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Portugal’s Pretender Hopes Marriage Will Boost Claim to Throne

May 12, 1995 GMT

LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ Where monarchists, military friends and the support of friends in high places failed, a marriage announcement is succeeding: Dom Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganca and seeker of Portugal’s crown, is getting noticed.

Before his engagement, the 49-year-old former fighter pilot struggled in relative obscurity from a farm outside Lisbon to restore the monarchy Portugal abolished 85 years ago when it established a republic and exiled his great-uncle, King Manuel II.

But when Dom Duarte marries 28-year-old commoner Isabel de Heredia on Saturday in Portugal’s first royal wedding in more than a century, the aisles of Lisbon’s 16th-century Jeronimos Monastery will be lined with members of Europe’s royal houses.

Princes Philip of Belgium, Lichtenstein’s Prince Henri and Princess Maria and deposed Queen Joana of Bulgaria will be there, as will King Goodwill Zwelithini of South Africa’s Zulus and Portuguese President Mario Soares and Prime Minister Anibal Cavaco Silva.

The wedding is the latest step in a political resurrection that has put Dom Duarte’s face on Portugal’s magazine covers and made his opinion on national policy issues a coveted one.

Many Portuguese say they want a referendum on restoring the throne, though there is little chance that could happen.

``A grand wedding may awaken some nostalgia for a monarchy, but not enough for Portugal to tamper with its democracy,″ said Miguel Galvao Teles, a constitutional historian.

Portugal’s 1974 constitution, written after a history of turbulent monarchies and a 40-year dictatorship, prohibits all but democratically elected governments.

Establishment of a monarchy with even negligible powers would require a plebiscite and a three-quarters majority of parliament.

Still, Joao Araujo, whose society magazine, Ola, was the only publication to court the duke during his years of obscurity, calls the wedding ``a turning point.″

Dom Duarte has gained credibility ``by ensuring the continuation of the dynasty by creating the possibility of an heir to the throne,″ Araujo said.

The Swiss-born Dom Duarte, whose given name is Joao Miguel Gabriel Rafael, descends from Portugal’s first king, Dom Afonso Henriques, and is related to nearly every European royal family.

Dom Duarte came to Portugal at age 6 to attend a Lisbon military school. His great-uncle was the last reigning Portuguese monarch and was exiled in 1910.

After serving as a fighter pilot in the Portuguese air force and seeing action in Angola’s war of independence, he became an environmentally aware farmer. A supporter of Portugal’s agricultural cooperatives, he earned the nickname ``the Green King.″

Last week, he became sole pretender to the throne at the death of Princess Maria Pia de Braganca, who claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of Portugal’s assassinated second-to-last king.

Maria da Encarnacao Sao, a housekeeper from Lisbon’s working-class Alcantara neighborhood, favors the crown and believes Dom Duarte is the man to wear it.

``He know’s what’s going on in this country ... the poverty, the unemployment, the drugs,″ she said.