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leaving the city one night with some fifty
horse and foot, lay in ambush in the vines
by the bridge of Alcantara. The first


Nun' Alvarez

boatload of twenty Spaniards to land was
driven headlong into the sea, but a larger
force came ashore and the Portuguese,
seeing themselves outnumbered five to one,

Nun' Alvarez, left alone, spurred his
horse to a gallop and dashed into the midst
of the enemy. His excellent armour stood
him in good stead, but his lance was shat-
tered, his horse cut down, and one of his
spurs caught in the saddle as he fell. Thus
disabled he still fought on, and then for
very shame his followers turned to assist
him. The first to come up was a Lisbon
priest, afterwards Canon of Lisbon Cathe-

Nun' Alvarez, hearing a few months
later that the King was to engage the enemy
between Elvas and Badajoz, proposed to
his elder brother Pedr' Alvarez, who had
succeeded their father as Prior of Crato,
that they should have a hand in the fight-
ing. Pedro, who had orders to defend
Lisbon and intended to obey them, re-
fused, and, having previous acquaintance


Portuguese Portraits

of Nuno's methods, gave instructions that
no armed persons should be allowed to
leave the city. Nuno with a few atten-
dants dashed past the guard at the gate
and rode post-haste to Elvas. He was
well received by the king, but again there
was no fighting. Peace and the betrothal
of Beatrice were celebrated in a banquet
at Elvas. King Ferdinand was too ill to
attend, but King Juan was present.

Nun' Alvarez, in his bitterness at seeing
Portugal given over to Castille, for once
forgot his manners. He and his brother
Fernao, going in more leisurely than the
rest, found all the tables crowded, and, un-
able to obtain a place, he pushed away the
support from one of the tables, which went
crashing to the ground, and calmly went
out. King Juan remarked that be who
so acted had a heart for greater things,
but, in the words of the old chronicle, had
they been Castilians he might have spoken

After King Ferdinand's death Nun'
Alvarez, brooding over his country's wrongs,


Nun' Alvarez

keenly took the part of the young Master
of Avis. He was not present at the mur-
der of the Queen's favourite, the Count
Andeiro, but he approved the act, and
when news of it reached him at Santarem
he hastened to Lisbon to the Master of

It was at Santarem one evening as ho
sauntered along the banks of the Tagus
after supper that he chanced to pass the
door of an armourer and sent for his sword
to be sharpened. The alfageme refused
any payment till he should return as Count
of Ourem. Hail to thee, Thane of Caw-
dor ! The story adds that Nun' xA.lvarez,
returning Conde de Ourem to Santarem
after the battle of Aljubarrota, found the
armourer in prison as a friend of Castille
and his property confiscated, and was able,
by protecting him, to pay his debt.

Nun' Alvarez now became one of the
Prince of Avis' Council, his most loyal and
most trusted counsellor to the end of their
lives. His first important command was
in Alentejo, and after delaying in order to


Portuguese Portraits

take part in a fight with eight Spanish
ships in the Tagus he set out at the head
of his two hundred horsemen. Hence-
forth Evora, the ancient walled city in the
wide plain of Alentejo, was his headquar-
ters. He instilled confidence into his men
and increased his army, although it rarely
exceeded five hundred horse and as many
thousand foot, and was often very much
below that number.

The war continued with varying success.
At one time Nun' Alvarez advanced to
Badajoz, at another the Spanish were at
Viana, but a couple of leagues from Evora
across the flowered charneca. But Nun'
Alvarez seized town after town and more
than once defeated the enemy in the open
field. Monsaraz was taken by a wile, for
some cows v/ere driven temptingly beneath
the walls and when the commander sallied
out to seize them the Portuguese rushed
in through the open gate. Nun' Alvarez'
favourite method was to ride all night
across the charneca and appear unex-
pectedly before a town in the early dawn,


Nun' Alvarez

so that the enemy called him " Dawn
Nuno," Nuno Madrugada.

Thus he attacked Almada. He had but
recently taken Palmella on the height over-
looking the Tagus, and, hunting in the
neighbourhood, had slain a boar and sent
it as a present to the commander of Al-
mada, promising to pay him a visit soon.
He now set out to ride thither by night
across the charneca, but they lost their
way in the many paths, and the sun was up
when Nun' Alvarez, in his eagerness out-
riding his companions, advanced alone into
the town. Four squii^es presently came
up to his support, and Almada was taken
without difficulty.

The Master of Avis had summoned Nun'
x\lvarez to Lisbon or Nun' Alvarez had
determined to see the Master. From Pal-
mella one night looking across the river he
saw the whole city apparently in flames.
Not knowing that the fires were lit by the
King of Castille, whom plague in his camp
had forced to raise the siege, and aware
that the Master had powerful enemies


Portuguese Portraits

within the walls, he watched the con-
flagration in dismay, but next morning the
city reappeared in all its beauty.

The Spanish fleet remained in the Tagus,
and a squire besought Nun' Alvarez not to
cross, saying that he had dreamt that the
enemy had captured him as he passed,
tlii'ough their fleet. Nun' Alvarez went
on his way, leaving the squire vvith his
dream on the further shore. When he was
in mid-stream, still perhaps thinking of
the timid cscudeiro, he bade his trumpets
blow the enemy a challenge. But the
CastiHans little imagined what a prey was
within their grasp, and his small boat passed
through safely to Lisbon.

A little later he joined the Master of
Avis at Torres Vedras and together they
advanced to Coimbra, w^here the Master
was crowned king as Joao I. His first act
was to appoint Nun' Alvarez his Constable.

At Oporto, whither he went to organise
a fleet, Nun' Alvarez found his wife and
daughter, who had been prisoners of the
Castilians for a time at Guimaraes.


Nun' Alvarez

From Oporto he set out on a pilgrimage
to Santiago de Compostela. His purpose
was threefold, " to serve God in pilgrim-
age," to reduce Minho on the way, and to
secure mounts for his men. But the
River Minho was too swollen to cross, and
the news that Braga was wavering thus
came opportunely. Leaving Viana do Cas-
tello he turned east along the beautiful
valley of the Lima and seized the little
granite town of Ponte do Lima and Braga
on its steep hill. The King had also come
north, but the news that King Juan had
crossed the Beira frontier and was ad-
vancing rapidly into the heart of Portugal
brought them south again.

At Abrantes the King held a council.
Many were of opinion that he should not
advance further against the enemy. Nun'
Alvarez — the same Nuno who had ridden
alone into two hundred and fifty of the
enemy on the banks of the Tagus and
advanced alone into Almada — thereupon
set out with his men, and in the name of
God and Saint George sent a challenge


Portuguese Portraits

to the King of Castille. Each fresh suc-
cess of Nun' Alvarez had raised him
envious backbiters in Portugal, and here
was a new opportunity to accuse him of
arrogance. King Joao silenced his accusers
by following him to Thomar.

They then went west to Our em and
took up a position towards Leiria. The
advance of the King of Castille caused them
to turn the front of their battle towards
the little village of Aljubarrota. The Por-
tuguese, barely 5,000 strong, were out-
numbered seven to one, but they were
drawn up on foot in a small compact force
and desperate, flight being practically cut
Oil. On the right was the Ala dos Naniora-
dos, the lovers' wing, pledged to yield no
inch of ground ; on the left fought a few
hundred English archers, gens-d'armes An-
glois si peu qu'il en y avoit, says Froissart.

The Spanish chronicler and poet, Pero
Lopez de Ayala, and Nun' Alvarez' brother
Diogo rode over before the battle and
asked to speak with him alone, but suc-
ceeded neither in winning him to their side


Nun' Alvarez

nor in casting suspicion on his loj-^alty.
As he had said when fighting against his
brothers earUer in Alentejo, for the land
that gave him birth he would fight against
his own father.

At nine o'clock on the morning of
August 15, 1385, the battle began with a
great hurling of stones, followed by fight-
ing with the lance, and then at still closer
quarters with axe and sword. Nun' Al-
varez was constantly where the fight raged
most fiercely, and his words " Fight, Portu-
guese, fight for king and country " kept
ringing out above the din. The flower of
Castilian chivalry fell that day and many
Portuguese nobles fightmg for Castille.
Nun' Alvarez saw his brother the Master
of Calatrava fall pierced by a lance, but
was never able to find his body. The King
of Castille fled to Santarem. The Convent
of Alcoba9a still preserves a huge cauldron
taken from the enemy^^t Aljubarrota, but
the noblest memorial of Nun' Alvarez'
victory is the Church and Monastery of


Portuguese Portraits

Nun' Alvarez, not yet as old as Napoleon
when he conquered Italy, crossed the
Guadiana with a few hundred horse and a
few thousand foot and advanced into
Castille. All the nobles from the south of
Spain who had not been present at Alju-
barrota collected to give him battle. The
enemy, he was told, were as the grass of the
field in number. " All the greater will be
our honour," said Nun' Alvarez.

A trumpeter with a bundle of rods knelt
before Nun' Alvarez seated to receive
him : " My Lord Constable, the Master
of Santiago, my lord, sends to defy you
with this rod," and the Master of Cala-
trava, the Master of Alcantara, the Count
of Medina Celi and many another had sent
him rods of defiance. The Constable re-
ceived them one by one patiently, gave
the messenger a hundred gold pieces and
bade him thank the senders for the rods
with which he would presently come and
beat them.

The battle of Valverde that followed was
an attack of several hills from which the


Nun' Alvarez

enemy had to be dislodged. " If Portuguese
kneel in battle," said a later, sixteenth-
century historian, "it is to the Cross of
Christ " ; and certainly it was from no fear
or weakness that Nun' Alvarez, wounded
by an arrow in the foot, knelt to pray in
the thickest of the fight. Anxious mes-
sengers came up with news that his men
were hard pressed, imploring his presence,
but he, without answering, still knelt in
prayer. At last rising with a look of great
joy he ordered on his standard to the
attack, and a few hours later no Spaniard
was to be seen.

It was in memory of this battle that the
Constable built the Church and Convent
of Carmo, still in its ruins one of the most
beautiful of Lisbon's buildings. This was
the last of his great battles, although he
saw much more fighting (for peace with
Castille did not come for many years),
and when fifty-five years old took part in
the expedition that conquered Ceuta.

But his abiding fame was won when he
was twenty-five. His success was due to

D 33

Portuguese Portraits

his singleness of purpose. The indepen-
dence of Portugal was his object, and to
secure that object he put forth his whole
strength not only ungrudgingly, but with
a passionate eagerness, his strength based
on deep piety and faith. A keen judge of
men, he was terrible in his calm disdain to
those whom he suspected of shirking or
treachery ; without a word of abuse on his
part he made their humiliation unbearable.
But he inspired his followers with extra-
ordinary devotion. His clear, piercing eyes
and his self-possession gave them confi-
dence — des yeux j)leins de mitraille et un
air de tranquillit e~3.nd he was always
generous in rewarding constancy and
valour. His energy, fearless courage and
fervent serenity won many a fight against
overpowering odds.

His fame extended throughout Spain.
One evening near Caceres ten henchmen
appeared before him. The Count received
them kindly, and on hearing that they were
from Castille asked how they were so bold
as to come without safe-conduct. Relying


Nun' Alvarez

on his great goodness, they said. He then
asked what he could do for them, and they
announced that their only object in coming
was to see him, and now they had seen
him ; and so, refusing the supper he
ordered for them, they departed as they
had come.

Many incidents show his power over his
own men. Once, when they were unwill-
ing to go forward to attack a superior
force, he just stepped across a stream and
bade those who were willing to follow him
cross it, and not one held back.

On another occasion an uproar arose in
his camp owing to the fact that the day's
booty had consisted of " many and good
wines." The Constable came unarmed
from his tent, but many soldiers, seeing
him thus and hearing the noise, rushed
forward to protect him and formed a
canopy of swords over his head.

The irregular pay and supplies received
for his men made it difficult to maintain
strict discipline ; for some days they lived
entirely on figs, then as now one of the


Portuguese Portraits

principal fruits south of the Tagus ; for one
whole day Nun' Alvarez' own food con-
sisted merely of a piece of dry bread, a
turnip, and a drink of wine from the flask
of a common soldier. Another time there
was no bread in the whole camp except five
small loaves reserved for Nun' Alvarez'
table ; five starving Englishmen came up,
and he entertained them to dinner, giving
each a loaf of bread.

It was impossible in such circumstances
to forbid or prevent plunder when it was
obtainable. But, although he was obliged
to allow his followers to live on the land,
he set his face against any unnecessary
pilfering, and one squire, convicted of tak-
ing a chalice from a church, he sentenced
to be burnt — indeed, the wood was piled
and the fire lit before he pardoned him at
the instance of his captains.

In the teeth of great opposition, too, he
resolutely forbade the presence of women
in his camp.

He was not less renowned for his chivalry
towards the weak, women, prisoners, and


Nun' Alvarez

peasants, than for his victories in battle.
He provided pensions for " women who
had been honoured and prosperous and
were now poor."

But his chivalry went further. A coun-
tess at Coimbra who had held out against
him, and then plotted to seize his person
by treachery, he secured from the reprisals
of his followers ; the wife of the commander
of a captured town he sent away free to
Castille. And these were no isolated in-
stances ; his conduct never varied in its
simplicit}^ dignity and charming thought
for others.

His biographers love to tell of the poor
blind man of Torres Vedras who had no
way of escaping from the advancing Cas-
tilians and whom Nun' Alvarez carried be-
hind him on his mule for four leagues out
of the town. " Oo que humano e caridoso
senor ! " exclaims the old chi'onicler.

But it is the incidents of an illness when
he was between thirty and forty that
throw most light on his character and on
the devoted attachment of those around


Portuguese Portraits

him. The fever and deep depression that
came over him seem to have been in part,
at least, due to the perpetual self-seeking
and mendicity with which he had to deal
now that he was a power in the land as
great as the King himself — greater, said
his enemies. Sometimes, we are told, he
seemed to have recovered from his illness,
and then the very sight of a stranger,
especially of a man with a letter, would
give him a relapse. His secretary found
it necessary to intercept all letters.

Nun' Alvarez, who had sought health in
vain at Lisbon, set out to return to Evora.
Accompanied by his mother and his daugh-
ter, he was carried in a litter to Palmella.
His illness prevented him from going
further, and he was taken to the small
village of Alfarrara, where there were many
trees and streams. The very sight of the
garden of the quinta where he was to lodge
seemed to restore his health. Several of
the foremost citizens of Setubal came to
welcome him, and he received them gladly ;
but, as they were leaving, one of them


Nun' Alvarez

(who was very stout) had the misfortune
to bid him " remember the town of

Nun' Alvarez, thus reminded of " men
with letters," fell into so great a passion
and fever that he was like to die. He
refused to eat, and it was only after much
coaxing that he was persuaded to sit down
at table. They brought him water for his
hands and roast birds to eat. His daugh-
ter began to carve them before him, and
his mother fanned him with a fan ; but he
refused to eat, telling his mother that
" that bloated churl with his Setubal has
been the death of me."

His secretary, Gil Airaz, would have
excused the offender, but Nun' Alvarez
turned on him in a rage : "The fellow,
for what he said, deserved a score of blows,
and if you cared for me or my health you
would have given him them."

Gil Airaz said that there was still time,
if that was his pleasure, and the Constable
answered that such a pleasure would seem
to him all too long in coming. So the


Portuguese Portraits

secretary, in his presence, took a stick and
went out. When he came back and told
him how he had beaten and kicked and
covered with mud and water the citizen
of Setubal, Nun' Alvarez seemed to re-
cover instantly and began to eat and

To any other man, lord of half Portugal,
it might perhaps have seemed a little
thing to have had a citizen beaten and
rolled in a ditch, but presently Nun'
Alvarez stopped eating, his eyes filled with
tears, and he began to wish he was dead.
" Do you not see, Gil Airaz," he said,
" that it would have been better for me
to die than that you should have done
what you did to that good man ? " " Now
would to God I had no part of all that
land that God and my Lord the King have
given me, so that this thing were un-
done ! "

When Gil Airaz saw that he was in
earnest he told him how he had only made
a pretence of having beaten the man of
Setubal and how all the citizens had gone


Nun' Alvarez

contentedly home. Nun' Alvarez was so
overjoyed at this that he rose straightway
from the table and went out to the orchard
and flowing streams. In three months,
with the help of the King's physicians,
he was well, and going alone with a
page he set to cutting the brushwood in
front of him, and found his strength had

There is something infinitely touching
in this story about a man who was usually
so calm and restrained that he might be
in a passion of anger and only show it —
to those who knew him — by his smile,
and whose whole life was marked by ex-
ceptional strength of will. But his old
vigour returned, and very soon he was
challenging the Master of Santiago, begging
him not to tire himself in advancing
through so hot a country, as he, " Nun'
Alvarez Pereira, Count of Barcellos and
of Ourem and of Arrayolos and Constable
of my Lord the King of Portugal," would
save him the trouble.

The great grief of the latter part of his


Portuguese Portraits

life was the death of his daughter Beatriz,
Countess of Barcellos, and his hfe must
have been lonely despite the friendship of
the King and especially of Prince Duarte,
heir to the throne. Before the expedition
to Ceuta the}^ went to ask his advice
under pretext of consulting him about
some dogs for the chase, so as to keep the
secret of their enterprise. None better
than the King knew the value of Nun'
Alvarez' opinion. He always seemed to
know precisely the right thing to be
done and the right moment to do it,
was as far removed from boasting and
vanity as from false humility, and re-
spected his own rights as well as those
of others.

In charity he gave liberally, but never
carelessly. Thus he yearly bestowed the
same quantity of cloth, but bestowed it
in different districts, and stored the corn
from his estates, to be given away in years
of scarcity.

Before the end of the fourteenth century
(1393) he divided most of his land, that


Nun' Alvarez

is a great part of Portugal, between his
followers. Large portions of Tras-os-
Montes, Minho, and Alentejo belonged to
him. He was Count of Ourem, of Arrayolos
and Barcellos, Lord of Braga, Guimaraes,
Chaves, Montalegre, and nearly a score of
other towns. His policy of dividing these
lands among his vassals under condition
that they should maintain certain forces
in his and the King's service, proved un-
satisfactory. Like the sated Marshals of
Napoleon, they were subsequently less
willing to leave their estates and risk their
persons in battle.

The King, who had been too lavish in
his gifts, proposed to buy back his grants
of land. Other nobles agreed to sell, but
Nun' Alvarez was resolved not to brook
the injustice, and, far from agreeing to
the proposal, departed to Alentejo and
gathered his followers with a view to leave
Portugal, although, as he said, he would
never serve any other king.

King Joao, thoroughly alarmed, sent
the Bishop of Evora, the Dean of Coimbra


Portuguese Portraits

and the Master of the Order of Avis post-
haste after him. But Nun' Alvarez then,
as always when he seemed to be acting
rashly on impulse, was carrying out a
quick but well-reasoned decision, and was
only with difificulty persuaded to a com-
promise. It was finally agreed that his
vassals should be transferred to the King,
while Nun' Alvarez was to retain in his
own hands most of his territorial posses-
sions. Seven years after the victorious
capture of Ceuta he again renounced

He had always been a man of great
piety ; after one of his victories he had
gone barefoot in pilgrimage to Santa Maria
de Assumar ; he had founded churches
throughout the country, heard mass twice
or thrice daily, and would rise at mid-
night to pray the hours. But it was pro-
bably the death of his only daughter that
moved him to retire to serve God in the
monastery of Santa Maria do Carmo, which
he had founded in memory of his victory
of Valverde. There, on August 15, 1423,



Nun' Alvarez

he professed as Frei Nuno de Santa Maria,
after giving away all his lands and titles.
Of his daughter's three children, Isabel
married the Infante Joao, Affonso became
Conde de Ourem, and, later, Marquez de
Valenga, and Fernando, Conde de Arra-
yolos and, later, Duke of Braganza.

When Nun' Alvarez, penniless, retired
to his cell it was his purpose to beg his
daily bread in the streets of Lisbon, and
he also intended to end his days where he
might be quite unknown ; but Prince
Duarte went to see him at the Carmo and
affectionately ordered him to accept a
pension from the King, a great part of
which, however, he spent in charities.

In 1431, in his seventy-first year, and
two years before his life-long friend. King
Joao, the greatest of all Portugal's great
men died. "God grant him as m.uch glory
and honour as in this world was his," says
the old chronicle.

Surely no truer man or more chivalrous
knight ever donned helmet or drew sword.
Tradition says that the Lisbon people long


Portuguese Portraits

assembled to sing songs and witness many
miracles at his grave. But his fittest and
most enduring monuments are the noble
buildings of Carmo and Batalha, and, above
all, a free and united Portugal.




(1394— 1460)



\.* M







(1394— 1460)

Ca trabalho seria de se achar antre os vivos seu semel-
hante. — Gomez Eannez de Azurara, Cronica de GuiiU.

Mestre insigne de toda a arte militar. — D. Francisco
Manoel de Meli.o.

O homem a quern a Europa deve mais, — Jose Agostin-
Ho DE Macedo, Motim Literario.

For some years before his death, Nun'
Alvarez might well rest satisfied with the
prosperity which largely by his own exer-
tions had fallen upon his country. Nor
was it a careless or degenerate prosperity.
The five noble sons of King Jgao I and
his English wife, Queen Philippa, daughter
of " time-honoured Lancaster," had grown
to manhood, and the time was pregnant
with great deeds. If Duarte was per-
haps Nun' Alvarez' favourite among the

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