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Ferdinand II of Portugal

Ferdinand II of Portugal

King of Portugal
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro King of Portugal
A.K.A. Fernando 02 Of Portugal
Gender male
Birth 29 October 1816 (Vienna, Austria)
Death 15 December 1885 (Lisbon, Lisbon District, Portugal)
Mother: Maria Antonia Koháry de Csábrág
Father: Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Siblings: Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and GothaPrince August of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Spouse: Maria II of PortugalElise Hensler
Children: Pedro V of PortugalLuís I of PortugalInfante JoãoDuke of BejaInfanta Maria Anna of PortugalInfanta Antónia of PortugalInfante Fernando of PortugalInfante AugustoDuke of Coimbra
The details

Dom Ferdinand II (Portuguese: Fernando II) (29 October 1816 – 15 December 1885) was a German prince of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha-Koháry, and King of Portugal jure uxoris as the husband of Queen Maria II, from the birth of their son in 1837 to her death in 1853.

In keeping with Portuguese law, only after the birth of his son in 1837 did he acquire the title of king. Ferdinand's reign came to an end with the death of his wife in 1853, but he served as regent for his son and successor, King Pedro V, until 1855. He and Maria founded the House of Braganza-Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which would rule Portugal until 1910.

Early life

Born Ferdinand August Franz Anton in Vienna, he was the eldest son of Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and his wife Princess Maria Antonia Koháry de Csábrág, heiress to the House of Koháry. The younger Ferdinand grew up in several places: the family estates in modern-day Slovakia, the imperial court of Austria, and Germany. He was a nephew of King Leopold I of Belgium, and thus a first cousin to Leopold II of Belgium and Empress Carlota of Mexico, as well as Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and her husband Prince Albert.

In 1826, his title changed from Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld to Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, following the re-arrangement of the Saxon duchies.

King of Portugal

Ferdinand II around age 24, standing next to a bust of King Pedro IV, c. 1840

According to Portuguese law, the husband of a queen regnant could only be titled king after the birth of an heir from that marriage; this was the reason Maria II's first husband, Auguste de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg, never acquired the title of king. After the birth of their eldest son and heir, the future Pedro V of Portugal, Ferdinand was proclaimed King Dom Fernando II.

Although it was Maria who reigned by right, the royal couple formed an effective team during their joint reign, with Ferdinand reigning by himself during his wife's pregnancies.

Eventually, Maria II died as a result of the birth of their eleventh child, and Ferdinand II's reign ended. However, he would assume the regency of Portugal from 1853 to 1855, during the minority of his son King Pedro V.

Later life

Portrait by Joseph Layraud, c. 1877.
Exposed at Pena National Palace.

In 1869 he rejected an offer to assume the throne of Spain.

Ferdinand was an intelligent and artistically-minded man with modern and liberal ideas. He was adept at etching, pottery and painting aquarelles. He was the president of the Royal Academy of Sciences and the Arts, lord-protector of the university of Coimbra and Grand-Master of the Rosicrucians.

An elderly Ferdinand

In 1838, he acquired the former Hieronymite monastery of Our Lady of Pena, which had been built by King Manuel I in 1511 on the top of the hill above Sintra and had been left unoccupied since 1834, when the religious orders were suppressed in Portugal. The monastery consisted of the cloister and its outbuildings, the chapel, the sacristy and the bell tower, which today form the northern section of the Pena National Palace (the "Old Palace").

Ferdinand began by making repairs to the former monastery, which, according to the historical sources of that time, was in poor condition. He refurbished the whole of the upper floor, replacing the fourteen cells used by the monks with larger-sized rooms and covering them with the vaulted ceilings that can still be seen today. In 1843, the king decided to enlarge the palace by building a new wing (the New Palace) with even larger rooms (one of them being the Great Hall), ending in a circular tower next to the new kitchens. The building work was directed by the Baron von Eschwege, a wild architectural fantasy in an eclectic style full of symbolism that could be compared with the castle Neuschwanstein of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The palace was built in such a way as to be visible from any point in the park, which consists of a forest and luxuriant gardens with over five hundred different species of trees originating from the four corners of the earth.

Ferdinand would spend his last years in this castle with his second wife, receiving the greatest artists of his time.

Marriages and descendants

In 1836 Ferdinand married Maria II, Queen-regnant of Portugal, the daughter and heiress of the late King Pedro IV (and also Emperor Pedro I of Brazil). Eleven children were born to the royal couple before Maria died of complications due to childbirth in 1853. Ferdinand was destined to outlive eight of his eleven children. In late 1861, an attack of cholera or typhoid fever struck the royal family and Ferdinand suffered the tragedy of witnessing the death of three of his five surviving sons.

Later in his life, Ferdinand married again in Lisbon on 10 June 1869 to actress Elisa Hensler (Neuchâtel, 22 May 1836 – Lisbon, Coração de Jesus, 21 May 1929). Just before the marriage, she was created Gräfin (Countess) von Edla by Ferdinand's cousin Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The couple had no children.

Name Birth Death Notes
By Maria II of Portugal (4 April 1819 – 15 November 1853; married on 9 April 1836)
Pedro V 16 September 1837 11 November 1861 Succeeded his mother as King of Portugal.
Luís I 31 October 1838 19 October 1889 Succeeded his brother as King of Portugal.
Infanta Maria 4 October 1840 4 October 1840  
Infante João 16 March 1842 27 December 1861 Duke of Beja. Died of cholera in 1861.
Infanta Maria Ana 21 August 1843 5 February 1884 Married King George of Saxony and was mother of King Frederick August III of Saxony, and grandmother of Charles I, the last Emperor of Austria.
Infanta Antónia 17 February 1845 27 December 1913 Married Leopold, Prince of Hohenzollern and was the mother of King Ferdinand I of Romania.
Infante Fernando 23 July 1846 6 November 1861 Died of cholera in 1861.
Infante Augusto 4 November 1847 26 September 1889 Duke of Coimbra.
Infante Leopoldo 7 May 1849 7 May 1849  
Infanta Maria 3 February 1851 3 February 1851  
Infante Eugénio 15 November 1853 15 November 1853  


Titles, styles and honours

Titles and styles

  • 29 October 1816 – 12 November 1826: His Serene Highness Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duke of Saxony
  • 12 November 1826 – 1 January 1836: His Serene Highness Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duke of Saxony
  • 1 January 1836 – 16 September 1837: His Royal Highness The Prince Consort of Portugal
  • 16 September 1837 – 15 November 1853: His Most Faithful Majesty The King of Portugal and the Algarves
  • 15 November 1853 – 15 December 1885: His Most Faithful Majesty King Ferdinand II of Portugal


  • Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of Our Knights of Lord Jesus Christ
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Benedict of Aviz
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of Saint James of the Sword
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Immaculate Conception of Vila Viçosa
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Tower and Sword
  • Medal of Distinguished Service (Gold)
  •  Spain: Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece
  •  Kingdom of Sardinia: Knight of the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
  •  Austrian Empire: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary
  •  Empire of Brazil:
    • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Southern Cross
    • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Pedro I
    • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Rose
  •  Belgium: Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold in 1835.
  •  Kingdom of Saxony:
    • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Rue Crown
    • Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of St. Henry
  •  Saxe-Coburg and Gotha: Knight Grand Cross of the Saxe-Ernestine House Order
  •  Prussia:
    • Knight of the Order of the Black Eagle
    • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Red Eagle
  •  Russia:
    • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Andrew
    • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky
    • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the White Eagle
  •  France: Knight Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour
  •  Denmark: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Elephant
  •  Netherlands: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion
  •  Sweden: Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Seraphim
  •  Two Sicilies: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Ferdinand and of Merit
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