (including those laws passed by the Portuguese Republic in 1910 and later).

(26)         I do not agree with Dr Bander van Duren (who has commented on the Portuguese succession in the 3rd volume of his books on Catholic Orders of Knighthood) that the “Pact of Paris” forms the basis of the claim by HRH Dom Duarte Pio, Duke of Bragança, since the Portuguese Crown was not in the gift of King Manoel II, and the agreements in that Pact, even thought touching on Dynastic issues, were by their nature political.

(27)         The Duke of Bragança is the legitimate representative of the ancient Royal House of Portugal, which itself led the country to nationhood from Spain in the early middle ages, and in 1640 led it once again to independence from Spain.

(28)         As such, he represents the Monarchical tradition, and is tied neither to the terms of the 19th century Constitutions (which are, in any case, outdated), nor the ancien régime Monarchy. His dynastic rights are a matter of fact, and it is a matter for the Portuguese people whether at sometime in the future they wish to re-establish the Monarchy in the person of himself or his heirs. I remains, true, however, that under the terms of the last Constitution he is the nearest representative dynast who is Portuguese, and would thus (but for the purported exclusion of 1834) be the Constitutionalist heir.

(29)         HRH the Duke of Bragança is recognized as Head of the Royal House of Portugal by the Heads of the every legitimate European Royal House. He has been appointed a Knight of the Golden Fleece by the Archduke Otto, a Knight of Saint Januarius and Bailiff Grand Cross with Collar of the Constantinian Order by the Infante Don Carlos, Duke of Calabria, a Knight of the Annunciation by the late King Umberto II of Italy, Grand Cross of the White Eagle of Yugoslavia, Bailiff Grand Cross of Honor and Devotion of the S.M.O.M., and a Knight of Calatrava, etc, in every case as Duke of Bragança.

(30)         The imputations concerning the birth of Dom Miguel, who was canonically legitimate, are as unworthy as the other statements made concerning the representatives of the legitimate line of the Royal House of Bragança.

(31)         The repeal of the law of exile passed on 17 May 1950, long after the death of King Manoel II, was of itself a recognition of the status of the line of Dom Miguel, as it repealed the laws of 15 Oct 1910 (which had included the then royal family, coupled with the Dom Miguel line) and the law of 19 Dec 1834. This act was of itself an implicit recognition of the Dynastic rights of the only legitimate surviving male line of the House of Bragança.

(32)         HRH the Duke of Bragança is acknowledged as the head of the Royal House of Portugal by the present Portuguese government, and as such has been a guest of successive Presidents of the Republic.  

SUMMARY OF THE CLAIMS OF MARIA PIA'S SUCCESSORS

 (33)     The pretensions of Maria-Pia de Saxe-Coburgo-Braganza, as she styled herself, were based on what seems to be a misinterpretation of the documents, of the Portuguese constitution and that the baptismal certificate issued in the 1930s was "proof" of paternity. In an astonishing misjudgment the office of the Chief Herald of Ireland apparently acknowledged some of her purported “grants of Arms,” although the shake-up in that office will prevent such egregious errors being made in the future. Her leading supporters were apparently granted a range of invented titles, elevating them to a pretended status that actually bore no relation to their real station in life. Her distribution of the Portuguese royal dynastic Order of Vila Viçosa was an unwarranted usurpation of the rights of the Head of the Royal House of Braganza. This practice has been apparently continued by her appointed heir, a certain Rosario Poidimani, who has allegedly made a practice of distributing worthless awards.  

(34)     One might speculate as to why so much time should have been dedicated to proving her alleged descent when, in failing health, she decided to nominate someone who could have not have any basis for a claim on either legal, historical or genealogical grounds. All the work she put into making her claim to royal descent has been taken up now by someone with no blood connection to herself. 

(35) Until recently, however, the claimant to be her successor was one of her grandchildren, Carlos Miguel Barracal y Blais. No explanation has been offered as to why he is no longer considered her heir, and why the mysterious nomination of Mr Poidimani should have been considered sufficient to exclude him.  

(36)         Poidimani has presented a "lodo arbitrale irrituale" or "parere" before a Republic of San Marino court, contesting the assertion of someone disputing these titles; the decision appears on the face of it to be a decision in favor of Poidimani  This is not an enforceable judgment of the court, however, as such matters are beyond the jurisdiction of San Marino, but merely the opinion of the lawyer submitting it.  Under San Marino law, of 31 January 1962, any actions before the San Marino courts in respect of titles that are not San Marino in origin, are prohibited. Mr Poidimani's submission was made on 18 July 1995, and is misrepresented by him as a San Marino judicial determination in respect of his claims to the Braganza titles.

(37)            Despite the supposed anger on the part of Poidimani at the alleged defamation, the plaintiff and defendant make up as friends (see page 10 of this decision, that he has published) and split the costs of the case between them.  This "parere" was then registered in Romania as if it was a formal judgment. Of course such entirely irrelevant legal proceedings prove nothing at all, except that Poidimani is familiar with similar ploys utilized by a succession of would-be Emperors of Byzantium and even a pretended Irish Chief, and that no-one but an idiot would consider relevant to the legitimacy of his fantastic pretensions.  

(38)     Those who have been deluded into allgedly accepting these titles and awards are really deserving only of ridicule, and since the most cursory research will betray these claims to be mere fantasies, deserve no sympathy for their eagerness to believe that for some reason they merited an award from the royal house of Portugal. 

(39)     The apparent lack of good faith of Rosario Poidimani is best exemplified by his preposterous claim that his position is recognized by the Holy Roman Church. He has produced as evidence of this photographs of him pushing himself forward, in a Ruritanian uniform (like the uniforms of most false royal princes, white and gold) at a public audience, but fortunately prevented from getting to close to His Holiness by the barrier, prudently erected to deter such persons.  

(40)     He has also produced one of the stock Papal Benedictions that anyone can have drawn up with whatever name they please. He also reproduces a letter, addressing him as “Egregio Signore” (the common form of address for ordinary citizens), on which, at the bottom and in conformity with Vatican practice is written the name under which he wrote. This, however, is evidence only that he wrote using these preposterous titles and certainly not of recognition. 

(41)         One can only pity the unfortunate clerics who were persuaded to dine with Poidimani and his motley crew, and whose photographs with Poidimani and his “court” are reproduced on the web site.

(42)     The saga of the so-called royal house of Portugal is an excellent example of the kind of fantasies which can be found scattered across the world-wide web. What is always puzzling is how readily so many are deluded into believing them.