The story of Pedro and Inês is a real-life “Romeo and Juliet” based in Portugal. Much like in Shakespeare’s tale, two lovers are forbidden to marry, only this story involves the future king of Portugal.
Who Are the Main Players in This Tragedy?
The Infante D. Pedro
D. Pedro was born in Coimbra, Portugal, on 8 April 1320, He was the fourth of seven children of Infante D. Afonzo and his wife, Beatriz of Castile. Pedro’s older brothers, D. Afonso and D. Dinis, his younger brother, D. João, and younger sister, D. Isabel, died in childhood, making D. Pedro heir to the throne. D. Pedro loved parties and music and had a stutter.
Constança was the daughter of D. João Manuel of Castile and Constance of Aragon. She was also a distant cousin to D. Pedro. Her father was a great-grandson of Ferdinand III of Castile and Pedro’s mother, Beatriz of Castile, was a great-granddaughter of Ferdinand III of Castile. At the age of 7, in 1325, Constança married King Afonso XI of Castile (age 14 and a student of Constança’s father) by proxy but the marriage was never consummated. To form an alliance with the Portuguese crown, Afonso XI set Constança aside and imprisoned her in 1327 so he could marry D. Maria of Portugal, sister to D. Pedro.
Inês de Castro
Inês was a Galician noblewoman, a daughter of D. Pedro Fernandes de Castro, one of the most powerful men in the kingdom of Castile. Her family was descended from the Galician and Portuguese nobilities, and by illegitimate descent, she was connected to the Castilian royal family. She was also a retainer for Constança and accompanied her to Lisbon in 1339.
Pedro and Constança
Pedro married Constança Manuel in 1339. He had three children with her – D. Luís (born 1340, died within a week), D. Maria (1342-1377), and D. Fernando (1345-1383; king of Portugal 1367-1383). Constança died in childbirth in 1345.
King Afonso XI of Castile imprisoned Constança from 1327-1339. She married D. Pedro by proxy in 1336 while she was still imprisoned by King Afonso XI of Castile. Her imprisonment caused a conflict between the crowns of Castile and Portugal. Since this was the time period of the Reconquista, the Moors took advantage of this conflict. Once Manuel IV and Afonso XI realized that their conflict was helping the Moors, they made peace and signed a treaty in 1340 in Seville.
Constança was released in 1339 by D. João Manuel, her father, and sent to Lisbon to again marry D. Pedro and live with him.
Constança and Inês
When Constança arrived with her entourage in Portugal for her arranged marriage to Pedro, her lady-in-waiting, Inês, caught Pedro’s eye. He fell in love with her almost instantly. They began a secret love affair but Constança found out. When D. Luís was born in 1340, Constança asked Inês to be Luís’s godmother. At the time, the precepts of the Catholic Church made the relationship of the godparents and the parents of the baptised child one of moral kinship (Wikipedia). This would make any sexual relationship between Pedro and Inês almost incestuous.
Pedro and Inês continued their love until King D. Afonso IV exiled Inês in 1344. Her brothers, Alvaro Pirez of Castile and Fernando of Castile, had come to have undue influence on Pedro, causing him to rebel against his father. King Afonso IV felt their influence was not in the best interest of Portugal and feared for his country.
Pedro and Inês
After Constança died in childbirth in 1345, Pedro brought Inês back from exile. King Afonso IV refused to allow Pedro and Inês to marry. In protest, Pedro moved with Inês to Coimbra and made their relationship public. This caused a scandal.
Between the years 1346-1354, Pedro and Inês had four children. D. Afonso was born in 1346 but died within a year. They also had D. Beatrice (1347-1381), D. João (1349-1397), and D. Dinis (1354-1403).
Because of their moral kinship from Inês being godmother to Pedro’s son, in 1351 Pedro asked the Pope to grant permission for him to marry Inês. The request was denied because they were (distant) cousins. Canon Law of the time prohibited this degree of kinship to marry.
With the increasing influence of the Inês’s brothers over Pedro, D. Afonso IV and the Portuguese nobility feared that the Castro family wanted to take the Portuguese crown. To prevent that, D. Afonso IV orders Inês’s death.
In January 1355, Pêro Coelho, Alvaro Gonçalves, and Diogo Lopes Pacheco execute Inês. Pedro started a revolt and civil war against his father which lasted for months. Queen Beatriz, Pedro’s mother, intervened and forged a peace between Pedro and his father. Then, in 1357, Afonso IV dies and Pedro I ascends the throne. He started the persecution of Inês’s murderers.
King Pedro I
In June 1360, D. Pedro I made the declaration of Cantanhede. In the declaration, he claimed to have secretly married Inês de Castro in Bragança in a religious ceremony before her death. His words are the only “proof” of the marriage as no records of the wedding were ever found.
Two of Inês’s executioners, Pêro Coelho and Alvaro Gonçalves, were finally captured in 1361 in Castile. The third executioner fled to France and was never caught. Pedro made a prisoner exchange for the two captured men. He ordered the prisoners to be tied to posts then ordered the executioner to take out their hearts. While the two men were still alive, the executioner removed their hearts, one from the front and one from the back.
Also in 1361, D. Pedro I ordered the transfer of Inês’s body from the Convent of Santa Clara in Coimbra to the Monastery of Alcobaça. He demanded that she be given a funeral procession worthy of a queen. Once her body arrived in Alcobaça, Inês was entombed in one of the two magnificent tombs that Pedro had had made for the two of them. Upon his death in 1367, Pedro was laid to rest next to his beloved Inês.
There is a legend of the coronation and hand-kissing ceremony of Inês de Castro where her body was supposedly placed on the throne, she was crowned queen of Portugal, and the nobles were made to kiss her skeletal hand or face death. The first records of that don’t appear until 1577 in a play by Jerônimo Bermudez called Nise Laureada so it is highly unlikely that this occurred.
The tombs have lying statues of D. Pedro I and Inês de Castro with both of them crowned. Six angels surround each statue. Both tombs have impressive carvings depicting different aspects of their lives. Inês’s tomb is supported by six hybrid creatures with human faces and animal bodies. Pedro’s tomb is supported by six lions. For a more detailed description of the tombs, read this article.
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