The era of the Twentieth Century has not known, sadly, many great monarchists as in ages past. However, one exception to this rule is the Portuguese monarchist and patriot Henrique Mitchell de Paiva Cabral Couceiro, known as “the Paladin” who fought for years to restore the Portuguese monarchy and maintain the Portuguese empire that, in world history, was the first to be formed and the last to fall. The loyal soldier was born on December 30, 1861 in Lisbon to a Portuguese father and an Irish mother. The qualities he inherited from his parents are clearly evident; his father being an engineer in the Royal Portuguese Army and his mother being a very staunch and devout Catholic convert from Protestantism. From childhood he was raised with strict discipline and a great emphasis on religion -the perfect formula for a Catholic monarchist devoted to King and country.
As a young man Couceiro joined the army, serving in the lancers and then the artillery before attending the Royal Military Academy. After graduation he volunteered for service in the African colonies and first saw action as a cavalry captain in Angola where he fought local guerillas. He made contact with local chiefs and explored the interior of the colony, bringing Portuguese power farther inland than ever before. In 1890 Great Britain issued an ultimatum that forced Portugal to abandon all hope of linking Angola and Mozambique. Paiva Couceiro was furious about this and went out on his own to establish an outpost in the interior, almost sparking a war. However, his victories, exploration and various adventures earned him numerous accolades and the rank of a knight of the Order of the Tower and Sword in 1890.
He saw other service against local rebels, was highly decorated and returned home to Portugal a hero in 1891. After serving in the artillery in Lisbon again he transferred to the Spanish Foreign Legion and served with distinction in battles in Morocco. Then a tribal rebellion in Mozambique called him back to the Portuguese army and the African colonies. Once again Couceiro performed excellent service and was further promoted and decorated returning to Portugal in 1896 where he was made an honorary adjutant to King Carlos I. Later that year he also took a wife, marrying the daughter of a Portuguese count who was just as devoted to her country and the Catholic faith as her husband was. He was given a desk job which instilled him with a deep-seated hatred of politics and hints of a desire to be rid of the entire political class. He watched old comrades destroyed by the machinations of power-hungry politicians and saw first-hand how political corruption was ruining his beloved country.
When he publicly protested the political climate in Portugal he instantly became the leader of the right-wing monarchist camp which included many such colonial soldiers. Because of this, enemies in government had him essentially shipped into exile in 1902. However, after some changes made by King Carlos I he returned and even entered the political arena, eventually becoming the colonial Governor of Angola. Frustrations with the colonial bureaucracy prompted his resignation in 1909 and he was serving as a captain in the artillery again when the young King Manuel II was brought down by revolutionary forces. His were the only royal forces to fire on the republicans but when Couceiro took his men to join the King he found that he had already left the country.
Paiva Couceiro took refuge in Spain he led a monarchist foray into Portugal in 1911 with the tacit support of King Alfonso XIII of Spain. However, his attempt to spark a counterrevolution was unsuccessful and he went back into exile. At the end of the year he participated in efforts to more firmly unite the monarchists of Portugal who were divided between the adherents of King Manuel II and his cousin Prince Miguel. On July 6, 1912 he led another monarchist invasion of Portugal but was again defeated and forced back into exile. Republican authorities announced he would be banned from all Portuguese territory for the next ten years because of this attempted counterrevolution. No one really wanted to take action against so famous a figure and he even refused an offer of amnesty if he would serve the republican government. Instead, he opted to remain in Spain and try again to organize a monarchist re-conquest. His opportunity came in 1919 when the president of the republic was assassinated.
Paiva Couceiro, along with other exiled monarchists, was able to take control of part of northern Portugal in the name of Manuel II and announced the restoration of the Constitution of 1826. His aim was a corporate, Catholic Kingdom of Portugal but because he held power only over a limited era the government he proclaimed from Oporto was known as the “Monarchy of the North” which he ruled as President of the Governing Junta. All republican laws were revoked, the old flag was restored and so on. It was at this point that he first earned his nickname O Paladino, The Paladin. He called upon the memory of the glorious history of the Portuguese kingdom but, once again, after only about a month, the attempted restoration collapsed. Going back to Spain a military tribunal sentenced him to exile but he was able to return to Portugal in 1924 after an amnesty was announced.
Monarchist hopes were revived with the establishment of the corporatist ‘Estado Novo’ by Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. However, in 1937 his criticism of the colonial policies of the new regime earned him another period of exile to the Canary Islands at the ripe old age of 77. However, he was allowed to return to Portugal by the corporatist regime in 1939 where he stayed for the rest of his life, never losing his commitment to the monarchy and the imperial glory of his country, saying to the very end, “Empire we are, empire we must remain”. He died in 1944 in Lisbon.