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‘Portrait of Luís de Camões’ (1823) by John Taylor Wedgewood, British Museum

Portugal’s national day is celebrated on the anniversary of the death of their much-celebrated poet, Camões (10 June 1580). His epic poem The Lusiads celebrates Vasco de Gama’s ‘discovery’ of the sea route to India, which ultimately gave rise to Portuguese imperial ambitions. It’s a certainly an epic poem, painting the explorers as fantastical heroes.      

Camões’ birthday is unknown, hence why they use the date he died. But he is remembered as a hero. He lost his right eye in a battle in 1549 and the story goes that, swimming from a shipwreck, he managed to hold the unfinished manuscript above his head while his lover drowned.

He’s certainly celebrated as a hero here in this engraving, after a drawing by Baron François Gérard, with armour, ruff and crown of laurel leaves. Quite fitting for a national poet.