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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

THE QUEEN WHO WAS CROWNED POSTHUMOUSLY: Greatest Love Stories Ever Told Series

Posted by Author #R. Ann Siracusa

Peter I and Ines by Ernesto Condeixa

“It’s too late; Inés is dead.”
This saying is still commonly used in Portugal, a testimony to the love story of King Peter I of Portugal and Inés de Castro.

Their tale took place in the 14th century, during the early years of the Renaissance, but unlike Romeo and Juliette, it is a true and documented love story rooted in Portuguese history, language, and legend. [Please note that in researching this, I found discrepancies in the dates. What a surprise!]

Inés de Castro was born in Castile in 1325, the daughter of the Pedro Fernández de Castro, an illegitimate grandson of King Sancho IV of Castile and Lord of Lemos and Sarria. Her mother, Pedro’s mistress Aldonca Lourenco de Valadares, daughter of a Portuguese nobleman, was legitimately descended from Infanta Sancha Henriques of Portugal.

At fifteen, Inés went to Portugal as lady-in-waiting to her cousin, Infanta Constanca of Castile, [the granddaughter of James II of Aragon], who was to marry Don Pedro [later King Peter I ], son and heir of King Alfonso IV of Portugal.

Peter, the heir to the throne of Portugal, was born in 1320, the only son of King Alfonso IV and Queen Beatrice.
In those days, as everyone knows, children of noble birth rarely had any say in whom they married. It was all about the politics of kingdoms, alliances, duty to the crown, and responsibility to the realm. Also, remember that all these noble families were inbred and everyone is related to everyone else.
Kingdoms during 1300s 

At the age of nine, Peter was betrothed to Blanche of Castile, but the marriage never took place because of her weak mental health and incapacity. 

Peter was about twenty when his father arranged his marriage to Infanta Constansa of Castile for reasons which I won’t burden the reader with. Different sources give his bride the names Lady Constansa Manuel of Castela and Leão and Constance Manuel of Villena. For clarity, I will refer to her as Constansa.
Peter and Constansa were married in 1340. Since the couple didn’t know each other, and Peter was young, he fell hopelessly in love with Inés and soon was neglecting his legitimate wife.                                                                
Most of the court turned a blind eye to discrete affairs of the heart, even out of wedlock.
Unfortunately, young Peter was not inclined to be discrete and was even willing to give up the throne to be near Inés. His father, King Alfonso IV didn’t approve because it weakened his already-fragile ties with his ally, the King of Castile. Alfonso waited, believing his son’s infatuation would soon die out. But it didn’t, and the affair continued.
Legend tells that although Constansa was not in love with Peter, she plotted to end his affair by inviting Inés to be the godmother of her newly born son, born in 1340. According to the Catholic Church, this would make Inés a member of the family and her affair with Peter would be deemed incestuous, ending it once and for all. To her disappointment, her efforts didn’t produce the result she wanted.
Finally, in 1344, King Alfonso banished Inés from court and sent her back to Castile, where she resided in Albuquerque Castle. Still, they wrote letters and Peter continued to visit her.
Albuquerque Castle today
A year later, in 1345, Constansa died shortly after giving birth to their third child named Fernando (the first of Peter’s sons to succeed him on the throne).
As soon as Peter was no longer married, he brought his lover back to Portugal. They settled in Coimba and lived together openly. Over the next ten years they had four children, one of whom died in infancy.
King Alfonso made attempts to convince his son to remarry other noble women “worthy of his station” with family ties to buttress King Alfonso’s power, but Peter would have none of it. Instead he wanted to marry Inés, which his father forbade. Whether he actually married her during this time or not falls into the legend category. Some sources say he did, some believe he didn’t. After the fact, Peter claimed he had married her and produced witnesses, although they couldn’t quite remember the exact date.
During this time, Peter became close to Inés’s brothers who attempted to convince him to claim the throne of Castile. King Alfonso and his advisors feared the future monarch would embroil the kingdom in a war with neighbors, or worse, a civil war. Something had to be done.
In 1354 (or 1355), while Peter was away from home, the king and his counselors discussed the matter, and finally decided the only solution was do away with Inés. As a grandfather, the king wasn’t happy about the idea, but finally went with three of his courtiers to sentence her to death.
Painting by Eugénie Servières, 1822
Alfonso struggled with the decision, but finally turned his back and told his courtiers to do what they wanted with her. The three men proceeded to decapitate her in front of her children. Some sources say she was stabled with a dagger. Her age was somewhere between 29 and 35 years old, depending on the source of the information.
When Peter returned and learned of Ines’s death, he was furious with his father for ordering the execution. With the support of Ines’s brothers, he staged a revolt against his father lasting almost a year, until Queen Beatrice, Peter’s mother, forced an end to the war and brought about a reconciliation between father and son. Two years later, King Alfonso IV died, and Peter was crowned king in 1357.
As soon as he was crowned, King Peter I did two things. First, ignoring the promise to his father, to forgive the murder, he found two the men who had killed Inés (the third escaped to France), subjected them to public trial where they were found guilty, and then had them tortured and executed.
According to an article by Else M. in, the method of death torture was highly symbolic. “…from one of the men who had killed the love of his life, the heart was ripped out of the body through his back, and from the other, the heart was pulled out through the chest. All this happened in front of the Royal Palace, where the King was able to watch the terrible scene while having dinner!” Other sources claim he did it himself. This earned him the title of “Peter the Cruel.”
Second, King Peter announced that he had secretly married Inés in the town of Braganca, and produced his witnesses. Thus Inés de Castro was declared as Peter’s legitimate wife and therefore Queen of Portugal. He ordered her body exhumed from where she was buried in the Monastery of Santa Clara in Coimbra, and taken to the Monastery of Alcobada (tomb of the kings).

Her body was accompanied by a huge procession and a thousand men carried candles in a way that kept the body lighted for the entire trip. She was placed in a magnificent tomb carved of white marble. Today, King Peter I and Inés de Castro are inured facing each other in identical tombs inscribed “Until the end of the world.”

Legend has it that once Ines’s body arrived in Alcobada, Peter ordered it dressed in finery and jewels and placed on the throne, then required his court to pledge allegiance to her as queen and kiss her hand. There is little evidence this really happened, but after everything else Peter did, who knows? Most legends are found on some truth.

Pierre-Charles Comte, and hangs in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon.

King Peter I ruled for ten years, until his death in 1367. Despite his nickname “Peter the Cruel” he was also known as “Peter the Just”.
He was, indeed, just but he carried out justice with extreme measures, often handling executions himself rather than leaving it to servants.
Otherwise, his rule actually displayed him as a sweet and gentle character, as well as a good administrator. He was beloved by the population. He defended the realm against papal influence, helped the least fortunate, administered justice, and curbed the excesses of the nobility. His rule was the only time in the 14th century when Portugal was without war and was very prosperous.

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Note: There are a variety of spellings for the names of these historical figures, including variations of Spanish, Portuguese, and Castillian. I picked those which seemed most familiar and used them consistently.


1 comment:

jean hart stewart said...

Fascinating as always, Ann. When was not man bloodthirsty? Geez.... I guess a better question might be when will he not be???????

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