In the Portuguese city of Coimbra, a macabre ceremony took place in the late summer of 1360. On the king’s orders, dignitaries of the highest order from all over came forward one by one and kissed the hand of an exhumed corpse seated upon a throne.
This was the body of the Castilian Princess Inês de Castro, the beloved mistress of the newly crowned King Peter I of Portugal.
Inês de Castro was the natural daughter of Pedro Fernández de Castro, Lord of Lemos and Sarria and his noble Portuguese mistress Aldonça Lourenço de Valadares. Her family descended both from the Galician and Portuguese noble families. She was also well connected to the Castilian royal family, by illegitimate descent.
Inês came to Portugal in 1340 as a maid of Constanza Manuel, who had just married Peter I of Portugal. The latter was the heir apparent to the Portuguese throne. The prince was enamored by Inês’ beauty and fell in love with her. Eventually, he began neglecting his lawful wife, endangering the already feeble relations with Castile. Furthermore, his love for Inês brought the exiled Castilian nobility very close to power, with Inês’ brothers becoming friends and trusted advisors of the prince. Peter’s father, King Alfonso IV of Portugal, very much despised Inês’ influence on his son, and waited for their mutual infatuation to wear off. Unfortunately for him, it did not.
Peter’s lawful wife, Constance of Castile died in 1345. Alfonso IV tried to arrange for his son to be remarried to someone else other than Inês, but Peter refused to marry anyone except his beloved.
Adding to the animosity was the fact that Peter’s legitimate son, future King Ferdinand I of Portugal, was a very frail child, whereas Peter and Inês’ illegitimate children were thriving. Furthermore, Inês wasn’t even deemed eligible to be queen.
This caused severe discomfort among the Portuguese noble, who feared the increasing Castilian influence over Peter. Inês was therefore banished from the court after Constance’s death, but Peter didn’t abandon her. He stayed with her, declaring her as his true love. After several attempts to keep the two lovers apart, Alfonso IV had seen enough. He ordered Inês to be put to death.
Pêro Coelho, Álvaro Gonçalves, and Diogo Lopes Pacheco went to the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha in Coimbra, where Inês was detained. And in front of her small children, they brutally decapitated her.
Peter, the most furious he had ever been, immediately sought out the killers and publicly executed them by tearing out their hearts, whilst claiming that they didn’t have one to begin with after pulverising his own by their barbaric actions.
Perter would go on to ascend the throne in 1357. He then stated that he had secretly married Inês, implying that she was the lawful queen as a result, although his word was, and still is, the only known proof of marriage.
Pope Innocent IV refused Peter’s request to recognize his marriage to Inês and legitimize his children by her, the elder of whom had a strong claim to potentially be the future ruler of Portugal.
Some sources strongly claim that after becoming king of Portugal, Peter had Inês’ body exhumed from her grave, and forced the entire court to do obeisance to her.
The king [Peter] caused the body of his beloved Inês to be disinterred, and placed on a throne, adorned with the diadem and royal robes. and required all the nobility of the kingdom to approach and kiss the hem of her garment, rendering her when dead that homage which she had not received in her life..
Some modern sources characterize the story as a legend.
Inês de Castro was later buried at the Monastery of Alcobaça, where her coffin is placed and can be seen opposite to Peter’s, so that, according to the legend, at the Last Judgement, the two can look at each other as they rise from their graves.
Both are exquisitely sculpted with scenes from their lives and a promise by Peter.
The promise that they would be together até ao fim do mundo (until the end of the world).
Featured header image source: Via dei Portoghesi