What a small world, the King of Portugal had Hungarian roots!
Little did I know when I planned this Portuguese trip including a few castles in Sintra. To the best of my knowledge history books don’t mention anything about a Hungarian princess, Maria Antonia Gabriella Kohary who was the mother of Ferdinando II, the king of Portugal, who built this famous castle.
This is what the sign said located at the Castillo de Pena:
“King Fernando II of Portugal was born in 1816 in Vienna, the son of Duke Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and of Maria Antonia Gabriella Kohary. His father had converted to Catholicism in order to marry this Hungarian princess, thereby founding the Catholic branch of the family, which is also known as Saxe-Coburg-Kohary. In 1836 Fernando married Maria II, Queen of Portugal and from this union were born 11 children, amongst whom two future Kings, Pedro V and Luis I.”
I did some research on Maria Antonia and according to Wikipedia, she was born in Buda on July 2, 1797 as a second daughter of Ferenc Jozsef Koháry de Csábrág, known as Franz Josef, Count Koháry and his wife, Countess Maria Antoinetta Josefa von Waldstein-Wartenburg. She was a Hungarian noblewoman and the ancestress of several European monarchs. She was the heiress of the Koháry family and one of the three largest landowners in Hungary. To make Maria a suitable bride for a prince, the emperor had raised her father (whose ancestors had been created counts in the Hungarian nobility in July 1685 and barons in February 1616) to Prince Koháry of Csábrág and Szitnya in Austria’s nobility on 15 November 1815, two weeks before the wedding, thereby allowing her to come to her bridesgroom already a princess.
The history of Pena Castle: The palace itself is composed of two wings: the former Manueline monastery of the Order of St. Jerome and the wing built in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II. These wings are ringed by a third architectural structure that is a fantasised version of an imaginary castle, whose walls one can walk around and which comprises battlements, watchtowers, an entrance tunnel and even a drawbridge.
In 1838, King Ferdinand II acquired the former Hieronymite monastery of Our Lady of Pena, which had been built by King Manuel I in 1511 on the top of the hill above Sintra and had been left unoccupied since 1834 when the religious orders were suppressed in Portugal. The monastery consisted of the cloister and its outbuildings, the chapel, the sacristy and the bell tower, which today form the northern section of the Palace of Pena, or the Old Palace as it is known.
King Ferdinand began by making repairs to the former monastery, which, according to the historical sources of that time, was in very bad condition. He refurbished the whole of the upper floor, replacing the fourteen cells used by the monks with larger-sized rooms and covering them with the vaulted ceilings that can still be seen today. In roughly 1843, the king decided to enlarge the palace by building a new wing (the New Palace) with even larger rooms (the Great Hall is a good example of this), ending in a circular tower next to the new kitchens. The building work was directed by the Baron of Eschwege.
The 1994 repair works restored the original colors of the Palace’s exterior: pink for the former monastery and ochre for the New Palace.
In transforming a former monastery into a castle-like residence, King Ferdinand showed that he was heavily influenced by German romanticism, and that he probably found his inspiration in the Stolzenfels and Rheinstein castles on the banks of the Rhine, as well as Babelsberg Palace in Potsdam. These building works at the Palace of Pena ended in the mid-1860s, although further work was also undertaken at later dates for the decoration of the interiors.
King Ferdinand also ordered the Park of Pena to be planted in the Palace’s surrounding areas in the style of the romantic gardens of that time, with winding paths, pavilions and stone benches placed at different points along its routes, as well as trees and other plants originating from the four corners of the earth. In this way, the king took advantage of the mild and damp climate of the Sintra hills to create an entirely new and exotic park with over five hundred different species of trees.
Sources: Parques de Sintra and Wikipedia