Peter I of Portugal: The Just King

Peter I of Portugal
April 8, 1320 – January 18, 1367

Early Life

Peter I was born on April 8, 1320 to King Afonso IV of Portugal. In 1340, the prince became infatuated with his wife’s lady-in-waiting, Ines de Castro. Ines was a beautiful Galician noblewoman. Although related, Peter and Ines started a relationship. Upon his wife’s death, Peter began to live openly with Ines.

The Prince eventually came into conflict with his father over Ines. Peter sought to marry her while Afonso IV refused to allow it. The prince hoped to gain the pope’s permission to marry Ines and legitimize their four children. As a result of Ines’ relationship, her Castro relatives started gaining influence. Fearful of the Castros, Afonso worried that they were trying to gain political power through Peter.

After hearing that Ines’ brother tried to convince the prince to invade Castile, Afonso IV ordered the Castro’s deaths. In January 1355, a group of Portuguese nobles enacted their king’s order. Although Ines begged for her life, the assassins showed no mercy. Ignoring her plies, Ines was killed in front of her children. In response to his mistress’ death, an enraged Peter revolted.

King of Portugal

Afonso IV of Portugal
Afonso IV of Portugal

The prince’s revolt proved to be short-lived. Despite his betrayal, Afonso IV would reconcile with his son. In 1357, the old king died, and the prince succeeded him as Peter I. The new king initially focused on avenging Ines’ death. To this end, he relentlessly hunted down the assassins. Many of the nobles were caught and promptly executed.

As a show of love and respect, Peter I built Ines a white marble tomb. The king also gave her a funeral worthy of a queen. Perhaps due to Ines’ untimely death, Peter focused on reforming the Portuguese justice system. During his reign, the king made an effort to prevent royal authority from being abused. He also sought to enhance the monarchy’s power.

Nobility

Peter I had a cordial relationship with the Portuguese nobility. Unlike his father, the king avoided conflict with his nobles. As a result, the king abandoned any centralization plans. At court, the king tended to reward his relatives and favorites. Despite not receiving the church’s permission, the king declared his two illegitimate sons by Ines legitimate. The king also had his youngest illegitimate son, John, become the master of Aviz, a military organization.

Foreign Policy

Under Peter I, Portugal remained at peace with its neighbor, Castile. Continuing Afonso IV’s policy, the king didn’t interfere in Castilian politics. However, during the late 1350s, the king provided Castile with military aid against Aragon. After 1363, the king maintained a neutral policy during the rest of his reign.

Portuguese Church

As king, Peter I made efforts to nationalize the Portuguese church. The king increased his control over the church by issuing the beneplacito regio. This order required the church to first submit their letters to the monarchy before being published. In turn, the king successfully curbed the clergy’s former power.

Final Years

During the last few years of his reign, Peter I focused on maintaining peace and securing his throne. On January 18, 1367, the king died. Although he had many illegitimate sons, the king’s son by his wife, Ferdinand, would succeed him. Unfortunately, Ferdinand would prove to be ill-suited for the kingship.

Conclusion

Peter I began his reign by avenging his mistress’ death. After taking his revenge, the king focused on improving his kingdom. During his reign, the king reformed the justice system, satisfied the nobility, and subjugated the Portuguese church. By the end of his reign, Peter left a secure Portugal at peace with its neighbors.

Sources

Disney, A. R. (2009). A History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire: From Beginnings to 1807 (Vol. 1). New York City, NY: Cambridge University Press.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2020, April 04). Peter I. Retrieved August 13, 2020, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Peter-I-king-of-Portugal

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Andy Tree

I'm a European history enthusiast who seeks to share his passion with others. I hope to inform and inspire readers with my posts!

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