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27 Jul

Kingdom of Portugal (13th – 15th c.)

The reign of Sancho II (1223-1248) was marked by the conflict with the Catholic Church and was deposed by a group of nobles led by his brother Alfonso III (1248-1279). Alfonso III was supported by the Church and the Pope himself but he later came into conflict with the Catholic Church as well. One of Afonso’s greatest achievements was the conquest of Algarve which completed the Portuguese Reconquista but caused a serious conflict with Castile. The conflict between Portugal and Castile was settled with the Treaty of Badajoz in 1267 which determined the border between Castile and Portugal, and remained in force until today. The reign of Alfonso III is also notable for cultural development, emancipation of the peasants, promotion of commerce and participation of city representatives in the Cortes.

Afonso III was succeeded by Diniz (1279-1325) also known as the Farmer King. He promoted agriculture and gave special favors to nobles who pursued farming. Diniz also encouraged commerce and craft, and patronized literature and science. The last years of his reign were marked by a rebellion of his son Alfonso IV (1325-1357) who succeeded him after his death in 1325.

Painting of Peter I of Portugal

Peter I of Portugal

The reign of Alfonso IV was marked by the rebellion of his son and successor Peter I which became an important theme in Portuguese literature. Peter I fell in love with Ines de Castro, lady-in-waiting of his wife Constance of Penafiel. Peter I and Ines retreated in palace in Coimbra after Constance’s death but Peter was forced to accept her execution in 1355. However, Peter I revenged to Ines’ assassins after his accession to the throne in 1358 (he reigned to 1367) and supposedly ripped out their hearts with his bare hands. The reign of Peter I was relatively peaceful despite a violent beginning, while introduction of a relatively fair legal system at the time gave him the epithet the Just. He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son from his marriage with Constance, Ferdinand I (1367-1383) whose reign was characterized by three wars with Castile which ended with marriage of Ferdinand’s daughter and heiress Beatrice with John I of Castile.

A portrait of Prince Henry the Navigator

Prince Henry the Navigator

Ferdinand’s father-in-law John I of Castile claimed the Portuguese throne after his death in 1383 but the struggle for the Portuguese throne was won by Ferdinand’s half-brother and illegitimate son of Peter I and Ines, John I (1385-1433). John I decisively defeated the Castilian forces in the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. In 1415, he captured Ceuta which is widely considered a prelude to the future Portuguese territorial expansion that reached its height under Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) during the reign of John’s successor Edward (1433-1438). The latter was succeeded by his minor son Alfonso V (1438-1481) whose early reign was marked by a struggle for the regency between his mother, Queen Eleanor of Aragon and his uncle Dom Pedro, Duke of Coimbra. The Cortes replaced the Queen with Duke of Coimbra in 1440 but he was later challenged by his illegitimate half brother Alfonso, Duke of Braganza.

The struggle between the Aviz and Braganza houses led to the outbreak of a civil war. Despite inner political difficulties Alfonso V pursued his predecessor’s policy and conquered Alcacer Ceguer in 1458 and Tangiers in 1471, while his campaigns in Africa gave him the epithet the African. His pretensions to the Castilian throne provoked a war with Castile which ended with Portuguese defeat in the Battle of Toro.

Alfonso V who felt humiliated because of the defeat against Castile abdicated in favor of his son John II (1481-1495) in 1481. John II took series of measures to limit the power of aristocracy and strengthen his authority immediately after his accession to the Portuguese throne. He encouraged Portuguese explorers and continued the Portuguese territorial expansion. John II refused to finance the voyage of Christopher Columbus but he achieved a major success by negotiating the Treaty of Tordesillas which divided the newly discovered lands outside Europe between Spain and Portugal.

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