AFONSO, D. (Veiros?, c.1371- Chaves, 15 de Dezembro de 1461)
8th Count of Barcelos and 1st Duke of Braganza (Veiros?, ca. 1371- Chaves, December 15th 1461).
Dom Afonso, 2nd Count of Neiva, 8th Count of Barcelos and 1st Duke of Braganza, was the illegitimate son of Dom João I (while he was Master of Avis) and Inês. He was born between 1371 and 1377 in the castle of Veiros, Estremoz, where he was raised by his mother, moving later to Leiria where he was educated by Gomes Martins de Lemos, a royal counsellor.
When Dom João I married Dona Filipa de Lencastre in 1487, the royal illegitimate children became accepted in the Noble Court. By this time, his mother, Inês Pires, entered in the Convent of Santos-o-Velho, but Dom Afonso decided to stay in Leiria, maybe because he felt inferior since he was an illegitimate child. In fact, this distant participation in the Court, made through alliances, was a constant situation during his life.
During his adolescence, Dom Afonso accompanied his father in the siege of Tui, where he was armed knight on July 26, 1398.
In 1401, he was legitimized by the King, and a month later, on November 8, he married Beatriz Pereira, which was the sole heir of constable Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira. The Constable bequeathed all of his possessions located north of Douro River to the couple, who already owned the outskirts of Neiva and Faria, donated by the King to his son.
Dom João I also approved the passing of the title of Count of Barcelos from Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira to Dom Afonso. Although they spent large periods of time in Guimarães and Barcelos, the new Counts of Barcelos fixed residence in Chaves, where their other children were born: Isabel, who married Prince João; Dom Afonso, Count of Ourém; and Dom Fernando, Count of Arraiolos.
In 1405, Dom Afonso accompanied his sister, Dona Beatriz, to England, where she married Thomas Fitz Alan, Count of Arundel and a close relative of Queen Dona Filipa de Lencastre. The wedding was celebrated in London by Canterbury Archbishop, and was attended by the Royal English Family.
Between 1406 and 1409, Dom Afonso made a journey to the Holy Land, and visited Castile, Aragon, France, Venice, Hungary, Poland and the Holy Roman German Empire. It is believed that during this journey, Dom Afonso helped German Emperor Sigismund in the battle against the Turks.
Dom Afonso played an important role in the conquest of Ceuta, in 1415, for he was responsible for the recruitment of men in Trás-os-Montes and Entre-Douro-e-Minho [Portuguese provinces]. He returned to Ceuta in 1419, with his brothers, Dom Henrique and Dom João, because the fortress was under siege.
In 1420, after Dona Beatriz had died of birth labour (uncertain date between1409-1415), Count of Barcelos got married again, upon his father?s request, this time with his cousin Dona Constança de Noronha, daughter of Count of Gijon and Dona Isabel, who was the legitimate daughter of King Fernando.
1422 was an important year for the constitution of the House of Braganza. On April 4th, Constable Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira donated the counties of Ourém and Arraiolos and their respective rights and territories to his grandchildren. In this manner, Dom Afonso became the only son of Dom João whose children were titled, a situation that granted him the possibility of expanding his alliances.
In 1432, Prince Duarte asked advice to his brothers, Counts of Barcelos, Ourém and Arraiolos, on the Portuguese military intervention: either continue with the expansion in North Africa or support Castile against the Moorish kingdom of Granada. The Count of Barcelos was against the war plans because he considered that the situation of war affected greatly the population and the heart of the people was the king?s greatest treasure. Full of good sense and pacifying arguments, he advised against the war in Africa and against the expedition of Prince Henrique to Morocco, presenting as his strongest arguments the waste of the royal treasure. Beside the requests, this enterprise implied the recruitment of ships, with costs to the merchants, and the enlistment of soldiers among farmers and municipal officials, which was unfavourable to the fields and municipalities.
In resume, if Dom Duarte insisted in the war in North Africa, he faced the risk of losing the good will of the people. Moreover, in case he lost the war, he would become the target of critiques. However, if war became inevitable, he defended Granada as the best option because it involved less financial and human resources than the expedition to Morocco, and also because it would be easier to maintain the conquered territories.
After the death of Dom Duarte in 1438, Count of Barcelos supported the Queen, the widow of the deceased King, in opposition to Prince Pedro, who became Regent of the kingdom during the minority of Dom Afonso V. According to chronicles, it was only the pacifying intervention of Count of Ourém that prevented a civil war situation. In 1442, when Dom Duarte, Lord of Braganza, died without leaving heirs, Dom Pedro opposed to his half-brother Dom Afonso, from the House of Braganza, trying to neutralize him. However, he didn?t succeed.
The hostility toward the Regent reappeared when Dom Pedro announced the marriage of Dom Afonso V with his daughter although Dom Afonso had proposed as fiancé of Dom Afonso V his granddaughter Dona Isabel, who would later marry in Castile and give birth to Isabel, the Catholic Queen. Years later, the Regent refused also the position of Constable proposed by Count of Ourém. The hostility between the Duke of Braganza and the Regent was increasing.
In 1446, Dom Afonso impugned the rule of the Regent through a Procurator because Dom Afonso V was no longer minor. However, the king delegated the government of the kingdom to his uncle Dom Pedro. The Regency only ceased in 1448, when the king, recently married, initiated a totally different way of government. By this time, the House of Braganza strengthened its position. The following year several misunderstandings culminated in the Battle of Alfarrobeira.
The last ten years of the life of Duke of Braganza were more tranquil and marked by his constant influence upon the King, who donated him the island of Corvo, in the Azores, in 1453.
In 1455, the old Duke was the godfather of Prince João, and in 1458, in the occasion of the conquest of Ksar-el-Kebir, he was appointed Regent of the kingdom, a position he refused because he wanted to accompany his sons and grandsons in the battle against the Moor (he was over eighty years old).
The Duke died on December 15, 1462 in his palace in Chaves, a year after the death of his eldest son, Dom Afonso. It was Dom Fernando who inherited the Dukedom, gathering the almost totality of the patrimony that had belonged to Constable Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira.
CUNHA, Mafalda Soares da, Linhagem, Parentesco e Poder. A Casa de Bragança (1384-1483), Lisboa, Fundação da Casa de Bragança, 1990.
Livro dos Conselhos de El-Rei D. Duarte (Livro da Cartuxa), edição diplomática de João José Alves Dias, Lisboa, Estampa, 1982.
MACHADO, J. T. Montalvão, Dom Afonso, 8.º Conde de Barcelos, fundador da Casa de Bragança, sep. Revista de Guimarães, vol. LXXIII, 1963.
SOUSA, António Caetano de, História Genealógica da Casa Real Portuguesa, tomo V, nova edição revista por M. Lopes de Almeida e César Pegado, Coimbra, Atlântida Livraria Editora, 1948.
Author: Maria Dávila
Translated by: Ana Pereira