Discurso do Presidente da República por ocasião da Inauguração da Estátua do Infante D. Henrique (Versão em Inglês)

12 de Fevereiro de 2002

The statue we are unveiling today – the first statue of a Portuguese personality to be erected in London – is a fitting way to signal the centuries-old friendship between the United Kingdom and Portugal.

Infante Dom Henrique, or Prince Henry the Navigator, was the son of Philippa of Lancaster, and his relationship with the British monarchy symbolises the very strong ties between our countries, our histories and our peoples.

Both these ties and our friendship go back to the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance of 1373 and to the Treaty of Windsor in 1386, and are behind the marriage of King João I with Philippa of Lancaster, that eminent character who is common to both our countries.

Throughout the centuries the alliance between our peoples has been successively reaffirmed and has always represented a fundamental pole of our foreign policies. It has on many particularly serious occasions played an essential historical role.

We are united by Prince Henry’s family origins and by his love of the sea, which makes him a universally known figure. In endorsing the adventure that was to take Portugal and Europe to other lands, other civilisations, other seas, cultures, customs and peoples, but also to other skies, stars, gods, fauna and flora, the Prince initiated the first globalisation of the planet. He was a pioneer of the Renaissance and of the modern spirit who made experimentalism, knowledge and science the cornerstones of his existence.

This statue is the work of an early 20th century sculptor called Simões de Almeida (Sobrinho). It shows the Prince facing the sea, visualising the unknown world and bringing far-off lands within distance. A great contemporary of the sculptor, the outstanding poet Fernando Pessoa, who also had close ties with English culture, wrote immortal verses about the prince, which are engraved here:

God wills, man dreams, the work is born.
God willed that the earth be one,
That the sea not divide but unite it.
Anointed by Him, you unveiled the foam,

And the white crest went from island to continent,
Like dawn to the world’s end,
And suddenly the entire earth
Appeared, round, from out of the blue.

(I would like to thank the Duke of Westminster, as the owner of the land on which Belgrave Square stands, for being here today.)

I would like to thank the members of the Grosvenor Estate, the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor Angela Hooper and the Committee of Councillors, and the officials of the Department of Planning and Transport of Westminster City Hall. Your support and understanding were vital in bringing this project to fruition. We are also very grateful for the constructive intervention of English Heritage.

From a distance of many centuries the figure of Prince Henry the Navigator reaffirms the old but constantly renovated friendship between us. It serves also to tell us that universalism and the quest for the unknown and the unusual continue to be vital elements in our construction of a future that fulfils Mankind’s noblest dreams.