The Lady, the Poet and the Revolutionary: Our Portuguese roots
Updated: Mar 12
The Lady, the Poet and the Revolutionary, Portuguese Roots - Part I
As children we often visited our King grandparents at their home on Cape Cod. Looming large in their home was an impressive portrait of a mysterious, well dressed Lady who greeted visitors with her shy smile. A presumed relative of our grandmother, Noemia Duarte King (ne Duarte D’Almeida) we never thought to ask about her until it was too late and her relevance to our family history remained a mystery. Years later I took up the challenge. It has taken more than 25 years and three trips to Portugal to piece together her story and our Portuguese family’s remarkable history. Part I
The ”Lady” is Dona Maria de Luz Marques and she was born in Portugal on or about 1798. Born to a Noble family who were close courtiers of the Portuguese Royal family, young Maria likely moved to Brazil in 1807 along with many noble families who accompanied the Portuguese Royals (Prince regent Joao VI) to avoid confrontation with Napoleon’s invading army who had threatened to force abdication of the Portuguese throne. The Royal family subsequently ruled Portugal and its colonies from Rio de Janeiro while in exile from 1808 – 1821.
Dona Maria thus spent her formative years in Brazil likely returning to Portugal for her education but eventually is married (1817) to Manoel Joze Duarte, a renowned Surgeon of his time. IN 1821 Manoel was named Head Surgeon of the Royal Chamber to serve the family of King Don Joao VI. Dona Maria’s family ties to the Royal family were very close. Her parents, Joze Marques & Ciprianina Maria served as godparents (1798) to the young Royal Prince Don Pedro d’Alcantra who eventually ascended to the Portuguese throne and played a crucial role in the histories of Portugal and Brazil as the Empire began to break up.
To demonstrate the close Royal ties further…upon the birth of a son in August 1818 to Manuel Joze Duarte and Dona Maria de Luz, their boy was baptized as Pedro Leopoldo Duarte Braganca, at the direction of the King Joao VI taking the King’s family name (Braganca) by King’s order. This gesture was considered a great honor to the Surgeon and his wife. (NOTE: But this ceremonial naming was the source of much confusion in the search for the truth of this family history thread.) About this time portraits were commissioned of Dona Maria de Luz and Don Manoel Joze Duarte and were carried out by an unknown artist. Approximate date of the paintings is thought to be between 1817 – 1820.
The young Pedro Leopoldo grew and followed in his father’s footsteps studying medicine in Portugal but died before finishing his studies and without heirs in 1840. Upon the deaths of his parents, the portraits were bequeathed to the Surgeon’s closest relative, a nephew Antonio Jose Duarte of Vila Real, Portugal. Upon his death the paintings passed to his three sons including his middle son, Manuel Duarte D’Almeida (1844-1912) who we shall call “The Poet”. Manuel was our great grandfather. He worked as a civil servant serving as Postmaster of the Portuguese northern region. In addition Manuel Duarte D’Almeida was a celebrated poet and political satirist of his time with a colorful life history which we will explore later.
Manuel Duarte D'Almeida with his wife Maria Augusta de Silveira circa 1880
Manuel Duarte D'Almeida - The Poet
The three sons of Antonio Jose Duarte, Vila Real circa 1880s
At some point in the late 19th century the two portraits became separated perhaps among the sons of Antonio Jose. Manuel Duarte D’Almeida suffered from chronic respiratory diseases and died in Porto in 1912 leaving behind his estranged widow and a young daughter, Noemia. Very shortly thereafter his passing the widow Maria Augusta De Silveira, retaining the portrait of Dona Maria emigrated to the United States to New York to be with two grown sons who were serving as Portuguese diplomats there. Accompanying her was Noemia, age 11. (NOTE: Noemia was our paternal grandmother.) Maria Augusta’s oldest son, Commander Philemon Duarte D’Almeida served as Portuguese Naval Attache to the US in Washington DC having recently played a pivotal role as a senior officer aboard the Naval cruiser “Adamastor” which helped catalyze Portugal’s Revolution of 5 October 1910 ousting the country’s long standing monarchy. I call him “The Revolutionary” . More on this character later…..
Philemon, Jorge & Noemia Duarte D'Almeida (age 2) - 1903
Commander Philemon Duarte D'Almeida - 1925
Portuguese Naval Cruiser "Adamastor" - Collection of Lieutenant Oscar W. Levy, USN
In 1922 Noemia, having completing her secondary education between schools in Lisbon, Paris as well as the Finch School in the US, married Frederick Elmer King, an attorney practicing in NYC. Noemia’s mother Maria Augusta then entered the King household where she resided until her passing in 1948. The portrait of Dona Maria de Luz Marques remained in the King family’s home in New York City and later at their home on Cape Cod even after Noemia’s death in 1987.
In 1990 a significant museum quality restoration of the portrait and frame was performed at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts at the direction of Maria King Constantinidis who cared for the portrait upon her mother’s death until her own passing in 2012. It remains under the family’s care having been looked after by Maria’s daughter M. Fredericka Constantinidis and yours truly, John J King II up to the present.
Side note: On a visit to Portugal in 2008 I met a cousin whose family had retained custody of the companion portrait of “The Surgeon” while living in the Duarte D’Almeida family home in Vila Real for many years. She remembers, as a very young girl, the portrait hanging in their home in the late 1950s when her father took a diplomatic post and moved the family to Angola. Tragically after some years in office the diplomat contracted a tropical disease and died forcing the family to return after years away to pick up the pieces in the family home in Vila Real, Portugal. According to the story a relative, who had been entrusted to look after the home, had let things fall into disrepair and apparently had sold the priceless family heirloom portrait to a collector who was unknown to the family.
At the time of our meeting in Lisbon (January 2008) this cousin had been desperately looking for the portrait of the Surgeon, Manuel Joze Duarte for more than 40 years without success. The loss still is a source of deep sadness for the family.
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of this family story.