For various reasons, the important thing I wanted to write– about the rise of the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal and how my dad’s family fled to this country to avoid having Salazar’s government send more of his brothers to go die in the African colonies– doesn’t feel as palatable as it did a week or so ago, so instead I’m going to write about one of my favorite figures in Portuguese history.
Inês de Castro: Portugal’s only posthumous queen. (She’s famous enough that when I couldn’t remember her name, all I Googled was “Portugal dead queen” and she was the first hit.)
She was born around 1325-ish, connected through illegitimate ties to like half of Galicia and Portugal’s nobility, plus some of the Castilians. Not enough to be a noblewoman herself, but noble enough to help actual noblewomen put their underwear on. It’s in this capacity she comes to Portugal, as a lady-in-waiting to some Castilian lady named Constança, who just married the prince who’d eventually become Pedro the I (Alternately called “The Cruel”, or “The Just.” Make of that what you will.)
Now Pedro’s father, Alfonso IV, married his daughter off to an entirely different Alfonso, the XI of Castile (There are too many Alfonsos. Please eliminate thirteen), who was already married to his cousin’s daughter- the aforementioned Constança. This led to a lot of shouting and stabbing and people getting thrown in prisons, which anyone who’s played Crusader Kings should be familiar with. Anyway, Alfonso the XI ditches his first cousin once removed as a wife and marries Pedro’s sister, then promptly has an affair with a third woman, managing to fuck up two entire sets of diplomatic relations in one go.
To get back at the Other Alfonso, Alfonso IV marries his son Pedro off to Constança, who’d just finished spending a couple years imprisoned by one of her cousins while the men in her life sent people to stab each other. Before long, Pedro falls for Inês instead. Seeing as relations between the different branches of his family are barely holding together already, this doesn’t work out well. Plus, Inês had a bunch of Castilian brothers who were all related to various exiled nobility or illegitimately linked to current nobility, which is the kind of thing that makes kings get twitchy. So he banished her.
Pedro and Inês continued to love the hell out of each other, while Constança dies giving birth to Pedro’s third legitimate baby, some lady named Maria who I’m not going to bother researching. (If you thought there were a lot of Alfonsos, don’t bother trying to keep track of the Marias.) Making things worse, Pedro’s illegitimate children are healthy and strapping and his legitimate kid Fernando is kind of a twerp. He’ll eventually grow up to be Fernando the Handsome, or Fernando the Inconstant. (I have been unable to gather what exactly that means, but it sounds like the kind of thing you’d say behind his back and snicker.)
After Constança dies, Pedro basically moves Inês in before her body is even cold. Alfonso, running out of options, does what any loving father would do, and sends three guys who her behead in front of her child, his grandson.
Pedro takes this about as well as you would think and there’s a shitload of war between him and his family. Eventually the Pope gets invovled since Pedro tried to get him to bless his and Inês’s marriage so it can be legitimate, but the Pope tells him to kick rocks and joins up with his cousins. Still, Pedro kicks the crap out of them all, becomes King Pedro, and names his dead wife queen.
According to all the stories I’ve read in Portuguese history books (But not the stuffy ass wikipedia, who claims this may or may not be a legend) he has her body exhumed and put on the throne and forces his shitty cousins to kneel and kiss her hand. Honestly, I’m of the opinion that this probably really happened, because it sounds like exactly the kind of thing someone in my family would do.
Also, we know for a fact that the first thing he does when he becomes King Pedro the I of Portugal, instead of just plain old Pedro, is have incredibly beautiful marble sarcophagi for himself and Inês made, so clearly we know he digs her corpse up at some point. And the second thing he does is have the guys his dad hired to murder her found and then has their hearts cut out at a dinner party as part of the entertainment, so it’s not like he doesn’t have a record of going overboard here.
Now, I don’t know about you, but if *I* had the corpse of the woman I loved handy, for whom’s death I overthrew my dad’s kingdom, I’d probably take the opportunity to rub my smug cousins’ faces in it. And, let’s face it, of all the absurd shit that went down in feudal Europe, that would easily not even make it in the top 100. Sticking your girlfriend’s corpse on the throne and forcing your shitty relatives to bow before it is barely half as weird as all those Popes’ corpses they propped up and put on trial.
Personally, I think some historians just don’t like fun.
Anyway, now they’re in a gorgeous Gothic church and monastery in Alcobaça, Portugal, a couple hours’ drive north of Lisbon. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and honestly supposed to be really gorgeous, one of the most important monasteries in Portuguese history. They’re at opposite ends of the church so that, on Judgement Day, when all the dead are supposed to rise so they can in all likelihood get sent to Hell again, the first thing they’ll see is… well the first thing they’ll see is the inside of a big heavy ass marble coffin. But the SECOND thing they’ll see will be each other. Isn’t that romantic?