This issue commemorates Portugal’s first postage stamps, issued in July 1853, showing the profile of the then monarch, Queen Maria II. She would die a few months later, aged 34, giving birth to her eleventh child.
Maria was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1819, the only European monarch to be born outside Europe. When her grandfather, King John VI, died of poisoning in 1826, his succession was unclear. His oldest son Pedro, Maria’s father, had declared the independence of Brazil in 1822 and was its emperor, whilst Miguel was exiled in Austria after attempting a coup against his father. Pedro, fearing a return of his brother and of an absolutist regime, abdicated Portugal’s throne in favour of his daughter and allowed Miguel to marry her and be Portugal’s regent until her adulthood, provided he accepted the liberal constitution. When Miguel returned to Portugal in 1828, he became king and abolished the constitution. The Liberal Wars ensued, with Pedro abdicating Brazil’s throne in 1831 to join his daughter in fighting his brother. In 1834 Miguel was forced to abdicate and Maria resumed her reign, during which she aimed to improve public health and education.
The stamp design is based on Maria’s portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence, when she was aged 10. The inscription reads “1st Centenary of the Postage Stamp” and “Her Majesty, Queen Mary II” (abbreviated from Sua Majestade a Rainha Dona Maria II).
The stamps were designed by Jaime Martins Barata, printed in photogravure by Joh. Enschedé in the Netherlands on enamelled paper sheets of 10×10 stamps with perforation 14×13½, and circulated from 3 October 1953 to 26 June 1956.