The National Palace of Queluz enchants for its magnificence and for the exuberance of its architectural details. Closely linked to the experiences of three generations of the Portuguese Royal Family, and the stage for intense emotions, the palace reflects the evolution of the tastes and styles of the time, going through Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassicism.
Surrounding it, scenic gardens invite you to “stroll” through the time when the court organized sumptuous parties there and keep the memories of the gondola rides on the canal, the theater, the hunts, the musical and literary evenings, the masquerade balls, the games and outdoor recitals.
In 1747, Infante D. Pedro, third Lord of Casa do Infantado and future king D. Pedro III (by marriage to D. Maria I) instructs the architect Mateus de Vicente de Oliveira to expand the so-called “Paço Velho”. Years later, in 1760, the announcement of the marriage of D. Pedro to the heir to the throne, Princess D. Maria, motivates deeper works.
At this stage, the works are the responsibility of the architect and goldsmith Jean-Baptiste Robillion. D Pedro III dedicates his attention to this place, transforming it into a leisure and entertainment space for the Royal Family and filling it with apparatus rooms, such as the Throne Room or the Ambassadors Room.
In the gardens, the decoration is marked by several sculptural groups that evoke classical mythology, of which the lead statues of John Cheere’s London studio stand out.
After the fire at the Royal Barraca da Ajuda, in 1794, where the Royal Family had lived permanently since the 1755 earthquake, the Queluz Palace became the official residence of Queen D. Maria I and, later, of the ruling princes D. João VI and D. Carlota Joaquina
The palace is permanently inhabited until the departure of the Royal Family for Brazil
In 1821, D. João VI returned to Portugal, but the palace was only re-inhabited, in a semi-exile regime, by Queen D. Carlota Joaquina, accused of conspiring against her husband. The next generation, marked by the Civil War that opposed the brothers D. Miguel and D. Pedro IV of Portugal and the first Emperor of Brazil, ended the royal experience of the Palace of Queluz. It is in the Queluz Palace, in the room Don Quixote, where he was born, that D. Pedro IV died.
The Royal Palace of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda was built by D. José I (1714-1777) at the top of the Ajuda hill. This building, built in wood to better resist earthquakes, became known as Paço de Madeira or Real Barraca. It replaced the sumptuous Paço da Ribeira that had been destroyed in the earthquake that devastated Lisbon in November 1755.
The new Palace, habitable since 1761, became the residence of the Court for about three decades. In 1794, during the reign of D. Maria I (1734-1816), a fire completely destroyed this royal home and much of its valuable contents.
The project for the construction of a new stone and lime palace, started in 1796 under the regency of the prince royal D. João, but was suspended after five years of construction, when, in 1802, Francisco Xavier Fabri and José da Costa e Silva, architects trained in Italy, they were charged with adapting it to the new neoclassical trend.
The Court’s departure for Brazil in 1807, following the Napoleonic invasions, and the periodic lack of financial resources did not allow the project to continue on a regular basis.
The clashes between liberals and absolutists plunged the country into fragile stability and, in 1833, construction came to a complete standstill. After the liberal victory, D. Pedro assumed the Government as regent, in the minority of his daughter, D. Maria da Glória, and swore the Constitutional Charter in the Throne Room of Paço da Ajuda, in 1834.
It was with the accession to the throne of D. Luís I (1838-1889), that a new stage began, finally acquiring the true dimension of royal palace when chosen for the official residence of the court. The real changes in the decoration of the interiors began in 1862, the year of the king’s wedding with the princess of Savoy, D. Maria Pia (1847-1911). Then, a long reformulation work was initiated that extended to several levels: from walls to ceilings – lined, plastered or painted again -, to the covering of floors with parquets and carpets, to the choice of furniture for the rooms. Everything ordered from specialized houses, Portuguese or foreign, that supply Casa Real. The wedding gifts and goods brought from Italy by the queen helped decorate the refurbished apartments.
The spaces were now wanted to be more intimate and protected. New rooms were added on the ground floor: the Dining Room, for daily family meals, a living room – the Blue Room – and leisure areas, such as the Marble Room and the Billiards Room; finally, the bathrooms have running water, hot and cold. The noble floor was reserved for gala receptions and the ground floor, from the Music Room and along the west façade, intended for private rooms. The Palace became the stage for the meetings of the Council of State, of the days of great gala – banquets and official receptions – and of family life: here were born the princes D. Carlos (1863-1908) and D. Afonso (1865 -1920).
After the death of D. Luís I, in 1889, the agitated life of the Palácio da Ajuda changed profoundly. In the new reign, the Court was divided between three Paços: Ajuda, where D. Maria Pia remained with D. Afonso; Belém – where princes D. Luís Filipe (1887-1908) and D. Manuel (1889-1932) were born – and Necessidades, alternative residences of D. Carlos I and D. Amélia (1865-1951). The prime floor of Ajuda was reserved for official ceremonies.
In 1910, when the Republic was established and the Royal Family was subsequently exiled, the Palace was closed.
In 2007, the Palace, together with the other national palaces, became part of the group of properties under the tutelage of the Institute of Museums and Conservation.
Today it is the scene of the protocolary ceremonies of representation of the State.
Have you ever wondered why King D. Pedro was known as “the cruel”? This King, who became famous in the History of Portugal for having the heart ripped out of the men who murdered his lover Inês de Castro (see my blog: post of 10 August 2020) and for demanding that they kiss her corpse while she was sitting on the throne, used to make justice by your own hands, all over the country.
D. Pedro I traveled frequently in Portugal and liked to hear the stories and complaints of those who had been wronged and, instead of going to court, he was the one who handed down the sentences and often practiced them. There are several stories of justice attributed to him.
In Santarém lived a rich farmer with whom the king got along. One day, being in that city and as he did not see the man, he asked about him and found that his son had stabbed him, leaving a scar on his face. The king then ordered him to be called and asked him to tell how things had gone.
The farmer narrated the discussion he had with his son and the aggression he had been the victim, in the presence of the woman. “Send your wife and your son to me here,” ordered the monarch. When the woman arrived, she asked him: “Listen, whose son is it?” She stammered, “My husband’s and mine, sir.” The king stroked his beard. “Hum !, I don’t believe it. If your husband had been the real father, he wouldn’t have shot you that way. ”
The farmer eventually admitted that the boy was the son of a confessing friar who would have raped her. The next day, D. Pedro went to hear mass in the church where the violation had occurred. The ceremony concluded, he looked for the religious.
After a short exchange of words, the king ordered the rapist to be boxed and sawed in half. As the king was not an illusionist of those who were women without being pinched, the bastard died a horrible death.
The episode of the Bishop of Porto is still well remembered. D. Pedro was told, without evidence, that the prelate had intimate relations with a married woman. It was enough for him to enter the episcopal palace and, taking the whip, punish him. Another time, when he learned that a woman was cheating on her husband, he sentenced her to death. And the deceived begged on his knees for the forgiveness of his wife, whom he certainly loved.
But there is a less known aspect of D. Pedro I’s life. Chronicler Fernão Lopes narrates that the sovereign had an overwhelming passion … for his squire Afonso Madeira, whom he “loved more than one should say here”.
As he had an affair with one Catarina Tosse, the king, furious, “ordered him to cut off those members that the men in greatest esteem have, so that there was no flesh left to the bone that everything was not cut”. Poor Afonso, according to Lopes, was treated, “he healed, he thickened his legs and body and lived a few years with a face and no beard and died after his natural death”.
Manuel I Rei de Portugal, known as the Fortunate, o Blessed or the Lucky. He was born in Alcochete, a town near Lisbon in 1469 and died in Lisbon in the year 1521. Ninth son of Infantes D. Fernando, 2nd Duke of Viseu and D. Beatriz, married D. Isabel, daughter of the Catholic Kings.
With the Queen’s death due to childbirth, he married second wife the Infanta D. Maria de Castela, sister of D. Isabel, with whom he had ten children, in addition to the first child with his previous wife. Again a widower, he married Infanta D. Leonor, having two more children.
With the death of D. Afonso, legitimate successor to the throne of his priest King D. João II, D. Manuel I was acclaimed as his legatee to the throne in 1495.
King Manuel I’s policy was a continuation line of the previous governments. He continued with the Portuguese overseas exploration campaigns, expeditions that were decisive for the expansion of the empire and that led to the discoveries of Brazil by Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500, of the way to India by Vasco da Gama in 1498 and of the Moluccas by Admiral D. Afonso de Albuquerque in 1511.
Likewise, he received from his predecessor a powerful and centralized government with a strong tendency towards absolutism. D. Manuel dedicated himself to tax, legislative and administrative reforms. These reforms were fundamental to configure the Kingdom of Portugal as a modern state.
But the history of this king, which meant so much to the history of Portugal, is also a part worthy of the best soap operas.
Princess D. Leonor was destined for the wife of Prince D. João, heir to the crown of Portugal, and they were both still very young. King Manuel, however, who was widowed for the second time, seeing the portrait of the young princess, who was only nineteen, and says the tradition is of rare beauty, was so pleased with her charms that he decided to choose her for his wife, ignoring the pretensions of the prince his son, thus making his third nuptials.
Carlos V had been acclaimed as emperor of Germany, and had come from Flanders to Zaragoza, where he had met the court, and D. Manuel, on the pretext of congratulating him on having girded the imperial crown, sent Zaragoza as his ambassador, and Major Álvaro da Costa, but the main purpose of this embassy was to deal with the wedding, very secretly, given the circumstances that were taking place.
Álvaro da Costa carried out his mission with great diligence and diplomacy, the proposal was well accepted by the court of Castile, and the negotiations were quickly concluded.
The marriages took place in the same city of Zaragoza on 16 July 1518, with prosecutors being appointed to deal with Ambassador Álvaro da Costa, Cardinal Florent, Bishop of Tortosa, who later was Pope Adriano VI, Guilherme de Croy, duke of Sora; and João le Sauvage, lord of Strambeque.
This marriage of D. Manuel caused a certain astonishment in Portugal, because the monarch had been inconsolable by the death of his second wife, saying that he abdicated the crown on his son, and retired to the Penha Longa convent.
The prince felt great disgust, because he had also fallen in love with the portrait of his future wife, who had now become a stepmother.
After the marriage contracts were concluded, the new queen D. Leonor left Zaragoza, and entered Portugal through Castelo de Vide with the accompaniment of nobles.
The monarch was waiting for her at Crato, and on November 24th there were pompous parties. As there was plague in Lisbon, the royal spouses left with the entire court for Almeirim, where they stayed until the following summer, then passing to Évora, returning to Lisbon only when the epidemic was completely extinguished
D. Manuel I died in December 1521, leaving two more children with his third marriage. It is said, after widowing, D. Leonor recovered his destiny. The 23-year-old woman had a secret relationship with her stepson, D. João III. The secret love for her ex-fiance was a way to recover the lines of destiny that had been broken by D. Manuel I.
When we think about England, we think directly about tea.
Tea is so utterly English, such an ingrained part of the culture, that it’s also ingrained in how everyone else around the world perceives that culture.
Tea is such an ingrained part of the culture, that it’s also ingrained in how everyone else around the world perceives that culture
And while it’s fairly common knowledge that Westerners have China to thank for the original cultivation of the tannic brew, it’s far less known that it was the Portuguese who inspired its popularity in England – in particular, one Portuguese woman.
Travel back in time to 1662, when Catherine of Braganza (daughter of Portugal’s King John IV) won the hand of England’s newly restored monarch, King Charles II, with the help of a very large dowry that included money, spices, treasures and the lucrative ports of Tangiers and Bombay. This hookup made her one very important lady: the Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland.
When she relocated up north to join King Charles, she is said to have packed loose-leaf tea as part of her personal belongings; it would also have likely been part of her dowry. A fun legend has it that the crates were marked Transporte de Ervas Aromaticas (Transport of Aromatic Herbs) – later abbreviated to T.E.A.
That last bit probably isn’t true (etymologists believe the word ‘tea’ came from a transliteration of a Chinese character), but what is for sure is that tea was already popular among the aristocracy of Portugal due to the country’s direct trade line to China via its colony in Macau, first settled in the mid-1500s (visit today to sample the other end of this culinary exchange, the Portuguese pastéis de nata, aka egg custard tarts).
When Catherine arrived in England, tea was being consumed there only as a medicine, supposedly invigorating the body and keeping the spleen free of obstructions. But since the young queen was used to sipping the pick-me-up as part of her daily routine, she no doubt continued her habit, making it popular as a social beverage rather than as a health tonic.
Everything from Catherine’s clothes to her furniture became the source of court talk
Hot poet of the time, Edmund Waller, even wrote a birthday ode to her shortly after her arrival, which forever linked the queen and Portugal with the fashionable status of tea in England. He wrote:
“The best of Queens, and best of herbs, we owe
To that bold nation, which the way did show
To the fair region where the sun doth rise,
Whose rich productions we so justly prize.”
To be fair, tea could be found in England before Catherine arrived, but it wasn’t very popular.
Tea was unusual because it was so expensive and everyone was drinking coffee at this time.
The reason for the cost was threefold: England had no direct trade with China; tea from India wasn’t around yet; and the small quantities that the Dutch were importing were sold at a very high premium.
Tea became associated with elite women’s sociability around the royal court, of which Catherine was the most famous emblem.”
And what happens with famous people? Non-famous people imitate them. When the queen does something, everyone wants to follow suit, so very, very gradually by the end of the 17th Century, the aristocracy had started sipping small amounts of tea.
Until tea arrived with the Dutch, the English didn’t know anything about tea. No sugar spoons, no cups, no tea kettles so they copied the entire ritual from China. They imported Chinese tiny porcelain tea bowls, the saucers, the dishes for sugar, the small teapots.
Catherine’s home country had a hand in in popularising this aspect of the tea experience, too. Portugal was one of the routes by which porcelain got to Europe,it was very expensive and very beautiful. Since it was so prized, porcelain was probably part of Catherine’s dowry, and, like other aristocratic ladies, she would have accrued many gorgeous trappings to pad out her tea sessions once she was living in England.
But tea was not the only introduction of Catarina de Bragança in England.
The knowledge of orange
Catarina loved oranges and never stopped eating them thanks to their baskets that her mother sent her.
The orange compote
That the English call “marmelade”, using, incorrectly, the Portuguese term marmalade (quince paste), because Portuguese marmalade had already been introduced in England in 1495.
Catarina kept the compote of normal oranges for herself and her friends and that of bitter oranges for enemies, especially for the king’s lovers.
Influenced the way of dressing
She introduced the short skirt. At that time, a short skirt was above the ankle and Catarina scandalized the English court for showing her feet.
She introduced the habit of wearing men’s clothes to ride.
The use of the fork to eat
In England, even at court, they ate with their hands, although the fork was already known, but only for carving or serving. Catarina was used to using it to eat, and soon everyone was doing the same.
Introduction of porcelain
She was surprised that they ate on gold or silver plates and asked why they did not eat on porcelain plates as they had done for many years in Portugal. From then on, the use of porcelain crockery became widespread.
An ensemble of Portuguese musicians was part of the retinue she took from Portugal and it was by her hand that the first opera in England was heard.
Catarina also took with her some furniture, including precious Indo-Portuguese accountants who had never been seen in England.
The birth of the “British Empire”
Catherine’s dowry was great for the amount of money but, much more important for the future, for including the city of Tangier, in North Africa and the island of Bombay, in India.
Betraying the Treaties they had assumed and with the excuse that the King of Portugal was Spanish, the English managed, despite the control of the Portuguese Navy, to sail to India where they created a warehouse in Gujarat.
In 1670, after receiving Bombay from the Portuguese, King Carlos II authorized the East India Company to acquire territories.
Thus, the British Empire was born!
Its popularity extended to America, where one of the five neighborhoods of New York (Queens) was named after her.
D. Afonso VI is one of the Portuguese representatives of the scandals that involve the monarchy.
D. Afonso VI was consecrated as “the Victorious” in the History of the Portuguese Monarchy, because it was during his reign that the decisive battles took place during the restoration war that ended in 1668 with the independence of Portugal from the Spanish kingdom.
But if on the one side he wielded his sword well on the battlefield, with women he did not have the same talent.
But let’s go in order.
D Afonso was the son of D. João IV and D. Luísa de Gusmão. Attacked in childhood by an unidentified disease, he is mentally and physically diminished. With the death of his brother D. Teodósio and his father, he ascends the throne at the age of thirteen, so the regency was left to his mother. The king grew up, rebellious to all the educational action, leading an unruly life and manifesting himself perfectly incapable of assuming the responsibilities of the government.
One of his companions, António Conti, insinuated himself in such a way that he soon lived in the royal palace, at the invitation of D. Afonso VI and having an influence on the business of the kingdom government. The scandal increased to the point that D. Luísa de Gusmão let the Infante D. Pedro, D Afonso’s younger brother, swear as future king and António Conti was arrested.
Meanwhile, the count of Castelo Melhor, advisor of the king and prime minister, carried out a coup d’état, compelling D. Luísa, to hand over the government to D. Afonso VI and forcing her to retire to a convent.
In the good graces of the king, he launched his brilliant political career in his short film, ending victoriously with the War of Restoration and managing to marry D. Afonso with Maria Francisca Isabel de Saboia who very quickly came into conflict with the count, and helped the brother-in-law D Pedro to remove his own husband from the government.
To achieve this, he asked to annul the marriage, accusing the king of impotence. During the process, 14 women participated as witnesses.
D. Afonso VI then experienced the humiliation of having these fourteen women witness his disability in bed!
In the time frame marked between January 9 and February 23 of the year 1668, public hearings took place that aimed to assess a possible sexual incapacity of King D. Afonso VI. The historic moment took place in the archbishop’s palace in Lisbon. 55 witnesses were called to testify, distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, always in the afternoon.
The queen took refuge in the Convento da Esperança, having appointed the Duke of Cadaval as prosecutor in the process.
There was no lack of exquisite details that are present in a manuscript at Torre do Tombo that was published by António Baião, in 1925. Titled Cause of nullity of marriage between Queen D. Maria Francisca Isabel de Saboya and King D. Afonso VI, this document revealed the testimonies of its 14 partners.
None of the women defended D. Afonso VI.
In fact, no one appeared at the hearings to defend D. Afonso, who was later deposed by decision of the Council of State.
With a new conspiracy in the palace, the abdication of D. Afonso VI resulted. D. Pedro took the power, married his sister-in-law, after the annulment of her marriage with D. Afonso and Afonso was exiled to Angra do Heroísmo in 1669, from where he returned in 1674, being then closed in the Palace of Sintra, where you can still visit his prison room, until his death.
D. Pedro II was crowned King, and fulfilled his role well with D. Maria Francisca. 9 months later a princess was born, Isabel Luísa.
Son of Dona Maria II and D Fernando II, D. Pedro V had a careful moral and intellectual education, studying among other disciplines, natural sciences, philosophy, writing and languages. From an early age he showed remarkable intelligence: at the age of two he spoke German and French and at the age of twelve he mastered Greek and Latin, and he also knew English.
He traveled to several countries and tried to bring to Portugal the modernity and evolution he found in these trips, he was liberal and innovative but also charitable and concerned with his people. He inaugurated the first telegraph in Portugal and also the railroad between Lisbon and Carregado and was called “O rei Santo” the king saint because he refused to leave Lisbon during the cholera and yellow fever epidemics from 1853 to 1857 where he provided direct assistance to the victims and created the D. Pedro V asylum to welcome the orphans, giving them primary education and teaching them a trade.
D. Pedro V had no great matrimonial interests, refusing his first promised wife but finally accepting his second, Estefânia de Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen.
In April 1858, King D. Pedro V and Queen D. Estefânia were married by Proxy, but they only met a month later.
The wedding took place on May 18, 1858, at the church of São Domingos, in Lisbon. The entire city was ready to host the event.
In order to please his future wife, D. Pedro V ordered to make one of the most expensive jewels in the Portuguese Crown in his name and specifically for his wedding. A diadem with more than 4,000 diamonds and it is here, that according to the people, the misfortune of this love story begins.
At the time, diamonds should not be used by virgin women at the wedding and as if that was not an omen, the jewel was so heavy that it made an open wound on the Queen’s forehead. When they left their marriage with blood running down the people dictated their sentence: “Oh poor… she will die!
However, for D Pedro V, after meeting D. Estefânia, everything changed: the couple seemed in love, they walked hand in hand through the gardens of Sintra and Benfica.
But the queen needed to get pregnant. A year after the wedding, the queen felt bad and was hospitalized. At just 22 years of age, the queen died of diphtheria that was contracted at a railroad inauguration in Alentejo.
The husband stayed at the head of her bed, without sleeping, for two whole days. The doctors of the royal house performed an autopsy, but its result was not made public until 50 years later in an article by the famous doctor Ricardo Jorge: the queen died virgin!
On the day of the funeral, Estefânia took with her the precious jewel that on arrival at the place was exchanged for a crown of orange flowers … the jewel, worth 86,953,645 reis, was never seen again.
D. Pedro, sad with the loss of his great love, died on November 11, 1861, at the age of 24. He died of typhoid fever, which he contracted from drinking contaminated water during a hunt.
He is the King known for his splendour, the Baroque era, for the construction of the wonderful palace and convent of Mafra, but also for his extramarital relations. And what is strange about a king who has lovers? In appearance nothing, aside from the fact that D João V had a preference for nuns …
Of all the lovers, the most famous was Mother Paula Silva, a young brunette, a nun at the Convent of Odivelas, for whom D. João V had built sumptuous rooms, with gilded ceilings, where she was served by nine servants. According to the book “Amantes dos Reis de Portugal”, the beds were made of canopy, covered with silver foil and surrounded by red and gold velvets, and the jars in which she urinated were made of silver.
Over the 10 years that this relationship lasted, the King gave her an annual income of 1708 $ 000 réis, but he could only go to Odivelas to have relations with the nun when the palace doctor authorized him.
In 1720, when Mother Paula was 19 years old, she gave birth to José, who was already the fourth bastard son of the Monarch.
The first had been born already after the marriage with D. Maria Ana of Austria and was son of his first girlfriend, D. Filipa de Noronha, sister of the marquis of Cascais, seduced when D. João was only 15 years old and she 22. She was a lady-in-waiting of Queen Maria Sofia of Neuburg, mother of the fiery prince. To conquer her, D. João used madly foolish means, including a promise of marriage. Wooing and jewellery offering strengthened the lady’s love, who cherished the excusable illusion of becoming queen of Portugal. One can understand her frustration when she learned of the negotiations for the union with Princess Maria Ana of Austria.
There followed the three bastards who became known as the Meninos de Palhavã (for having lived in a palace in this area of Lisbon). Before Mother Paula, on his first visits to the Odivelas Convent, the King was intime with a French nun, who gave birth to D. António, and another Portuguese nun, mother of D. Gaspar, who became archbishop of Braga. The King recognized these three of his illegitimate children in a declaration signed in 1742.
When he got tired of his visits to Paula, D. João V started going to a 17th century palace that still exists in Lisbon, on the corner of the streets of Poço dos Negros and São Bento. D. Jorge de Menezes, owner of properties in the Algarve, lived there, but the king chose to go there on the days (or nights) when he knew he was not there. With whom he was going to meet – furtively – it was with D. Luísa Clara de Portugal, the wife of D. Jorge.
But, while visiting Luísa Clara, D. João V also gallant a servant of hers. And he even appointed as diplomat to the Holy See, in Rome, a brother of the girl, a shoemaker!
And the predictable happened: Luísa Clara became pregnant during one of her husband’s absences. Dejected, D. Jorge retired to a farm in Sintra, where he would die. As for the queen, she tried – in vain – to prevent her rival from entering the parties at the Palace. The fruit of these loves was a girl, sent to the Convent of Santos.
Free from her children and her husband, Luísa Clara had time for everything, including being the lover of a half-brother of the king, bastard son of Pedro II. Furious, D. João V thought of having the bold relative castrated, and only the confessor managed to appease his wrath, evoking the pains of hell.
D. João V also got involved with a gypsy woman, Margarida do Monte, but sent her to a convent, so that she would no longer receive other lovers.
The last lover of D. João V, when he doubled the cape of the 50, would be the Italian opera singer Petronilla Basilli. To keep up with the required lyrical performance, the king started taking aphrodisiacs. And when, two years later, he turned his back on Basilli, he began to whisper that it was over. The truth is that, in the final decade of his life, the Magnânimo dedicated himself mainly to the charitable gestures that justified his epithet.
In the 13th century, in the kingdom of Aragon, a princess was born who would remain in the history of Portugal forever.
Isabel, also the name of her aunt, Saint Isabel of Hungary, sister of her paternal grandmother, was most likely born in Zaragoza in the Kingdom of Aragon on 11 February 1270. She was the daughter of D. Pedro the Great and Dona Constança of Sicily. On her father’s side, blood from Hungary was flowing in her veins, while on her mother’s side she descended from Manfredo of Naples and Sicily and from Dona Brites de Savoy, her grandparents. The girl, firstborn, among several siblings, was delicate and very beautiful and since childhood, lived a good part in Barcelona, demonstrated a taste for prayer, the candid power to generate affections and reconciliations, naive kindness and promising intelligence. These virtues triggered in several Royal Houses in Europe the strong desire to have her as queen.
In 1279 D. Dinis ascended the throne of Portugal, a cultured monarch, poet, grandson of Afonso X, the Wise. The young king was nineteen and considering, among several other reasons of state, he chose to choose for his queen, Isabel, the daughter of the king of Aragon. Isabel had three suitors, however it is D. Dinis who will have her by the Portuguese throne. The bases of the nuptial contract were signed on April 24 1281.
The wedding took place, by proxy in the city of Barcelona, after a copious epistolary exchange. Just two months later the bride and groom met for the first time in Portuguese lands.
The queen received a significant donation from her husband: Óbidos, which she loved very much, Porto de Mós, Abrantes and 12 more castles.
It was in the city of Coimbra that Queen Isabel began a life full of magnanimity and sanctity with her court. Mother of Constança and Afonso, future king Afonso IV, pious, of supreme charity and devout, the life of the queen remained linked to acts of complacency, of favor through alms, offerings, care, with which she dedicated herself to the poorest.
At the same time, their pleas and diplomacy spread harmony and peace between kingdoms, relatives as well as between husband and son.
The marriage with King D. Dinis lasted about 44 years and only the death of the monarch in 1325 separated the royal spouses. When she remained widowed, D. Isabel wore, from that date, the humble habit of the religious of Santa Clara, and established her residence in Coimbra in the Paço that she had next to the Monastery of the Poor Clares. She survived her husband just over ten years, and in December 1327 she made her second will in which she dedicated her body to a tomb in the Church of the Santa Clara Monastery in Coimbra. Between the Palace and the Convent, the queen combined the duties of the Crown with devotion and piety, followed by days of prayer, works of charity, fasting and fatigue that time does not appease.
In June 1336, the queen was informed that her son was going to fight in combat with his grandson D. Afonso IV of Castile. King Afonso IV and his court were already in Estremoz, D. Isabel, mother and grandmother, aged 66, undertook a long and painful journey of dozens of leagues between Coimbra and Estremoz. The journey was tiring and exhausting, the Queen arrived very ill and died on the 4th of July 1336.
The next day, the king, complying with his mother’s latest determinations, ordered the transfer of the body to Coimbra.
Queen Dona Isabel was esteemed by the people for her works of charity, in death the same people began to venerate her remains, worshiping him believing in miracles and in her holiness. King D. Manuel asked the Holy See to beatify Queen D. Isabel, granted by Pope Leo X in 1516. In the 17th century, the tomb was opened, declaring who saw that the queen’s body was uncorrupted and with an aroma of flowers. The queen was holy. In May 1625 Pope Urban VIII solemnly canonised Queen Dona Isabel, changing her name to Queen Saint Isabel. When the coffin was transported from the Monastery of Santa Clara Velha to Monastery of Santa Clara a Nova, after the waters of the Mondego had completely flooded the old convent, the tomb was opened again and, to the amazement of all, it was verified that the body remained uncorrupted and that the smell was still the scent of flowers.
The miracle of roses
A legend said that the king, already irritated by her always walking with beggars, forbade her to give more alms. But one day, seeing her sneak out of the palace, he went after her and asked what she was hiding under his cloak.
It was bread. But she, distressed to have disobeyed the king, exclaimed:
– They’re roses, sir!
“Roses, in January?” He doubted.
With her eyes down, Queen Saint Isabel opened her lap – and the bread had turned into roses, as beautiful as they had ever been seen.
D. Dinis is one of the greatest figures in Portuguese history. He was, at his time, one of the most respected Kings in the world. Known as the “King Poet” (because he wrote 173 poems in Galician-Portuguese) or the “Farmer King”, D. Dinis was the 6th monarch of Portugal and reigned for 46 years. He is described as cultured, just, sometimes cruel, pious, determined and intelligent. Son of D. Afonso III and Beatriz de Castela, he was born on the day of S. Dinis, on October 9, 1261, in Lisbon. In 1279, at the age of 17, D. Dinis came to the throne of a country that was living in unstable times. Between 1280-1287, in order to establish peace in Portugal, he negotiated with the Holy See. The relationship with the church was deteriorated for many years, reaching the point, for example, that King Afonso III was excommunicated. Early in his reign, in 1280, D. Dinis thought of marriage and possibly political issues. He found his ideal wife in Isabel de Aragon, popularly known today as the “Holy Queen”. The marriage would be made 2 years later, in Barcelona, by proxy. Queen Isabel was … 10 years old! Upon arriving in Portugal, the ceremony was held in Trancoso. And then they settled in Coimbra. From this marriage they had two children: D. Constança and D. Afonso, future D. Afonso IV. However, D. Dinis had several extramarital relationships, of which he had children, who were educated by the Holy Queen! D. Dinis took several measures, such as: he created a system of laws, he created fairs, he bet on fishing and other maritime activities, he gave land to cultivate to those who had no means.
In Entre Douro e Minho he divided the land into couples, each couple later coming to give rise to a settlement. In Trás-os-Montes the king adopted a collectivist regime: the lands were handed over to a group that shared the charges, certain services and buildings were communal, such as the bread oven, the mill and the guard of the flock. In 1290, he founded the first university in the country, which was located in Lisbon and later moved to Coimbra.
He established Portuguese as an official language in the drafting of documents and made an alliance with Aragon. Between 1319 and 1324 he was at war with his son D. Afonso. They ended up making peace. However, the chronicles say that, because of this conflict, the relations with his wife, the Holy Queen, was never healthy again. In 1290, after the Portuguese reconquest was over, King Dinis I of Portugal decreed that the “vulgar language” (Galician-Portuguese spoken) be used instead of Latin at court, and named “Portuguese”. The troubadour king had adopted his own language for the kingdom, just as his grandfather had done with Castilian. In 1296 Portuguese was adapted by the royal chancellery and started to be used not only in poetry, but also in the drafting of laws and by notaries. 7th January 1325, with 63 years (really old for the time) D Dinis passed away in Santarém. He was buried in the Odivelas Monastery, a building that he created. Analyses made to his tomb indicate that the “King Poet” was very healthy (he incredibly died with all his teeth), allowing to conclude that he measured 1.65 meters and had red hair and beard.