Royal celebrations in Lisbon: the marriage of Portuguese King Pedro II and Maria Sophia of Neuburg

illustration of an ornamental arch

On 12 August 1687, Portuguese King Pedro II married Maria Sophia of Neuburg in Lisbon amid great celebrations – with triumphal arches, fireworks, figures and statues, a labyrinth and a royal ship. An album of drawings by João dos Reis held by the National Libary of Portugal offer a detailed graphic record of these parties. 

Royal weddings with foreign princes or princesses were mainly aimed at reinforcing alliances with other kingdoms, as well as ensuring lines of succession. 

This marriage was no exception.

King Pedro II had been married before, but his only daughter Isabel Luísa, Princess of Beira, who was heir to the throne, did not have children. Marriage with her had been declined by many European sovereigns due to her ill health (she died in 1690, aged 21, from smallpox). 

Maria Sophia came from a royal family in what is now Germany.

In 1685, her father Philip William of Neuburg became the Elector of the Palatinate, ruling a territory that was part of the Holy Roman Empire. Two of his daughters had married in important alliances – Eleonor Magdalene was the Holy Roman Empress, while Maria Anna became the Queen of Spain.

Thus the wedding of King Pedro II to Maria Sophia was an important marriage to be celebrated – hopefully ensuring royal succession and bringing the Portuguese crown closer to that of Spain. 

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The cover of João dos Reis’ album shows  an allegorical design celebrating Portugal’s alliance with Germany.

Maria travelled from Heidelberg to Lisbon in July and August 1687, arriving in Lisbon 12 August 1687 amid great celebration. The marriage was celebrated that day by the Archbishop of Lisbon at Ribeira Palace.

At the palace, a French garden from the Count of Ericeira’s palace had been recreated, with fountains, Italian statues, dolphins and fireworks.

The Queen’s fleet arrived in Lisbon on August 12, 1687. There were numerous boats along the river Tagus and anchored warships adorned with flags. At 3pm,  Pedro II embarked in the royal brigantine, entered the queen’s chamber to greet her, and both came aboard the royal brigantine at the sound of the repeated volleys of the armadas.

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The celebrations were not only marked by the royal family but also the whole nation. For this special occasion, Lisbon was adorned with temporary arches and other structures projecting an idea of ​​modernity. 

The arch of the Germans exalted the Queen’s ancestors, as well as the main German cities, with mythological gods in the mix.

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The arches and porches were made of wood, covered with several layers of plaster and cloth which were then painted. Producing each arch was extremely expensive, so, at the end of the festivities, they were disassembled and stored to be reused on other occasions.


João dos Reis’ album consists of 30 drawings, 4 of which were in colour. He was a Jesuit mathematician, who had been born in Solothurn, Switzerland, with the German name Johann König. The manuscript belonged to the Library of the Counts of Tarouca and was purchased by the National Library of Portugal in 1971.

Other manuscripts representing these festivities are held in Ajuda Library and in the Library of the University of Coimbra, both with drawings by the architect Luís Nunes Tinoco.

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By Ana Cristina de Santana Silva, Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal
(with thanks to Helena Patrício)

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

2 thoughts on “Royal celebrations in Lisbon: the marriage of Portuguese King Pedro II and Maria Sophia of Neuburg

    1. Dear Pedro, many thanks for pointing this out. We’ve now replaced the portrait with the correct Dom Pedro II.

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