Anthroponyms seta TORRES, Francisco de Melo e (1620-1667)

Portuguese ambassador in England.

Francisco de Melo e Torres was born in Lisbon in 1629, and died there on 7th December, 1667, the victim of assassination.

His father, Garcia de Melo e Torres, had been a governor and vedor da fazenda (chief financial official) in Portuguese India, and his mother, Margarida de Castro, was the daughter of Henrique Correia da Silva, alcaide-mor (military commander) of Terena.

He received a Jesuit education, having attended the college of Santo Antão from the age of 6 or 7, where he studied Mathematics and the art of war, showing interest in following a military career.

At the age of 16, he received his first commission, as captain of a company of soldiers in Setúbal, and shortly after, in 1637, he was sent to the borough of Tavira.

He participated actively in the conspiracy movement at the time of the Restoration, in 1640, for which he was appointed governor of the Alentejan municipality of Olivença, a post he occupied for some months, and which was of great importance, as the war to regain independence from the Spanish was fought in that region.

In June of the following year he was appointed Mestre de Campo (Field Officer) of the Alentejo region, and accompanied the mobilisation of the troops that were gathering on the Alentejan border, which united in the campaigns of 1643 and 1644, where he participated in the victorious attacks on the Spanish towns of Valverde, Alconchel and Vila Nova del Fresco, in the unsuccessful siege of Badajoz, and in the famous battle of Montijo, in May, 1644, as commander of an infantry regiment. Meanwhile, he again assumed the post of governor of Olivença. In the middle of 1646 he married his niece, Leonor de Manrique, and they had three children: Garcia de Melo, the second count of Ponte, Madalena de Mendonça and Maria Violante.

Between 1649 and 1650, Melo e Torres temporarily substituted the count of Cantanhede in the miliary government of Cascais. There he was confronted with a mood of unrest, due to the presence of the English princes Rupert and Maurice (dissident princes of the parliamentary English republic that had deposed King Charles I) on the Tagus sandbar and the consequent implications, namely with the coercive presence of the armada of the English army at the gates of the capital. Later, in 1651, he again assumed this post for a short time. From 1651 to 1656 he undertook the post of general of the artillery in the Alentejo. During this period, due to the simultaneous absence of João da Costa (commanding officer) and André de Albuquerque (cavalry general), he temporarily took command of the government of the Alentejo province on more than one occasion, where he remained until the death of King João VI, in 1656, when he returned to Lisbon.

With the redefinition of military posts, in February 1657, Melo e Torres intended to occupy the vacant post of cavalry general, but this failed to happen. However, he was appointed to the embassy in England, thus embarking on a diplomatic career, as his military career came to a close. His experience of war was considered as relevant, as attested by the fact that almost all those who became diplomats after 1640 had undertaken military functions. He also received the title of comendador (commander-in-chief) in this period.

He left for London in July, 1657, in a delegation comprising Francisco Sá de Meneses, as secretary, and the priest Ricardo Russell from the Colégio dos Inglesinhos. Melo e Torres? main instructions were to attempt to include the kingdom of Portugal in the alliance between Sweden, England and France against Spain, and to obtain English support against the Dutch fleet which was supposedly preparing to capture the Portuguese fleet returning from Brazil. On 28th April, 1660, he signed an agreement with the English Council of State, which was instituted following the dissolution of parliament, in one of the episodes of the Restoration of the English monarchy that year. In this agreement, the Portuguese crown obtained the aid of 12,000 infantry, 2,500 horses and the right to purchase arms. However, the recently proclaimed British monarch refused to ratify the agreement, which reignited the plan for a marriage between Charles II and a Portuguese princess (suggested during António de Sousa de Macedo?s residence in England, from 1642-1646), as a means of guaranteeing English military aid. This solution was also exploited in France, by the count of Soure (ambassador in Paris) together with the English queen-mother (who resided there), which at the time gave rise to the possibility of arranging a double wedding, between Princess Catarina and Charles II, and King Afonso VI and Henrietta Stuart (the sister of the English king).

The former proposal to France, of 2 million crusados plus Tangiers, was channelled to the (secret)negotiations, added to which were the municipality of Bombay and the right for the English to reside and trade in Portuguese territories, which then constituted the largest dowry ever received by a monarch.

Once back in Lisbon, Melo e Torres continued the marriage negotiations, and put pressure on the crown to reward him with the title of count, being made Count of Ponte on 11th January, 1661. Soon afterwards he returned to London, on his second mission, with the intention of concluding the marriage deal.

During Melo e Torres? absence from the London court, the Spanish ambassador and the Earl of Bristol persuaded Charles II to abandon the marriage plans, denigrating the image of the Portuguese princess as potential wife and child bearer, and seeking alternative princesses for him to wed. However, the French influence on the king was decisive, as his support for the union with Catarina was backed by promises of financial and military aid.

Together with the marriage arrangement, an alliance treaty was drawn up. This confirmed the privileges received by the English in the former treaties of 1642 and 1654, and, in return, Portugal was to receive military aid from the English and the promise that they would sign no peace treaty with Spain without taking Portuguese security into consideration, which was fundamental within the context following the Treaty of the Pyrenees (peace treaty between Spain and France in 1659), which left the kingdom of Castile free to concentrate on the Iberian struggle. This approximation, in 1661, marked the beginning of an alliance with Britain, a priority in Portuguese foreign policy, thus putting an end to Portuguese isolation from Europe, with the intention of initiating peace talks between Spain and Portugal as early as 1663, although they did not come to a close until 1668. After the successful conclusion of his second embassy, Melo e Torres requested the title of marquis as a reward, and was entitled Marquis of Sande, together with the promise of his appointment to the council of state. A few days later he again departed for London as ambassador extraordinary and chaperone to the new English queen. During this third embassy, his duties included arranging the marriage of King Afonso VI to a French princess. He began to deal with this matter during 1663, but had to interrupt the process briefly in order to mediate negotiations between Portuguese and Castilian parties, serving as the link with the English court. The failure of these negotiations revived Afonso VI?s marriage plans, which the new marquis of Sande tried to further, without great success, in Paris, during 1664. He returned there in November, 1665, to finalise the marriage of the Portuguese king to mademoiselle de Aumale (Maria Francisca Isabel of Savoy), celebrated by proxy on 27th July, 1666, in La Rochelle. This marriage should be understood in the light of the international context. This union was important for Portugal because of the ongoing conflict with Spain, together with papal non recognition and the volatility of the English position; for the French, support for the Portuguese cause would mean that Spain would be involved even longer in the Iberian conflict, which would weaken its power.

Melo e Torres was entrusted with accompanying the new queen, Maria Francisca Isabel of Savoy, on her journey to Portugal, arriving in August, 1666, which marked the end of Sande?s diplomatic career.

In the last two years of his life, Melo e Torres (who had been comendador of Santa Maria de Montemor-o-Novo, S. Martinho de Frexedas, Santiago de Grilho, S. Salvador de Fornelos and S. Miguel de Fornos, of the Order of Christ) played na active role in the peace negotiations with Spain and the establishment of an alliance with France, signed on 31st March, 1667, which was a way of putting pressure on the Spanish demands for peace.

After the count of Castelo Melhor had been removed from the government of Portugal, Melo e Torres became one of the mentors of the convocation of parliament, seen as the best solution to the situation at the time and that later, in November 1667, led to the Infante Pedro?s occupation of the palace. This episode would mean a change in the course taken by the crown, which would not, however, be witnessed by Francisco de Melo e Torres. He was assassinated shortly afterwards; the motives are unclear, although the official version was that his murder had been a mistake.

As a man with a broad education, he wrote many in-depth works, including: Astronomia Moderna (1637); Introdução Geográfica (1638); Negociações, eight volumes on his embassies.

[1] Translator?s note: a Catholic seminary in Lisbon.

CASTELLO BRANCO, Theresa M. Schedel de, Vida de Francisco Mello Torres, 1º Conde da Ponte, Marquês de Sande. Soldado e Diplomata da Restauração, 1620-1667, Lisboa, Livraria Férin, 1971. RAU, Virgínia (ed.), Livro de Cartas que escreverão ao ilustríssimo senhor Francisco de Mello, Marques de Sande, sendo embaxador extraordináro em Inglaterra, e França em os anno de 658 athe 665, Lisboa, Insitituto de Alta Cultura ? Centro de Estudos Históricos da Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa, 1969. PRESTAGE, Edgar, As Relações Diplomáticas de Portugal com a França, Inglaterra e Holanda de 1640 a 1668, Coimbra, Impr. da Universidade, 1928.

Author: Pedro Nobre
Translatted by: Kathleen Calado

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