Inês de Castro

Girl meets prince. Prince loves girl. A happy ending ensues. Right?

Maybe for some lucky gals like two Duchesses I can think of, but this used to be a dangerous game to play. When reputation was everything, becoming a mistress was a risk, but mistress to the King came with a target on your back. For some, this works wonderfully, and they wield their influence like a sword to hurt their enemies. If your enemy is the King, this does not work, and you would find yourself counting your days. 

Inês de Castro did not set out to seduce a Prince nor to capture his heart. Her life started out peacefully in Castile as the illegitimate daughter of  Pedro Fernández de Castro, Lord of Lemos and Sarria, with his noble Portuguese mistress Aldonça Lourenço de Valadares. Between them she was closely related to the royal family, albeit through illegitimate lines. 

She was 14 when she fled war torn Castile and entered the house of Princess Constanza of Castile. Constanza was the wife of Prince Pedro of Portugal and while their marriage was content, it was not a love match. They would have three children together, though only two survived: Ferdinand I of Portgual and Maria, Marchioness of Tortosa. Their life together was comfortable. 

Pedro fell in love with Inês almost immediately, and began a secret affair with her. According to rumor, she had golden blonde hair, milky skin, and blue eyes, and her beauty awestruck Pedro. As long as Constanza was alive they could not marry, and they were content with this arrangement, though most were not overjoyed. Constanza even attempted to halt the affair by naming her godmother to their 1st son, Luis, in an effort to ‘make her part of the family’ and essentially deem the affair incestuous. It did not work and when his father, Afonso IV, learned of the affair, he sent Inês to be imprisoned near the Castilian border. 

 When the Princess died in 1345, Pedro defied his father and brought his love back to his side. The two men began to fight, and Pedro refused to marry anyone other than his Inês. Afonso continued to send her from court, but eventually Pedro simply joined her. They lived in seclusion for around 10 years, in which period they had 4 children. Nobles, who had deemed Inês unable to become Queen, began rumors that Inês and her brothers (Pedro’s closest friends and advisors) would convince the Prince to disinherit his son with Constanza and that the couple was already secretly married. 

After a year of hearing these rumors, Afonso decided to do something about this, and traveled to the convent they were residing in while Pedro was hunting. Three assassins accompanied the king. Some believe the king was moved to mercy when his grandchildren came into view, but the reality is it doesn’t matter. Whether he almost saved the mother of these children is irrelevant for Inês still ends up stabbed and beheaded on Janurary 7, 1355 in front of one of these children. 

The craziest part? The king thought his son would simply forget about her, and move on. He judged this act of brutality would bring the two men to peace… It surprises no one that he was wrong, and Pedro will never be the same. His heart blackens as he revolts against his father, and he craves to revenge the woman who held his heart. 

He lost the rebellion, but two years later Afonso is dead and Pedro is King. He is known as Pedro ‘the Cruel’ and sometimes ‘the Just’ due to his love of justice and dispensing it himself. His first acts as King are revenge and to reinter Inês in a grand tomb meant for the both of them. She is declared Queen posthumously and another rumor is Pedro dressed her corpse and forced the nobles, who rejected her in life, to bow to her in death. There is no proof he did anything other than rebury her, but the image is both disturbing and satisfying knowing the life she lived. If those men had simply accepted her, and that she was not attempting to annex Portugal into Castile, maybe Pedro would have been a king of mercy. We will never know if that is true or not, but we do know Inês inspired the type of love in Pedro that completely broke him at her loss. When he finally had his grasp on two of the three assassins, he personally, and literally, ripped their hearts out of their chest. 

Their love story has been told over and over again beginning as early as 1572 as part of an epic by Luís de Camões named ‘The Lusíadas’ as well as various plays and poems. There are over 20 operas and ballets about their tragic story, making it immortal. 

We don’t know much about Inês herself, other than she must have carried a calming strength within her to inspire such loyalty and despair. She spent years being threatened and bullied, fearing for her children, simply because a man chose to love her. We do not know if she loved him the same way he loved her, but personally I hope she did. I hope the pain and suffering she endured to be loved by him was for mutual love and that they found peace after his death. 

The couple is buried together at the Alcobaça Monastery in Alcobaça, Portugal.


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Notable sources: 
“Inês De Castro: Portugal’s Only Posthumous Queen – Google Arts & Culture.” Google, Google, artsandculture.google.com/theme/in%C3%AAs-de-castro-portugal%E2%80%99s-only-posthumous-queen/AwICC_FWA_z4Jw?hl=en.
McMurdo, Edward. The History of Portugal, from the Commencement of the Monarchy to the Reign of Alfonso III. S. Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1888.
Speake, Jennifer, and Thomas Goddard Bergin. Encyclopedia of the Renaissance and the Reformation. Facts On File, 2004.