The Epic Story of Portugal’s Star-Crossed Lovers, Pedro & Inês

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Last updated on June 4, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

The story unfolds in the 14th century. Prince Pedro (1320–1367), the designated heir to the Portuguese throne, was engaged to be married to Constança of the Castile Kingdom. However, Pedro’s heart was captivated by Inês de Castro (1320 or 1325–1355), a maid in Constança’s service. Although he was already married, Pedro and Inês met frequently in the gardens of Quinta das Lágrimas.

When Queen Constança died in childbirth in 1345, Pedro decided to publicly acknowledge his relationship with Inês, despite King Afonso IV, his father, expressly forbidding their union. Choosing love over duty, Pedro and Inês set up their home together in Coimbra, Portugal, and started a family.

Rumours swirled that Inês’ brothers were unduly influencing Pedro, causing unrest within the royal family. The threat to the line of succession, posed by the children of Pedro and Inês, who were considered legitimate due to their supposed marriage, prompted King Afonso IV to take drastic action.

King Afonso IV ordered the assassination of Inês de Castro, a deed carried out at Paços de Santa Clara in Coimbra, though legend places her tragic end at Quinta das Lágrimas, where it’s said her blood stains the rocks to this day.

Outraged by Inês’ murder, Pedro was on the brink of waging war against his father, but Queen Beatriz, his mother, intervened, persuading him to seek peace. However, following King Afonso IV’s death, Pedro, unable to let go of his vengeance, executed all those responsible for Inês’ death, ripping out their hearts. This earned him the moniker “the cruel.”

Pedro declared Inês queen after her death, an unprecedented act that marked her as the only queen in Portuguese history to be crowned posthumously. According to legend, Pedro had Inês’ body placed on the throne with. He placed a crown on her head, and had all of the nobles kiss the hand of her corpse.

In April 1360, he commanded the transfer of her remains from Coimbra to the Royal Monastery of Alcobaça, mandating the construction of two beautiful tombs. His intent was clear: to lie eternally beside his beloved Inês, ensuring their undying love would be commemorated for generations to come.

In Literature and Music

Inês de Castro’s tragic love story has transcended time, inspiring a multitude of literary works across different languages and cultures. In Portuguese literature, her tale is famously captured in “The Lusíadas” by Luís de Camões, where stanzas 118 to 135 of Canto III pay homage to her enduring love story with Dom Pedro.

The Spanish realm offers “Nise lastimosa” and “Nise laureada” (1577) by Jerónimo Bermúdez, and “Reinar despues de morir” by Luís Vélez de Guevara, highlighting the Spanish literary engagement with her saga.

The narrative of Inês de Castro also found resonance in French literature, with the Comtesse de Genlis’s “Inès de Castro” (1826) and Henry de Montherlant’s play “La Reine morte” (“The Dead Queen”), both offering a French perspective on her life and legacy.

In the English literary landscape, Inês’s story has been adapted and retold through various forms. Aphra Behn’s novel “Agnes de Castro, or, the Force of Generous Love” (1688), and Catharine Trotter Cockburn’s play “Agnes de Castro” (1695) are early English adaptations. Mary Russell Mitford contributed to the legacy with her drama “Inez de Castro,” further embedding Inês’s tale within the English-speaking world. Additionally, “The Undiscovered Island” by Darrell Kastin is a novel that intertwines a modern narrative with the historical tragedy of Inês de Castro and Dom Pedro, offering a contemporary exploration of their legendary love story.

These adaptations and retellings across various languages and cultures underscore the universal appeal of Inês de Castro’s story, showcasing its impact on global literature and its enduring fascination as a symbol of tragic love and undying loyalty.

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James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.

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