This Country Is Britain's Oldest Ally, and Here's Why

Algarve | © ddzphoto / Pixabay
Algarve | © ddzphoto / Pixabay
Photo of Nina Santos
29 January 2018

The 600+ year relationship between England and Portugal gives a whole new meaning to ‘BFF4L’. This connection became a union with ‘Britain’ after the merge of England and Scotland’s parliaments in 1707 and is known as the oldest world alliance that’s still recognized today. Are you wondering how an alliance this old began and managed to stand the test of time?

Which country is Britain’s oldest ally? Portugal! | © Clkr-Free-Vector-Images / Pixabay

In Portuguese, it’s known as the Aliança Inglesa, or the English Alliance, while in the UK it goes by the name ‘Anglo-Portuguese Alliance’, but trivia buffs around the world know the relationship between Britain and Portugal as the oldest and perhaps one of the most steadfast ‘friendships’ among nations in observance. The alliance was officially the result of the Treaty of Windsor in 1386, but Portugal and England’s partnership began much earlier, both countries providing aid to the other’s side during times of need.

In the mid-12th century, English crusaders helped Portugal regain Lisbon from the Moors, during an unexpected detour while heading to the ‘Holy Land’ (the historical period known as The Crusades). History states that some crusaders stayed in Portugal after regaining Lisbon, thus beginning regular correspondence between the two countries.

English Crusaders helped Portugal win back Lisbon from the Moors | © fabiovaleggia / Pixabay

Over time, the partnership between Portugal and England became a strategic sort of ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’. England was in the midst of the infamous Hundred Years’ War with France, and after France’s partnership with sea power Spain, England sought their own seaside ally on the Iberian Peninsula. On the other side of the coin, England helped Portugal keep its country from the Spanish Kingdom of Castile during various battles, the most famous perhaps being the Battle of Aljubarrota, after which the Treaty of Windsor was signed and sealed with a marriage between Portugal’s King John I and English noblewoman Philippa of Lancaster.

Depiction of the Battle of Aljubarrota | © Master of the Vienna and Copenhagen Toison d’Or / Wikimedia Commons

Through the centuries, both countries aided the other when called, but no partnership is without flaws, and the alliance between Portugal and Britain has experienced bumps along the way. Nonetheless, it still holds strong and was even noted during WWII; despite Portugal’s neutral status in the war, Portugal allowed Britain and Allies use of the Azores, although, ironically, Portugal provided small assistance to the Axis powers as well.

Could this alliance be one reason why Portugal, especially the Algarve, is now home to different British communities? Although Portugal’s fantastic year-round climate, friendly people, and seemingly low cost of living is surely the real reason (attracting expats from other nations too), the connection is quite a coincidence.

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