The Shotgun Marriage: Spain's Annexation of Portugal

In 1580, Portugal was joined with Spain in a sixty-year long and unpopular union.

A glance at the map of southern Europe might convince anyone with a fancy for geo-politics that the Iberian Peninsula, so clearly marked off in the north from the rest of the Continent by the Pyrenees, was designed by nature to be the home of a single nation and a single state. But the course of historical, cultural, and even economic development does not always obligingly reinforce 'natural' physical patterns. Strong centrifugal tendencies exist within the Peninsula, as we now see from the current pressure for increased regional autonomy in Spain, and a large slice of its Atlantic seaboard has long remained politically separate from the Spanish regions. Only for a troubled sixty-year period since Portugal became an independent kingdom in the twelfth century did the country reluctantly find itself constitutionally tied to the Spanish throne. The shortlived union came about through circumstances which Philip II's superior military might and statecraft succeeded in turning to account but failed to perpetuate. Though thus linked to Spain when the latter was at the height of her imperial greatness, the Portuguese people have anything but happy memories of this shotgun marriage.

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