Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
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Thursday, December 16, 2021

Beatriz of Portugal--Queen Consort of Castile, But Never Queen Regnant of Portugal

Beatriz of Portugal, queen of Castile (disputed queen of Portugal, "reign" ends 16 December 1383)

Another queen who might have ruled . . . 

queen of Castile
(detail from a sixteenth-century ms.,
Liber genealogiae regum Hispanie)
Born in February 1373, Beatriz of Portugal was the daughter of Fernando I of Portugal and Leonor Teles--I love the fact that Fernando is known as "the Handsome" (o Formoso) or "the Inconstant" (o Inconstante) while Leonor is "the Treacherous" (a Aleivosa). Whatever their nicknames, they were quite a pair.

Leonor Teles was married in 1365 to a Portuguese nobleman, João Lourenço da Cunha, with whom she had two children. a daughter who died in infancy and a son, Alvaro da Cunha. 

Fernando, meanwhile, inherited the throne of Portugal in 1367 but decided that wasn't enough, so when Pedro of Castile died in 1369, Fernando claimed the throne of Castile too. 

Fernando went to war to get it, but the resulting conflict with Enrique of Trastámara, who also claimed the throne, was so bad that the pope intervened--the terms of treaty settling the first of the so-called Guerras Fernandinas, negotiated in 1371, not only required Fernando to relinquish his claims but to marry Leonor of Castile, the victorious Enrique's daughter.

So, after this detour, a refresher is in order: in late 1371, Leonor Teles was already married, and Fernando of Portugal had promised to marry Leonor of Castile--but that didn't stop the two from marrying each other. Leonor Teles abandoned her husband and child, "married" Fernando of Portugal in a secret ceremony on 5 May 1372, and gave birth to Beatriz nine months later. Traditional marriage, huh?

Fernando would later attempt to ensure his daughter's legitimacy--and her ability to inherit his throne--by having Leonor's first marriage annulled. In 1376, the Portuguese Cortes affirmed Beatriz as her father's heir.

As the game of thrones played out on the Iberian peninsula, a number of marriage alliances, with Beatriz as the pawn, were made and broken--a betrothal was made, first, with an illegitimate son of Enrique II (1376) and then, when Juan I inherited the throne of Castile after Enrique's death, with his son, another Enrique, the future Enrique III (1380). Still scheming to gain the throne of Castile with his English allies, Beatriz's father betrothed his daughter to Edward, son of the first duke of York (1381), then, when he changed his politics again, with Juan I's son, the future Ferdinand I of Aragon (1382), and, finally, not with the future Ferdinand I of Aragon after all, but with his father, Juan I of Castile (1383). Whew! 

This last betrothal stuck, and Beatriz of Portugal married King Juan on 14 May 1383, becoming queen of Castile. Her father, Fernando of Portugal, died just five months later, on 22 October 1383, leaving Beatriz as his only heir. The dowager queen, Leonor Teles, claimed the regency in order to preserve her daughter's inheritance. Despite her horrible reputation, the queen-regent was accepted in her new role and had her daughter proclaimed queen. But once the accession of Beatriz was announced, trouble ensued. 

Fearful that Portugal would be united with Castile (and its independence lost), resistance grew, with jealous factions pitted against one another. Many in the nobility could see benefits for themselves in union with a Castile, but popular sentiment ran hot against Beatriz and Juan and in favor of João of Aviz, the illegitimate son of Pedro I (and, thus, the half-brother of Beatriz's father, King Fernando). 

Civil war ensued. Leonor Teles was forced to flee from Lisbon, and she turned to the king of Castile for assistance, asking him to re-establish her regency and to establish Beatriz on the throne of Portugal. In January 1384, Juan of Castile invaded Portugal, but after months of battle, he returned to Castile. 

Although fighting continued, in March of 1385 the Portuguese Cortes declared Beatriz illegitimate and proclaimed João of Aviz as king of Portugal. Funny how that worked, isn't it? The Cortes decided that the marriage of Fernando and Leonor Teles had been invalid, making Beatriz illegitimate. João, meanwhile, was the son of King Pedro and a woman identified as Teresa Lourenço, making him also illegitimate. 

Juan of Castile returned to Portugal once more, but he was defeated by the new king of Portugal--by August of 1385 it was all over, and Juan of Castile was forced to give up the fight (though the official end of the conflict between Castile and Portugal would not come until 1411, with the signing of the treaty of Ayllón).

In the mean time, Beatriz did not renounce her claim to the throne of Portugal. Even after Juan of Castile's death in 1390, her inheritance rights remained a vexed question that would outlive the would-be queen herself.

As for Beatriz--she was only ten years old when she married the twenty-five-year-old king of Castile, and just eighteen when she became a widow. Her marriage had produced no children, nor did she remarry, unlike so many royal women.

There is no documentation for the year of her death--but her properties were either dispersed or returned to the crown in 1420, suggesting that she had died. 

Detail of the tomb of
Beatriz of Portugal, queen of Castile,
Monastery of Sancti Spiritus, Toro, Zamora
Meanwhile, Enrique III, whose mother, Eleanor of Aragon, had been Juan of Castile's first wife,  succeeded his father on the throne of Castile. In 1388, he had married a woman whom we have met before, Catherine of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt and his second wife, Constance of Castile. 

And in 1387, João of Aviz, the man who became king of Portugal, had married Philippa of Lancaster, Catherine's elder half-sister, the daughter of John of Gaunt and his first wife, Blanche of Lancaster. And Philippa was the mother of another woman we have met before, Isabella, infanta of Portugal and duchess of Burgundy

César Olivera Serrano's Beatriz de Portugal: La pugna dinástica Avís-Trastámara is available online; if you can read Spanish, you are in luck (click here). Otherwise, although they are quite dated and vehemently anti-Leonor Teles, Edward McMurdo's History of Portugal (click here) and Henry Morse Stephens's Portugal (click here) offer extended accounts of the Portuguese succession crisis and its aftermath.