FERNANDO, D. (Vila Viçosa?, c.1430 ? Évora, 20 de Junho de 1483)
3rd Duke of Braganza (Vila Viçosa?, c.1430 ? Évora, June the 20th 1483)
Dom Fernando was the 3rd Duke of Braganza, the 1st Duke of Guimarães, the 1st Count of Guimarães, the 2nd Marquis of Vila Viçosa, the 4th Count of Arraiolos, the 6th Count of Ourém, the 10th Count of Barcelos and the 4th Count of Neiva. He was born in 1430, probably in Vila Viçosa, where his parents, Dom Fernando, 3rd Count of Arraiolos (and latter 2nd Duke of Braganza) and Dona Joana de Castro, who had married the previous year, lived most of the time. He was the grand-son of D. Afonso, 1st Duke of Braganza and great grand-son of Dom João I and Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira.
He was 17 when his father married Dona Leonor de Meneses, daughter of D. Pedro de Meneses, 1st captain of Ceuta and Count of Viana and Vila Real. The marriage contract was signed on August the 14th 1447, in the castle of Ceuta (Dona Isabel having sent her proxy, Álvaro Pires), where the Count of Arraiolos, who was then the captain of Ceuta, lived. Two of his older sons were there with him - Dom Fernando II and Dom João, who would latter become the Marquis of Montemor.
His first military experience was in 1452, when he accompanied his father to Ceuta to bring Prince Fernando back to the kingdom. He returned to Morocco in 1458, having joined the army sent to conquer Alcacer Ceguer.
In April 1461, after knowing he was the heir of the House of Braganza (after the death of his uncle, the Marquis of Valença), Dom Fernando went to Northern Africa, to Alcacer Ceguer, in an expedition he organized himself, with 200 horsemen and 1000 foot soldiers. Together with Dom Duarte Meneses, captain of Alcacer Ceguer, Dom Afonso de Vasconcelos, Count of Penela, and some other noblemen, he ventured numerous times in Moorish territory, having almost reached Tangier. In 1463, King Afonso V rewarded him for his accomplishments, by granting him the title of Count of Guimarães.
On January the 15th 1462, Dom Fernando was named frontier commander of Entre-Douro, Minho and Trás-os-Montes, thus replacing his grand-father, the 1st Duke of Braganza, who had died in December 1461.
He participated in the Moroccan campaigns of 1463-64. He entered, with Prince Fernando, in the mountains of Beni Amir, from where they brought many slaves and cattle. He was also one of the noblemen who accompanied Afonso V to Gibraltar where he met with King Henry IV, of Castille.
After his father became the Duke of Braganza, Dom Fernando, who was a widower with no children from his first wedding, had to get married to assure an heir. Dona Isabel, Prince Fernando?s daughter, and cousin of future King João II, was the chosen bride, which shows the Duke of Guimarães?s social position. The wedding contract was signed on the 12th of July 1470. With it, the House of Braganza was once more connected to the Royal House.
In 1471 he returned to Morocco with the King to conquer Arzila. He was responsible for the fleet which left from Oporto. Four years latter, King Afonso V donated him Larache, along with the right to populate it, which he never did.
Despite the fact that his father was an opponent to the claims of King Afonso to the Castilian throne, Dom Fernando, representing his lineage, participated in the peninsular war as constable, although the title belonged to his brother, the Marquis of Montemor. When, in 1478, he replaced his father in the dukedom of Braganza, he became the Portuguese noblemen who owned the biggest land property, and he was considered the highest member of Portuguese High nobility.
When King João II ascended to the throne in 1481, the relationship between high nobility and Crown changed. Chroniclers say the animosity between the Duke and King João II was an old one. In the cortes of Evora of 1481, the Duke of Braganza refused to take the oath of allegiance with the new text chosen by the monarch, claiming it compromised his honour, and he asked his treasurer, who asked his son, to go to Vila Viçosa and get the documents containing the donations and privileges given to the Dukedom of Braganza. Inside the safe was correspondence between the Duke and the Kings of Castile, which was copied and sent to the king.
These letters were used to try to prove that the Duke and his brothers, especially the Marquis of Montemor (whose correspondence had also been apprehended) conspired, along with the Catholic Kings, against Portugal.
The Duke was accused of high treason and was arrested on May the 30th 1483. He was judged and condemned to death. His public execution took place on June the 20th the same year. The properties of the House of Braganza were confiscated by the Crown and its descendents were banished from the court.
CUNHA, Mafalda Soares da, Linhagem, Parentesco e Poder. A Casa de Bragança (1384-1433), Lisboa, Fundação da Casa de Bragança, 1990.
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: Dominique Faria