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1853, 1000 reis = 1 milreis.

1912, 100 centavos = 1 escudo.

Before 1815

Maritime nation on the west coast of the Iberian Peninsula which was responsible for much of the exploration of the world in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Territory was cleared of the Moors in 1145 and was then co-ordinated under its first king. Prince Henry the Navigator established a school of navigation at Sagres in the Algarve and the first gradual but planned exploration of the coast of Africa was started. Madeira was colonized in 1420, the Azores in 1437, and the Cape VerdeIslands in 1456. Bartholomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1487.

Vasco da Gama reached the west coast of India in 1498, and in 1500 Cabral reached the coast of Brazil. Colonization spread down the coast of Africa, to India and in 1512 to Malacca. However, growth of the colonial empire was halted in 1580 when Spain invaded Portugal, and it became a vassal state until 1640. In 1668 the Spaniards tried to regain Portugal but were defeated at Vila Vicosa near the frontier. During the period under Spanish domination some of the overseas colonies were either lost or reduced in size and importance.

During the next 125 years Portugal remained independent but its influence continued to wane. Problems of succession to the throne were overcome by close intermarriage of the royal family. The Spanish and French invaded the country in 1762 but with the assistance of the British they were forced to withdraw.

Portugal was able to remain aloof from the early stages of the Napoleonic wars except for a brief clash with Spain from March to June in 1801. However, in 1807 Spain and France signed a treaty for the division of Portugal following the entry of a French army into Spain. Portugal was invaded and Lisbon was taken on 27 November 1807. The court and royal family fled to Brazil.

In June and July 1808 the Portuguese rose against the French forces and in July a British Expeditionary Force arrived off the mouth of the Mondego River, and defeated the French at Vimiero on 21 August. Under the Convention of Cintra, the French army was allowed to return to France. The Peninsular War under Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) had begun.

Portugal operated a royal post from early times and during the Spanish occupation of 1580-1640 this was incorporated into the Spanish service. After Portuguese independence was re-established the internal service was re-organized on national lines, but was operated until 1787/8 by a private family. In 1787 the overseas postal service was taken over by the government and this was followed by the internal service on 1 January 1788. Handstamps for the major towns followed.

The king left for Brazil in November 1807 and from then until 1813 Portugal was the base of the British army and a battlefield for the French and the Allies. Periodically the British would advance into Spain but each winter would withdraw to Portugal. A packet service was organized by the British Post Office and mail was carried from Falmouth to Lisbon during this period.


After the Congress of Vienna the boundaries of Portugal were confirmed and independence from Spain was agreed. The postal service was re-established, in part assisted by British advisors. However, the royal succession was in some doubt and the court did not return from Brazil until 1821. King John VI, who had been regent since 1791, died in 1826 and was succeeded by his son. In 1828 the king became ruler of Brazil - on election - and abdicated in favour of his daughter, who was only seven years of age.

A civil war ensued until 1834 and was supported by a British brigade that fought for the young Queen against her uncle, who had usurped the throne. Although the Queen reestablished control, unrest continued and periodic revolutions which disrupted the postal service occurred until her death in 1853.



First issue showed the head of Queen Maria and was printed in the Mint at Lisbon. When the Queen died later in the year, the stamps were replaced by a new issue with the head of the new king, Pedro V. The postal service had been closely allied to the British service since the Napoleonic wars and many innovations which were introduced in Britain are reflected in similar changes in Portugal. Perhaps the most obvious of these are the pillar boxes on street corners, which are not only of a similar design but orginally were made in British foundries.


Stamps were issued for each of the reigns which followed. King Carlos was assassinated in 1908 and was succeeded by King Manoel. Two and a half years later he was deposed, and a republic was established in October 1910. The stamps of the royal period were overprinted REPUBLICA between 1911 and 1912. The currency was changed from reis to centavos and escudos in 1912.

1914 to date

Portugal entered World War I on the side of the Allies on 9 March 1916 and sent a force to France which had its own FPO. It has remained an independent republic ever since. After a period of dictatorship in the 195Os and 1960s a revolution followed in 1974 and a socialist government has ruled since then.



Island of the north-west coast of Africa, administered as part of Portugal. Originally settled in 1421. Issued standard Portuguese colonial overprints and designs from 1868 to 1929; since then has used stamps of Portugal. In 1980, new stamps for Madeira were introduced and are used concurrently with issues of Portugal.

Azores (Acores)


Group of islands in the Central Atlantic which have been a Portuguese colony since 1457, though they were subject to Spain from 1580 to 1640. Issued standard Portuguese colonial overprints and designs from 1868 to 1929; since then has used stamps of Portugal. In 1980, new stamps for the Azores were introduced and are used concurrently with issues of Portugal.

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