Brites de Almeida, the baker of Aljubarrota, was a legendary figure and Portuguese heroine, whose name has been associated with the victory of the Portuguese, against Castilian forces, in the battle of Aljubarrota (1385). With her baker’s shovel, she would have killed seven Castilians she had found hidden in an oven.
Brites de Almeida was said to have been born in Faro, in 1350, to poor and humble parents, who owned a small tavern.
Legend has it that since she was a little girl, Brites revealed herself to be a burly, bony and ugly woman, with a hooked nose, a very ripped mouth and curly hair. She would have six fingers in her hands, which would have cheered the parents, as they thought they would have a very hard-working future woman at home. However, this would not have happened, as Brites would have embittered the lives of his parents, who would die early.
At the age of 26 she was already an orphan, a fact that is said not to have afflicted her very much. She sold the meager possessions she owned, resolving to lead an errant life, negotiating from fair to fair. There are many adventures that she supposedly lived, from the death of a suitor on the edge of her own sword, to the flight to Spain on board a boat assaulted by pirates who sold her as a slave to a powerful man from Mauritania.
She would end up, amidst a legendary little virtuous and confused life, by settling in Aljubarrota, where she would become a bakery owner and take a more honest life. She would find herself in this village when the battle between Portuguese and Castilians took place.
Defeated the Castilians, seven of them fled the battlefield to live nearby. They found shelter at Brites’ house, which was empty because Brites would have gone out. When Brites returned, having found the door closed, she soon became suspicious of the presence of enemies and entered bustling in search of Castilians. She would have found the seven men in her oven, hiding. Summoning them to leave and surrender, and seeing that they did not respond because they pretended to sleep or did not understand, she hit them with her shovel, killing them.
It is also said that, after the event, Brites would have gathered a group of women and formed a kind of militia that pursued the enemies, killing them without mercy.
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.
My article today is born from the book “A Rainha adultera” by Marsilio Cassoti, where for the first time there is talk about the theory of assisted insemination carried out by the infant D Joana de Portugal, in the 15th century, which gave rise to the birth of D Juana of Castile, considered, by the time in which it was born, fruit of an adulterous relationship.
D. Joana de Avis (1439-1475), Infanta of Portugal, was Queen of Castile while wife of King Enrique IV of Castile. Despite the latter having received the nickname “the Impotent”, the royal couple had legitimate descent in the person of D. Juana de Castela.
The problem that caused Henry IV’s impotence is well documented by descriptions of urological examinations carried out during the monarch’s life and by analyzes of his remains carried out also in the 20th century.
The king of Castile was unable to consummate the sexual act due to a physical constraint in the functional anatomy of his genital organ.
But the need to ensure legitimate offspring, led to “exceptional” measures being taken.
There was a previous indication inscribed in the “Law of Departures” by Alfonso X of Castile the Wise, which authorized to practice in the kings of Castile “specials practices” to solve their reproductive problems, but always with respect for the natural right such as proclaimed by the Catholic Church.
And what would these “practises” be? Enrique IV resorted to “conception without copulation” to get pregnant D. Joana de Portugal. To do this he called for a Jewish (medical) physicist, a specialist who will have carried out this “practice” in the monarch couple. These practices were prohibited by the Catholic Church, but not by Jewish law.
As we discovered in Cassoti’s book, the recognition of the concept without copulation as possible and legitimate “is well documented” by the ancient Jewish scholars, the first time in the 5th century AD in the Talmud of Babylon “and there are precise references to this theme” in the works of Jewish rabbis of the 13th and 14th centuries in the Mediterranean area “.
In this biography of D. Joana de Portugal, the historian presents, fact after fact, argument after argument, the thesis that D. Joana de Portugal was artificially inseminated, or at least assisted, with semen from Enrique IV de Castela, through a “practice” probably led by the Jewish physicist named Yusef and Yahia.
The insemination took place successfully, and on February 28, 1462, D. Juana de Castela would be born, legitimized by Pope Pius II as a descendant of Enrique IV of Castile.
In fact, D. Joana was removed from the court and repudiated by Enrique IV of Castile for her extramarital relations.
The next step would be the comparative genetic analysis of D. Juana and Enrique IV, based on his remains, to confirm that the first is the monarch’s biological daughter.
Unfortunately, both the remains of mother and daughter disappeared in unfortunate demolitions of the buildings in which they were buried, not allowing an analysis that could further clarify this interesting theory.
Legends and myths are often responsible for building a cultural identity that is not written but that is transmitted orally and, as such, is in constant evolution.
In Portugal the Camino de Santiago (St James’s Way) is a central axis of reading and knowledge of the territory and the identity of the communities in the most diverse registers, with legends, stories, churches, convents, monasteries, fountains, cruises and the authenticity of the places that have become accustomed to live with pilgrims.
The legend of the Barcelos rooster is one of those oral traditions that has managed to go a long way, since it materialised and associated itself with a beautiful piece of traditional figurine from Barcelos – the Rooster, a symbol that today represents Portugal in the world .
This legend is associated with the medieval cruise that is found in the Paço dos Condes de Barcelos and tells us that the inhabitants of the town were alarmed by a crime and, even more, by the fact that the criminal who had committed it was not discovered.
One day a Galician appeared who became suspicious. The authorities decided to arrest him and despite his oaths of innocence, no one believed that the Galician was going to Santiago de Compostela, and that he was a devotee of Santiago. So he was sentenced to hang.
Before he was hanged, he asked to be taken to the presence of the judge who had condemned him. Granted the authorisation, they took him to the residence of the judge who, at that moment, was feasting with some friends. The Galician returned to affirm his innocence and, in the face of the incredulity of those present, pointed to a roast rooster that was on the table, exclaiming: “It is so certain that I am innocent, how certain it is that rooster crows when they hang me”. Laughter and comments started, but, anyway, no one touched the rooster.
What seemed impossible, however, became reality! When the pilgrim was being hanged, the rooster rose on the table and sang. At that time the judge no longer doubted the convict’s innocence claims. He ran to the gallows and saw the poor man with the rope around his neck. However, the feeble knot prevented strangulation. Immediately released, he was sent in peace. After a few years, he returned to Barcelos and raised the monument in praise of Santiago and the Virgin.
A legend then old, but that the rooster was not always a symbol of that country. So, when and why did the Barcelos rooster become a national symbol?
It was António Ferro who hoisted the Rooster, the work of artisans from Barcelos, to the status of national symbol.
In 1931, at the V International Congress of Dramatic, Musical and Literary Criticism, which took place in Lisbon, the Barcelos rooster made its first international appearance. The person responsible was Antonio Ferro, then a journalist and figure in the national literary medium, who later became known as the head of Salazar’s propaganda. And the thing caught on, to the point that there was no Portuguese house, that it did not have the rooster, with a red crest and many showy colours. Ferro’s idea was inscribed in the image of the country that he helped to build, rural and folk, “poor but happy”.
What is certain is that the Barcelos Rooster has resisted the time and the advent of Democracy and thus remains a source of inspiration for artists from all over the country.