António José de Ávila, 1st Duke of Ávila and Bolama

António José de Ávila (Matriz, Horta; 8 March 1807 – 3 May 1881) was a Portuguese politician, minister of the kingdom, mayor of the city of Horta, on the island of Faial, in the Azores, Civil Governor of the same, Peer-of-the-Realm, Minister of State, and later Ambassador to Spain.

The Duke of Ávila and Bolama
António José Ávila, Duque de Ávila.png
Prime Minister of Portugal
In office
6 March 1877 – 26 January 1878
Preceded byFontes Pereira de Melo
Succeeded byFontes Pereira de Melo
In office
29 October 1870 – 13 September 1871
Preceded byMarquis of Sá da Bandeira
Succeeded byFontes Pereira de Melo
In office
4 January 1868 – 22 July 1868
Preceded byJoaquim António de Aguiar
Succeeded byMarquis of Sá da Bandeira
Personal details
António José de Ávila

8 March 1807
Horta, Azores, Portugal
Died3 May 1881 (aged 74)
Lisbon, Portugal
Resting placePrazeres Cemetery, Prazeres, Lisbon, Portugal
Political partyIndependent
Other political
RelationsJoaquina Emerenciana (sister; c.1804)
Maria do Carmo (sister; c.1815)
Manuel José (brother; c.1817)
Alma materUniversity of Coimbra


The Duke of Ávila, c. 1850

António José was the son of Manuel José de Ávila, a modest merchant and administrator of the local tithes and his wife, D. Prudenciana Joaquina Cândida da Costa, who lived in a humble home on Rua de Santo Elias.

Of their ten children, only four survived to adulthood: António José was the oldest, his sister Joaquina Emerenciana (born in 1804), Maria do Carmo (born in 1815) and Manuel José (born in 1817). During António José's infancy, the family's economic conditions improved substantially, enough that his father could provide him with sufficient funds to permit him to study off-island: a privilege that only a few families could provide their children.


After completing his local studies, he traveled to Coimbra to study at the University in 1822, receiving a bachelors degree in Philosophy in 1826. While at Coimbra he also frequented some courses in Mathematics and entered the first year studies in Medicine, but he did not show any particular interest in politics. During the Liberal Wars (1832–34) he returned to Horta (the liberal government-in-exile escaped to the Azores during this period), where he taught for several years before becoming a politician of some success. As mayor through D. Pedro's liberal regency, António José was instrumental in obtaining a new charter, that elevated Horta to the status of city (4 July 1833).


Photograph of the Duke of Ávila, c. 1875-81

After the War (1834), Ávila was elected to the Cortes, beginning an active and uninterrupted career that would last for the next 47 years, in different positions, in parliamentary and governmental roles, as well as a period in the Chamber of Peers (taking on the leadership of the group from the Duke of Loulé, from 1872 until May 1881). He was, as his biographer once wrote: " of the more distinct parliamentarians in the history of Portuguese constitutionalism...".[1] In actuality, in the 11 legislatures that he participated, during 27 years (between 1834 and 1861) he participated in 30 commissions in the Chamber of Deputies,[2] and 40 in the Chamber of Peers (between 1861 and 1881); he was involved in 2000 interventions. He did not limit himself to representing the citizens of Horta; during his many years in parliament he represented populations in Évora, Beja, Estremadura, Beira Alta, Chaves, Vila Real and Oliveira de Azeméis.

An excellent orator, untiring worker and astute politician, he was regularly called on to handle governmental functions. Ideologically, Ávila was a conservative within the liberalist ranks, usually referred to as Cartismo, and was in opposition to the progressive wave that appeared as a result of the Septemberist Revolution (September 1836). As the Septemberist movement declined (with the election of the Cartista Joaquim António de Aguiar, in 1841), he was appointed Ministro da Fazenda (English: Minister of Commerce) in the cabinet of Joaquim António de Aguiar, at the age of 34, maintaining the post in the governments of Costa Cabral and the Duque da Terceira. In 1857, he resumed the Minister of Commerce post, under the premiership of the Duque de Loulé, after the fall of the Saldanha government.

Portrait of the Duke of Ávila and Bolama by Miguel Ângelo Lupi, 1870

He also took on diplomatic responsibilities and administrative posts (such as the Companhia das Lezíras, Campanhia do Crédito Predial, Banco Hipotecário and Banco do Portugal). In 1861, he was appointed as Portugal's representative to the Madrid conference, which aimed to resolve the issue of the island of Bolama. The British occupied the West African island off the coast of modern-day Guinea Bissau, but the ownership of the island was disputed by the Portuguese. The final settlement recognized Portuguese sovereignty on the island. During various governments he exercised roles as: Ministro da Fazenda (English: Minister of Commerce), Ministro da Justiça (English: Minister of Justice), Ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros (English: Minister of Foreign Affairs), Ministro do Reino (English: Minister of the Crown/Kingdom), and Ministro das Obras Públicas (English: Minister of Public Works). In 10 different governments, between 1841 and 1870, he managed 19 different portfolios, and in 1868, 1870 and 1877 he was Prime Minister of Portugal. In his first term (beginning on 4 January 1868) as Prime Minister, he revoked the unpopular tax imposed by the coalition government of Joaquim António de Aguiar, which aggravated the financial difficulties of the State (which would lead to the fall of the government by 22 July). He returned to the Finance portfolio, then Prime Minister, between 29 October 1870 and 13 September 1871, when he substituted Fontes Pereira de Melo. In 1877, owing to public discontent, the Fontes government fell. Ávila was once again invited to form a government, which lasted 10 months until Fontes returned to power.

Later lifeEdit

Burial crypt of Ávila family, Prazeres Cemetery, Lisbon

During his long career, he never forgot in his friends and colleagues in Horta and was regularly consulted by administrative and social organizations. As J.M. Sardica later noted:

"the pleb that one day became duke...coming so far, without even a nickname, fortune or special royal favors, rose and became a unique person in the Portuguese constitutional monarchy...through his hands passed a better part of the history of Portugal in the 19th century."[3]

On 13 February 1864, King Luis I of Portugal granted him the title of Conde de Ávila (Count of Ávila) which, six years later, on 24 May 1870, was raised to Marquês de Ávila e Bolama (Marquis of Ávila and Bolama). After another eight years, on 14 May 1878, King Luis raised him still higher to Duque de Ávila e Bolama (Duke of Ávila and Bolama), thus making him the first non-noble-born individual so honored, especially in view of the fact that the title of Duke was, traditionally, granted in Portugal solely to members of high nobility and relatives of the Portuguese Royal Family.

António José de Ávila died in Lisbon eight weeks after his 74th birthday. The Duke's state funeral, which occurred on 5 May 1881, left the Church of the Martyrs around 2:00, and its cortege arrived at the Prazeres Cemertary around 4:00 in the afternoon.[4] Its palm bearers included Fontes e Sampaio, the Duke of Palmela, the Marquis of Ficalho and the Duke of Loulé, who proceeded a group of 500–600 carriages, with more than a thousand people that included representatives of the Royal Family, State bodies, associations and many classes of the society.[5] A coach of the Royal House was provided to transport the body, followed by a carriage with the parish vicar of Martyrs Church and twelve priests.[6] This carriage was also followed by the António José de Ávila's nephew, and another carriage with Ducal crown on a black velvet pillow, followed by the 4th Regimental Cavalry and band. At the cemetery the Duke's body was transported down by Hintze Ribeiro, João Gualberto de Barros e Cunha, Carlos Bento da Silva, Dias de Oliveira, Reis e Vasconcelos, Carlos Zeferino Pinto Coelho and the Count d'Alte.[7] The cortege passed along the packed streets with many of the residents watching from their windows. The Duke had already planned his entombment: "...a small chapel of marble, of a simple architecture, with a small high relief the coat-of-arms of d'Ávila and Bolama with the Marqueses crown, with the titles 'Family of the Marquis d'Ávila and Bolama'".[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ribeiro, 2007, p. 69
  2. ^ Sardica, 2004, p. 236
  3. ^ Sardica, 2001, p. 684
  4. ^ Ribeiro, 2007, p. 115
  5. ^ Ribeiro, 2007, p. 115
  6. ^ Ribeiro, 2007, p. 115
  7. ^ Ribeiro, 2007, p. 115
  8. ^ O Fayalense, 1881, p. 2
  • Zúquete, Afonso Eduardo Martins (1989). Nobreza de Portugal e do Brasil (in Portuguese). Vol. 2. Lisbon, Portugal: Zairol Lda. pp. 348–350.
  • Ribeiro, Fernando Faria (2007). Em Dias Passados: Figuras, Instituições e Acontecimentos da História Faialense (in Portuguese). Horta: Nucleu Cultural da Horta.
  • Vd., ed. (5 June 1881), O Fayalense (in Portuguese) (24 ed.) (44): 2 {{citation}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • Sardica, José Miguel (2001). "Perfil político do duque de Ávila e Bolama" [Political Profile of the Duke of Ávila & Bolama]. Análise Social (in Portuguese). University of Lisbon. 36 (160): 641.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of Portugal
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of Portugal
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of Portugal
Succeeded by
Portuguese nobility
New creation Marquis of Ávila and Bolama
Succeeded by
New creation Duke of Ávila and Bolama