Afonso Henriques, Afonso I king of Portugal
Afonso I of Portugal, was able to fulfill his dead father’s old dream of turning the County of Portugal into an independent Kingdom in 1143.
I was thinking about which Portuguese personality I should write about when the answer became obvious as soon I realize I should go back at the beginning. So, today I am writing about Afonso Henriques or Afonso I the first King of Portugal. Well, he may have not been the best son to his mother, as you are about to find out, but he was a hell of a warrior and it was due to his tenacity that this wonderful country was born in 1143.
Afonso Henriques or Afonso I was the son of Henry of Burgundy (D. Henrique de Borgonha) who conquered many lands to the Moors and therefore was rewarded with the County of Portugal, by then a part of the Galicia kingdom, itself a dependence of the Kingdom of León.
Don Henrique had the dream of turning the county into an independent kingdom and passed that ambition to his son. However he died in 1112 before achieving his goal and his wife, Theresa, Countess of Portugal, engaged herself in some political disputes to control the territory against her sister Queen Urraca, ending up being a puppet – gossip has it that they were lovers – of Fernando Pérez de Traba, a nobleman and count of the Kingdom of León who controlled Galicia. Thus, the thought of making the County of Portugal an independent kingdom was put aside for a while.
But Afonso Henriques, a strong young man, decided not to play the role of the obedient son and defied his mother. In fact, his strength gave birth to the legend that the sword he used in the many battles he engaged was so heavy that only five men could handle it. Influenced by his tutor Egas Moniz, the young Afonso grew a huge admiration for his father and his ideas, therefore fought against his mother and the Castile armies in the Battle of São Mamede in order to take the power in his hands. And he succeeded!
The next step towards independence was to turn the Pope into an ally in order to get the Papal bull to formalize the question. To do so, Afonso Henriques fought the Moors and, following his father’s footprints, conquered new territories. The Battle of Ourique was decisive to this goal as his troops defeated the better equipped and large numbered Moorish army. Some say that this win was a true miracle.
Finally, Pope Alexander III granted the Papal bull attesting Portugal’s independence and also the right to conquer further territory to the Moors, enlarging Portuguese boundaries.
Afonso Henriques died in 1185 after fulfilling his father’s dream, leaving his son Sancho I not just a County but a true recognized Kingdom!