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Prince Fernando


Ferdinand August Franz Anton Koháry von Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha, was a German prince and subsequently king-consort of Portugal, where he was known under the name of Fernando. He was born in Vienna, Austria, on 29 October 1819 and died in Lisbon at the Necessidades Palace on 15 December 1885.

He was son of the Duke Ferdinand Georg August Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha and Maria Antonie Gabriele von Koháry Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha.

Fernando was a skilled artist, and well deserved the sobriquet The Artist King he was later given. He drew extremely well and had a wonderful baritone voice, which he used adroitly.

When Maria II became widowed from her first husband, August, Duke of Leuchtenberg, Fernando was chosen to be her second husband. They married by proxy on January 1, 1836 and in person on April 9 of the same year, in a ceremony which took place in Lisbon.

They had 11 children:

Pedro, in 1837 (heir to the throne, the future King Pedro V)
Luís, in 1838 (future King Luís I)
Maria (1840)
João, in 1842
Maria Ana, in 1843
Antónia, in 1845
Fernando, in 1846
Augusto, in 1847
Leopoldo, in 1849 (who died the same year)
Maria da Glória, in 1851 (who died the same year)
Eugénio, in 1853 (who died the same year)

He witnessed the first unification of the constitutional regime of this country and was to play an active role in its development during the years 1836 to 1855.

His first few years in Portugal were not particularly happy, since not long after his arrival he would be confronted with the extremely serious events of the September revolution, the attempted Belenzada coup d’état, the Revolt of the Marshals etc.

Removed from all military responsibilities, the king was able to dedicate his life to being the Queen’s advisor and patron of the arts.

It is to King Fernando that we owe many of the most illustrious monuments of this country’s National Heritage. He saved from ruin and vandalism the Convents of Batalha, Mafra, Tomar and Jerónimos.

As far as the Monastery of Batalha is concerned, which he would visit and study in detail during the month of November 1836, as part of his extensive visit to country’s central region, he found it to be in an extremely poor state, having suffered abuses at the hands of soldiers during the Napoleonic wars and also due to the fact that the stonework was being gradually removed for the construction of nearby houses. He even managed to direct some funds from the Budget of Public Works towards its rapid restoration, making it the first Monument to be restored in Portugal.

When his son Pedro V ascended to the throne, Fernando withdrew from politics and dedicated himself exclusively to that which he really enjoyed – the arts.

Some years after the death of his Maria II, he married Elise Hensler, a simple opera singer and single mother, who was given the title of Countess of Edla and to whom he would leave the Palace of Pena, the construction of which was his entire responsibility.

He is buried beside Queen Maria II in the Pantheon of the House of Braganza in the monastery of São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon.