João Franco Ferreira Pinto Castelo Branco

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João Franco

João Franco Ferreira Pinto Castelo Branco (born February 14, 1855 in Alcaide , Portugal , † 1929 ) was a conservative politician from the end of the Portuguese monarchy . He was chairman of the Liberal Regeneration Party and from 1906 to 1908 Prime Minister of Portugal.


João Franco studied law at the University of Coimbra . During this time he joined the conservative Regeneration Party , for which he was elected to the Portuguese parliament, the Cortes , for the first time in 1884 . In 1890 the Regeneration Party took over the government with António de Serpa Pimentel , and João Franco became Minister of Finance. He also held important posts as Minister for Public Works and Minister of the Interior in the subsequent bipartisan governments. De Serpa Pimentel, chairman of the Regeneration Party, died in 1900, and Ernesto Rodolfo Hintze Ribeiro succeeded him in the party chairmanship. With this, João Franco fell out quickly, which is why he left the Regeneration Party with a number of loyal followers in 1901 and founded the Liberal Regeneration Party, of which he became chairman.

The Portuguese monarchy was already in a state of agony at this point. The eccentric King Charles I did not succeed in winning the sympathy of his subjects. Foreign political and economic problems, as well as the disputes between the monarchists, to which João Franco contributed by splitting the Regeneration Party, the oldest party in the country, led to an increasing growth of republican currents in the country. The king first tried a number of bipartisan governments, but in March 1906 reappointed Hintze Ribeiro from the Regeneration Party as head of government. After it had quickly become apparent that Hintze Ribeiro would not succeed in mastering the republican challenge, the king finally appointed João Franco as prime minister on May 19, 1906.

When he was called, there was chaos and anarchy in the country, the antagonism between monarchists and republicans threatened to get out of hand. The monarchists were also so weakened by the struggle between the Regeneration Party and the Progressive Party that they could not stand up to the increasingly stronger Republicans. With the appointment of João Franco, the king intended to venture a new beginning. As a representative of a third force, belonging neither to the Regeneration nor to the Progressive Party, he was supposed to unite the monarchists against the republicans.

João Franco also tried, at least at the beginning of his reign, through an emphatically liberal policy that was open to the Republicans to integrate them into the political system. The government's motto was: "Tolerance and freedom, so that the population learns to appreciate the king's government". One of the first measures taken by the new government was a far-reaching amnesty, which benefited particularly Republicans who had violated press censorship through their publications. The head of the Republicans, Bernardino Machado , was able to give a public speech at a demonstration without the police intervening. The king also tried to improve his standing by being more directly involved in government work and began attending cabinet meetings. In the elections in June 1906, the government managed to get a majority. Four Republican MPs were elected.

The policy of compromise with the Republicans failed, however. Covert advances and gestures of peace on the part of the government were brusquely rejected by the Republicans.

During a parliamentary session, the Republican MP Afonso Costa exclaimed : “For less than what King Charles did with us, the head of Louis XVI is in France . rolled in the sand ”. This cut the tablecloth between the Republicans and the government, and the Republican MPs were banned from parliamentary sessions for three months. 63 people were arrested during demonstrations in which Republicans supported Afonso Costa. In Porto, 12,000 people came together for a large republican congress. 45,000 people signed a petition calling for the Republican MPs to return to parliament, which finally happened on December 21, 1906.

When João Franco saw that he was stuck with this policy, he increasingly sought his salvation in repressive measures. The Republicans were suppressed and press censorship tightened. João Franco ruled dictatorially, with decrees countersigned by the king without the involvement of parliament. These measures increased the rift between the king and his people. Dissidents within the Progressive Party allied themselves with the Republicans. In early January 1908, a number of Republican Party leaders and dissidents from the Progressive Party were arrested and tried on charges of preparing a coup. Franco demanded and received from the king a decree that provided for the deportation of republican insurgents to the overseas colonies.

This eventually turned into a drop that broke the barrel. One day after the king had signed the law, he and the heir to the throne Ludwig Philipp were murdered in an assassination attempt in Lisbon (February 1, 1908).

The new King Manuel II blamed João Franco and his authoritarian politics for the hatred of parts of the population against the monarchy, which ultimately led to the death of his father and brother. As one of his first measures after the accession to the throne, he therefore dismissed João Franco. This then no longer played a prominent role in the politics of his country. Most of Franco's repressive measures against the Republicans were withdrawn by subsequent governments.


João Franco was the last halfway important prime minister of the Portuguese monarchy. After his release, the monarchy would last for two more years and would have four prime ministers. However, these ruled only briefly and were already men of transition. Because of his authoritarian politics, which widened the rift between the monarchy and the people, he is often viewed as the "gravedigger of the Portuguese monarchy".

Web links

Commons : João Franco  - collection of images, videos and audio files
predecessor Office successor
Ernesto Rodolfo Hintze Ribeiro Prime Minister of Portugal
Francisco Joaquim Ferreira do Amaral