Bussaco is stunning with both the palace and the memories of a great battle which hastened the destruction of one of Europe’s greatest dictators.
Fought during the Peninsular War on 27 September 1810, the Battle of Bussaco resulted in the defeat of the French forces by the combined English and Portuguese army under the command of Lord Wellington.
Where Wellesley Started His Campaign to Defeat Napolen
It was on this hill in central Portugal, Bussaco, where Arthur Wellesley (Lord Wellington) began the step by step destruction of Napoleon.
Wellesley was a brilliant strategist, a decent tactician and maybe the luckiest general that ever lived. He has about 25,000 British soldiers and the equivalent number of Portuguese defending the hill from the 65,000 French soldiers under the command of Marshall Andre Massena.
From the convent at the top of this hill, Wellesley could see at least 20 miles in every direction and the surprise waiting for the omnipotent French was magnificently created.
The Military Museum in Bussaco
The small military museum in Bussaco tells the story in detail and the pride of the Portuguese in their army still causes a stiffening of the spine.
You can read about this in Cornwell’s Sharpe series. This fictional hero fought here and the regiment of Green Jackets is well remembered with citations, images and some rather cheeky drawings.
The infamous rifle that set Sharpe’s brigade apart from the regular English soldier (mainly Irish actually) is there to be seen and compared with the inimitable Brown Best.
A diorama of this famous battle fought on the 27th of September 1810 is displayed in detail and if only they blew in dust and had drums and bagpipes in the background, you can relive history.
There’s a wonderful video giving the history of the Penisular War from the Postuguese perspective which in itself is a lesson of victors owning history.
The Old Convent in Bussaco
The palace itself was developed around the convent in 1888, but before that time, there was a large convent of the Discalced Carmelites where Wellesley slept at night and the olive tree to which he tied his horse has been immortalized with a plaque.
Bussaco Palace Today
Commissioned by King Carlos, the Palace design captures the worst excesses of a host of European palaces and imposes on them the glorious tiles of Portugal portraying its amazing history of explorations and conquests all capped with a series of tiles showing Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington, in profile with an elephantine probiscus that is his family’s trademark.
The Palace has a wedding cake feeling about it and would be the endless delight of visiting children. It's now a hotel and anyone with a sense of history would be overwhelmed by the completeness of the details and the complexity of the service. In short, you’ll get serious bragging rights.
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