Alexandre Herculano

Portrait of Alexandre Herculano

Alexandre Herculano de Carvalho e Araújo was a Portugese novelist, poet and historian. He was born on 28th March 1810 in Lisbon, Portugal and died on 13th September 1877 in Santarém, Portugal aged 67).

Major Works

“Eurico” (1844)
“História de Portugal” 
“Lendas e Narrativas” (Legends and Chronicles) (1851) 
História da Origem e Estabelecimento da Inquisição em Portugal” (History of the Origin and Establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal) (1854–59)
“Estudos Sobre o Casamento Civil” (Studies on Civil Marriage) (1866)

Biography Timeline

Alexandre Herculano de Carvalho e Araújo was born on 28th March 1810 in Lisbon, Portugal into a humble family but was educated in Latin, logic and rhetoric at the Necessidades Monastery. He later spent a year at the Royal Marine Academy studying mathematics as he wanted a commercial career.

1828: Portugal is taken over by the absolute ruler Dom Miguel the First.

1831: He is involved in the unsuccessful military pronunciamento against Miguel during August and has to escape Portugal and take up refuge in England and France.

1832: He returns to Portugal and lands at Porto with the small army led by Dom Pedro and they besiege the city and eventually remove Miguel and set up a liberal regime. He becomes at librarian at the city archives and publishes his first book of verse “A Voz de Propheta” (The Prophet’s Voice).

1834: He publishes the book of verse “A Harpa do Crente” (The Believer’s Harp).

1837: He abandons poetry and becomes the editor of the literary review “O Panorama” where he later publishes his historical tales. He takes on the post of Royal Librarian at the Ajuda Palace in Lisbon.

1839: He begins work on “História de Portugal” (History of Portugal) and publishes “Chronicle of Dom Sebastiao”.

1840: He is elected to the Cortes (parliament) and campaigns for the reform of education.

1841: Costa Cabral establishes another authoritarian regime in Portugal and Herculano retires from politics.

1844: He now takes up writing historical novels and publishes “Eurico” which owes much to Walter Scott. It describes the fall of the Visigothic monarchy and the beginnings of the Christian Kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula. He publishes “Annals of King Joao the Third”.

1846: He publishes the first volume of “História de Portugal” covering the early period up until 1279. It proves controversial as it dismisses several legends including Christ’s appearance to the first King of Portugal at the Battle of Ourique in 1139. He is denounced by the newspapers and is attacked by the clergy from the pulpit for his lack of patriotism and piety.

1847: The second volume of “História de Portugal” is published.

1848: He publishes “Monge de Cister” (Cistercian Monk) which concerns the reign of King Joao the First when the middle classes stood up to the nobility.

1849: The third volume of História de Portugal” is published.

1850: He writes a letter to the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon called “Eu e o Clero” (Me and the Clergy) which denounces the fanaticism and ignorance of the clergy and begins an unseemly pamphlet war between the two sides.

1851: His historical tales are published in the two volume “Lendas e Narrativas” (Legends and Chronicles). He takes part in the Regeneration movement which overthrows the Costa Cabral regime. He helps found two newspapers attacking political centralism and clerical influence.

1853: The fourth and last volume “História de Portugal” is published.

1854: He publishes “História da Origem e Estabelecimento da Inquisição em Portugal” (History of the Origin and Establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal) in which he states that the royal absolutism of King John the Third and clerical power were allies in the confiscation of the property of converted Jews via the Inquisition. He also campaigns against the restoration of monastic orders. 

1856: On the death of King Pedro the Fifth one of his enemies is appointed to the national archives in Ajuda where he is editing “Portugalliae Monumenta Historica” (History of Portuguese Monuments) and he decides to retire to his farm at Vale de Lobos near Santarem instead.

1857: He opposes the Concordat of 21st February between Portugal and the Holy See.

1866: He supports civil marriage in his “Estudos Sobre o Casamento Civil” (Studies on Civil Marriage) but the work is banned by the authorities. He marries his long-time friend Mariana Hermínia de Meira. They do not go on to have any children. 

1871: He becomes openly critical of the new dogmas of the Immaculate Conception of Christ and Papal Infallibility.

Alexandre Herculano de Carvalho e Araújo died on 13th September 1877 in Santarém, Portugal. He was buried in the Jeronimos Monastery at Belem, near Lisbon, Portugal.