“A Portuguesa” was written in response to the British ultimatum in 1890 to Portugal regarding territorial control of Africa. Anywhere there was protests against the monarchy as a result, “A Portuguesa” could be heard. The song still echoes the original intent, the verses and especially the chorus speak of a call to arms, the third verse speaks of “insults” and “embarrassment” (which is how the Portuguese saw the British ultimatum), and the original last line of the chorus read “Contra os bretões marchar, marchar” (Against the British we march, we march!). With the success of the Republicans in ousting the monarchy and replacing them with a democratic government in 1910, “A Portuguesa” was approved as a national anthem shortly after; it is the first verse and chorus that is usually presented as the anthem.

In 1956, there were a number of variations of the anthem, not just in its melodic line but also in the instrumentation. Recognizing this, the government named a commission charged with determining the official version of “A Portuguesa.” This commission prepared a proposal which, approved by the Council of Ministers on 16 July 1957, remains in effect to this day.