Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Eleanor of Aragon, Queen and Regent

Eleanor of Aragon, queen of Portugal (died 19 February 1445)

Women faced numerous difficulties when they were left as regents for their children (usually, but not always, their sons). As we have already seen, many women functioned exceptionally well and were grudgingly, if not enthusiastically, accepted as regents, but for some, a regency was more difficult, frequently complicated by their foreignness. (Isabella of France and Catherine de' Medici are two women we have already met whose foreign backgrounds were the source of suspicion, resistance, and vilification.)

Eleanor of Aragon,
Detail from the Altarpiece of St. Vincent

That's the case for Eleanor of Aragon, queen consort of Edward (Duarte) I of Portugal. Her Aragonese connections may have useful for Portugal in forging a crucial political alliance, but these same foreign interests were problematic for Eleanor when she attempted to govern as regent. 

As a queen consort, Eleanor gave birth to nine children (five of whom survived infancy, including the requisite sons, Afonso and Ferdinand). At his death in 1438, Edward named his wife as regent for his successor, the Infante Afonso, an appointment that was affirmed by the ruling Portugues cortes (assembly). 

Although she was supported by the terms of her husband's will and by the nobility, there was deep-seated suspicion of Eleanor because of her Aragonese ties. A riot in Lisbon was the result of her confirmation as regent, suppressed by her Aragonese brother. Although efforts at compromise continued, the cortes eventually turned to the duke of Coimbra, the dead king's brother, appointing him as sole regent. 

By December of 1440, Eleanor was forced into exile. She died in Toledo, but she was buried alongside her husband at the monastery of Batalha.

The Dominican convent of Batalha,
the burial place for members of the
Portuguese royal house of Aviz