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Henry, were in 1414 respectively 23, 22, and 20 years
of age ; they longed to win their knightly spurs, and
to show themselves worthy cousins of Henry V. of
England. The King of Portugal did not wish to
check their ardour ; he felt the need of occupying
the energies of his youthful nobility ; and as there
were no enemies at home, he acquiesced in the desire
of his sons to attack the old enemies of Portugal, the
Moors, in Morocco. By such an expedition against
the Mohammedans the young princes would show
themselves crusaders, and would find adversaries
worthy of their swords, without arousing the jealous
watchfulness of the King of Castile. Ceuta was the
city of Africa selected for attack, not only because it
was the chief port of the Moors in the north-western
corner of Africa and threatened the south of Spain,
but also because it was the headquarters of the
numerous corsairs and pirates, who preyed upon the
already growing traffic of Portugal with the west
coast of Africa, and at times made descents upon the
Portuguese province of the Algarves. The expedition
sailed from Lisbon in 141 5 ; the three princes were
followed by the flower of the Portuguese chivalry, and
accompanied by their two boy brothers, Dom John,
who was but fifteen, and Dom Ferdinand not yet
thirteen; from her deathbed the Queen sent her



blessing, and in the month of June the expedition
safely disembarked on the African coast. The Moors
fought bravely on their native soil, and it was not
until 24th of August that the city of Ccuta was
stormed, after a siege, in which the sons of John the
Great showed themselves to be gallant soldiers and
prudent leaders. This conquest was of importance
in two ways ; it was the first conquest made by the


{From her recumbent statue over the tomb at Batalha.)

Portuguese outside the limits of their own country,
and was therefore a proof of their energy and the
expansion of their power ; but, on the other hand, it
pointed in a false direction, and was the first of a
scries of African expeditions, which were not profitable
to the country, even when successful, and which
terminated in the great disaster associated with the
name of Dom Sebastian.


The conquest of Ceuta completed, the elder princes
devoted their extraordinary powers of mind and body
to pursuits worthy of the cousins of Henry V. of
England. Dom Edward, so named after his great-
grandfather, Edward III. of England, the eldest son,
married Donna Leonora of Aragon, and helped his
father in the duties of government. He proved an
apt pupil of Joao das Regras, the chancellor, and,
after devoting much time to legal studies, he drew up
the first code of Portuguese law. Dom Pedro, the
next brother, who was created by his father Duke of
Coimbra after the storming of Ceuta, travelled all
over Europe, enjoying in turn the hospitality of
Henry V. of England, of the Emperor, and of the
Pope, and astonishing those monarchs by his abilities.
He proved his valour by fighting beside the Teutonic
knights against the Lithuanians, in the extreme east
of civilised Europe, and his literary taste by his en-
lightened patronage of men of letters in all parts of
the continent. In 1428 he ended his travels, and
settling at Lisbon, he married Donna Isabel, the
daughter of the Count of Urgel, and assisted his
father and elder brother in the duties of government,
taking special interest in the progress of literature,
and co-operating in all the various schemes for the
development of Portugal. The third brother, Dom
Henry, created by his father, Duke of Viseu, and
appointed Master of the Order of Christ, and governor
of the kingdom of the Algarves, has left his mark
on the history of the world as Prince Henry "the
Navigator, " This prince refused all the offers of the
Pope, the Emperor, and of Henry V., to visit their


courts, and established himself in 1418 at Sagre in
order to devote himself and his wealth to the cause
of discovering a continuous route by sea to India,
which should bring the trade of Asia and its profits
to the Portuguese. His efforts and the discoveries
he superintended form the subject of a separate
chapter, but it must be remembered that in all his
efforts he was seconded by his father and elder
brothers. The fourth brother, Dom John, Master of
the Order of Santiago, married his niece Isabel,
daughter of the Count of Barcellos, and became
eventually third Constable of Portugal. The fifth
brother, Dom Ferdinand, who earned the title of the
" Constant Prince " in after years, was Master of the
Order of S, Benedict of Aviz, as his father had been
before his elevation to the throne ; his piety was so
well known, that he was requested to enter the Church,
and promised a cardinal's hat by the Pope, but he
refused the honour, longing rather for the glory of a
crusader than the influence of an ecclesiastic, and
winning in the end a martyr's crown. Their sister,
Isabel, was as famous for her beauty, as her brothers
for their valour, wisdom, and piety, and was married
to Philip " the Good " of Burgundy, the founder of the
Order of the Golden Fleece. To mar the unity of
this illustrious and gifted family, there existed a half
brother Afifonso, the son of King John by Ines Pires,
born before the marriage with Philippa of Lancaster,
who was jealous of his legitimate brothers, and ulti-
mately proved the evil genius of their destiny. This
son was regarded with special favour by his father,
who brought about his marriage with Donna Beatrice


Pereira, daughter and heiress of the Holy Constable,
and created him Count of Barcellos.

The latter years of King John " the Great's" fortunate
reign of nearly half a century were marked not only
by the discoveries of Prince Henry " the Navigator,"
but by the development of Portuguese into a literary
language by many talented authors. Mention has been
made of the poetry of the Portuguese troubadours, who
sang in the reign of Diniz, and of the first Portuguese
epic on the battle of the Salado, which foreshadowed
the " Lusiads " of Camoens. But a literary language
is formed not so much by its poetry as by its prose ;
the early poetry of Portugal differed but little from that
of Gallicia, while its prose developed in an indepen-
dent direction. The first Portuguese prose work of any
length or importance was the famous romance of
" Amadis de Gaul," written by Vasco de Lobeira, who
died in 1403. This romance gave rise to a host of
imitations, and the taste for romances was further
developed by the popularity of the " Prophecies of
Merlin," and the Arthurian tales, the knowledge of
which came into Portugal with the English alliance.
The king himself encouraged this literary revival ;
the " Book of the Chase," one of the best specimens
of early Portuguese prose was written for him under
his superintendence, and among his sons, Dom Pedro
wrote poems, and Dom Edward two excellent prose
works, "Instructions in Horsemanship" and "The
Faithful Councillor." More important to notice are
the works of the first great Portuguese chroniclers.
Chronicles of nearly events in Portuguese history had
been written in monasteries, and have a value of their


own, but these works arc little better than annals
noted down year by year with no pretence to literary
form. Next in order stands the anonymous
" Chronica da Conquista do Algarves," which re-
presents the transition from the annalist to the
chronicler, and in the reign of John I., under the
special patronage of the monarch and his sons, the
first great Portuguese chronicler, Fernan Lopes, who
has been called the Froissart of Portugal, wrote his
chronicles of the reigns of Pedro "the Severe" and
Ferdinand " the Handsome," and Matthew de Pisano,
wrote his " Guerra de Ceuta," a history of the famous
expedition of 141 5. These men were the fore-
runners of the great chroniclers of the fifteenth
century, Azurara, Ruy de Pina, and Duarte Galvao.

After a reign, which ranks among the most glorious
in Portuguese history, made famous by maritime
discoveries and literary advancement, leaving behind
him sons worthy and able to guide the people along
the road of civilization to wealth and prosperity,
John I., rightly surnamed " the Great," died at his
palace at Lisbon on August 14, 1433, having sur-
vived his wife Philippa of Lancaster nearly twenty

Contrary to the expectation of his subjects, the
reign of King Edward was but short, and it is marked
only by a signal disaster. His own great qualities,
and the promise he had given of being both a good
and a great king when assisting his father, combined
to raise the highest hopes, which were destined to
be cruelly shattered. On ascending the throne he
believed himself strong enough to take a step, in-


tended to check the perpetuation of power in the
hands of the feudal nobility, which had often been
discussed between his father, his brother Dom Pedro,
Joao das Regras, and himself, and in 1434 he
sunnmoned a full Cortes at Evora. He there pro-
pounded the " Lei Mental " or the provision, which
was assumed to have been in the mind of King John
when he made his extensive grants of land to the
nobility, namely, that they could only descend in the
direct male line of the original grantee, and should
revert to the Crown on failure of such heirs. The
law was carried by the influence of the king's
brothers, in spite of the natural opposition of the
nobility, who never forgave the supporters of the
measure. In other matters Edward simply followed
the example of his father. He continued the English
alliance, ratified the treaty of Windsor, and was made
a Knight of the Garter in his father's room ; he
maintained an attitude of prudent neutrality towards
Castile ; he encouraged the literary movement,
represented by Fernan Lopes, and took an intelligent
interest in the schemes and plans of his brother,
Dom Henry.

But, unfortunately, the king's life was shortened
and Dom Henry's explorations checked for a time
by the fatal expedition to Tangier in 1437. This
expedition was the natural sequel of the expedition
to Ceuta, and was undertaken in opposition to the
advice of the Pope, and of Dom Pedro. It was
entirely the result of the earnest solicitations of the
king's favourite brother, Dom Ferdinand. This
pious young prince burned with crusading ardour ;


his one longing in life was to fight the infidels, and
he could not appreciate the fact that Dom Henry was
doing far greater work for the world in exploring the
coast of Africa, than in killing Mohammedans. The
ardour of Dom Ferdinand won the day, and King
Edward collected a fleet and army in the Tagus,
and sailed for the coast of Africa. The object of
the attack was Tangier and it was most foolishly
chosen. Ceuta was on the sea coast, and the
Portuguese soldiers could use their fleet as a base of
operations, and could retreat to it in case of need ;
whereas Tangier was three miles from the coast. As
might have been foretold, when King Edward with
his eight thousand Portuguese soldiers formed the
siege of Tangier, the Moors at once cut off his
communications with the fleet, and in three days the
Portuguese army was reduced to extremities. It was
only by Dom Ferdinand's willing sacrifice of himself
as a hostage, that the troops were allowed to return
to their ships and find their way back to Lisbon.
This disaster and the captivity of his favourite
brother so preyed upon King Edward's mind that
he died in 1438. His death was happier than that
of Dom Ferdinand, who, after a long and cruel im-
prisonment, borne with such heroic patience and
exemplary piety, as to win for him the title of
" the Constant Prince," died at Fez in 1443.

The noble conduct of Dom Ferdinand, who
preferred death in captivity to safety purchased by the
surrender of Ceuta, the only alternative which the
Moors would accept, has its place also in the great
epic, in which all noble deeds of Portuguese heroes


are commemorated. Speaking of King Edward,
Camoens says :

•' Captive he saw his brother, hight Fernand,
the Saint, aspiring high with purpose brave,
who as a hostage in the Sara'cen's hand,
betrayed himself his 'leaguer'd host to save.
He lived for purest faith to Fatherland
the life of noble Ladye sold a slave,

lest bought with price of Ceita's potent town

to publick welfare be preferred his own.

Codrus, lest foemen conquer, freely chose

to yield his life and, conqu'ering self, to die ;

Regulus, lest his hand in ought should lose,

lost for all time all hopes of liberty ;

this, that Hispania might in peace repose,

chose lifelong thrall, eterne captivity ;
Codrus nor Curtius with man's awe for meed,
nor loyal Decii ever dared such deed." '

The successor of King Edward, his eldest son
Affonso v., afterwards called " the African," was onl>
six years old when he ascended the throne, and hi
reign commenced with a dispute as to the regency.
By his will, Edward had left the regency to his wifr,
Leonora of Aragon, but this arrangement was not
at all satisfactory to the people, and a great
Cortes at Torres Novas set aside the will, and
appointed Dom Pedro, Duke of Coimbra, to be
" defender " of the realm with all the duties oi
government, the Count of Arrayolos, minister oi
justice, and Queen Leonora, guardian of her son, the
young king, with a large allowance. This arrange-
ment shows how great the powers of the Cortes had

' Camoens, " Lusiads," canto iv. stanzas 52, 53 — Burton's transla-


become, and a still more important testimony to their
recognized influence appears in the motion by Dom
Henry, that three members of the Cortes should be
annually elected to reside at the seat of government
during the months in which the Cortes was not in
session. This arrangement was highly unsatisfactory
to the queen, who had expected to be sole regent
under the terms of King Edward's will, and, assisted
by the discontented nobility, headed by the Count
of Barcellos and the Archbishop of Lisbon, she
attacked Dom Pedro, and endeavoured by force to
overthrow the arrangements made by the Cortes of
Torres Novas. The struggle was but a short one ;
the people of Lisbon rose en masse to support the
son of their favourite monarch, John L, in whom
they perceived his father's administrative ability and
love for commerce, and the queen and archbishop were
forced to go into exile. The result of this move-
ment was to seat Dom Pedro firmly in power with
the title of regent and the guardianship of the boy-

The regency of Dom Pedro, better known by his
title of Duke of Coimbra, is marked by the same
features as the reign of his brother Edward ; in it
appears the same consistent attempt to check the
power of the feudal nobility and the same wise
encouragement of commerce. His foreign policy
followed the same lines, and he maintained the
same neutrality with regard to Spain and the same
close alliance with England. In 1439 the regent
solemnly confirmed the Treaty of Windsor in the
young king's name, and was made a Knight of the


Garter, and the same honour was conferred upon
Dom Henry, Duke of Viseu, in 1444, and on Dom
Alvaro Vaz de Almada, Lord High Admiral of
Portugal and Count of Arronches, in 1445. Dom
Pedro also encouraged the maritime explorations of
Dom Henry and the literary revival, which were
making the name of Portugal renowned throughout
Europe, and his power seemed to be at its height,
when, in 1447, his daughter Isabel was married to her
cousin, the king, AfTonso V.

But the great regent counted without the enmity
of the feudal nobility, headed by his own half-brother,
the Count of Barcellos, who was created by the
young king Duke of Braganza. This nobleman had
always been jealous of the legitimate sons of John I.,
and in spite of the kind treatment of Dom Pedro, he
hated the regent. This hatred he instilled into the
mind of Affonso V., who was rather restive under his
uncle's control, and he eventually persuaded the
young king that his uncle and father-in-law had
poisoned both his father, King Edward, and his
mother, Donna Leonora. Affonso V. believed these
libels, and ordered the great regent to leave the
Court: Dom Pedro obeyed ; but the vengeance of
the Duke of Braganza was not yet satisfied, and he
gladly led an army to arrest the Duke of Coimbra
on his estates. Dom Pedro, deserted by all his old
friends and sycophants, except the Lord High
Admiral, yet determined to fight, and he defeated
the Duke of Braganza at Penella. Affonso V. then
declared his former guardian a traitor, and sum-
moned the feudal nobility to his side. The nobles


were only too happy to aid him, and in the hotly-
contested battle of Alfarrobeira the friends of the
regent were defeated, and Dom Pedro, Dom Jaym6,
his only son, and the Lord High Admiral, were slain,
on May 21, 1449.

Affonso v., at the beginning of his personal
government, yielded to the influence of the Duke of
Braganza and his sons, who humoured his desire for
knightly fame and his dream of sitting on the throne
of Castile, and who obtained vast grants of royal
property for themselves. Among them they secured
the lordships of the old royal city of Guimaraens, the
birthplace of Affonso Henriques, and even of Oporto,
the second city of the kingdom ; but they never got
possession of the latter, owing to the fierce resist-
ance of the citizens. The young king's main idea
at this time was to win fame as a knight and a
crusader, and unfortunately this whim led him towards
the country which was to be the tomb of his dynasty.
It was to raise funds for the expeditions which won
him the title of " the African " that Affonso first
issued the beautiful coins known as crusados, and
with money raised by this means he paid the ex-
penses of his three expeditions. In the first of
these adventures, in 1458, he took Alcazar es Seghir,
or Alcacer Scguier ; in the second, in 1464, he failed ;
and in the third, in 147 1, he took Anafe, Tangier,
and Arzila. It was in these expeditions that he use-
lessly exhausted the strength of his people, but
nevertheless the works of maritime exploration went
on apace, though with less energy after the death of
Dom Henry "the Navigator" in T460.


From wasting the power of his kingdom in African
wars Affonso V. turned to a still more fatal pursuit, the
encouragement of his dream of sitting on the throne
of Castile. The lessons of his grandfather's reign were
lost on him ; he failed to understand that the two
countries had developed on separate lines and could
not coalesce, and did not see that in a contest
Portugal, owing to her smaller population, must needs
have the worst of it, unless the war were national
and calculated to rouse the spirit of enthusiasm and
not merely dynastic. His family was now at the
height of its fame — his aunt Isabel was Duchess of
Burgundy ; his eldest sister had married the Emperor
Frederick III. ; his youngest sister had married Henry
IV. of Castile ; and his remaining sister, Catherine,
had been sought in marriage by the son of the King
of Aragon and by Edward IV. of England. His
first wife, Isabel, the daughter of the great regent,
Dom Pedro, had died in 1455, after giving birth to
the prince who was to be John II., and it was not
until after his third expedition to Africa that he
contemplated a fresh marriage, which should give
him a claim to the succession to the throne of Castile.

With this idea Affonso V. married his own niece,
Joanna, elder daughter of Henry IV. of Castile
(though but a girl of thirteen), in 1475, and he claimed
the kingdom of Castile in her name. But the
Castilians preferred the Infanta Isabella, who had
married Ferdinand, King of Aragon, and they were
as determined to prevent a Portuguese king from
sitting upon their throne, as the century before the
Portuguese had been against the union of their


country with Castile, The Castilians, fighting for
their independence, as utterly defeated the Portu-
guese at Toro in 1476 as the Portuguese had de-
feated them at Aljubarrota in 1385. Afifonso hurried
to France, to beg help from Louis XL ; but his
supplication was unheeded, and in 1478 he found
himself constrained to sign the Treaty of Alcantara,
by which he agreed to send his newly-married bride
to a convent. He remained inconsolable at this failure
of his schemes, and alternately abdicated and returned
to the throne, until his death in 148 1.

The "Re Cavelleiro," or knightly king, had thus
done his best to upset the results of the wise policy
of his grandfather, John " the Great." Fortunately he
had not done much harm, and his son and successor,
John IL, proved himself able to do more than
compensate for his father's mistakes. But it must
not be considered that Affonso V. was a worthless
king of the type of Ferdinand "the Handsome" ; he
was rather a restless knight after the fashion of Count
Henry of Burgundy. He had literary tastes as well ;
he wrote much and ably on various subjects, and
showed a great knowledge of what a king ought to be
—perhaps learnt from the " Cyropaedia " of Xenophon,
which had been specially translated for his instruction
by the orders of the Duke of Coimbra. He was a
liberal patron of men of letters, and made Duarte
Galvao " Chronista Mor do Reino," or Chronicler-
General of the kingdom ; and he appointed Azurara,
another chronicler, librarian and keeper of the ar-
chives at the Torre del Tombo. He collected a
great library at Evora, and founded the Order of


S Crown piece of John V.
Crusado (400 reis) value = 2s.

(3) Crusado novo.

(4) Eight tostoens piece (80 reis).


(5) Quartinho d'oui

(6) Sixteen tostoens

(7) Half moidore p;

(8) Half moidore ol

(9) Moidore of Joh;

^-t COINS.

Ss. lod.


10) Gold piece of 77 tostoens, value = ;i^i 15s. 6d.

11) Two-and-a-half moidore piece, value = ;^3 ^s.

12) Dobrao of Joiin V., value = /'3 lis.
(13) Five moidore piece, value = ;^6 5s.


the Tower and Sword ; but perhaps the truest sign
of the greatness which existed somewhere in his
character is to be found in his answer to the chronicler
Acenheiro, who asked how he should write the
chronicle of his reign, when he said simply, " Tell
the truth."

These, then, were the kings who reigned in Portugal
during the age of discovery. It is now time to see
the nature, extent, and value of these discoveries,
which were paving the way for the heroic age of
Portuguese history.

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The internal history of Portugal under the rule of
John "the Great," his son Edward, and his grandson
Affonso v., has an interest of its own, yet it is not
at home that the most important development of
Portuguese energy is to be perceived. Great as were
the services rendered to Portugal by King John,
they mark no stages in the progress of Europe as
the achievements of Dom Henry, his son, have done.
Around the name of this prince, the discoveries of
the Portuguese navigators may best be grouped, for
he was the guiding spirit of these adventurers, and
alike inspired and rewarded them.

Henry, Duke of Viseu, Grand Master of the Order
of Christ, and governor of the Algarves, was the third
son of John "the Great" and Philippa of Lancaster, and
after winning great credit in the capture of Ceuta, he
took up his residence at Sagre, near Cape St. Vincent,

Online LibraryH. Morse (Henry Morse) StephensPortugal → online text (page 9 of 29)