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  • Crowning Corpses in Portugal April 30, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval , trackback

    Beachcombing’s site has a long and honourable tradition of screwing up anniversaries and today will be no different: a celebration of the most bizarre royal ceremony in history, a full twenty four hours after the fairly modest William-Kate affair drew to its uncontroversial conclusion. Bizarrists will already have anticipated. Beachcombing is, of course, referring to the coronation of Inez de Castro of Portugal in 1360.

    Just to give a flavour let’s quote from Ed Murphy’s fabulous After the Funeral: where Ed gave a precious chapter to the queen.

    Inez de Castro was crowned queen of Portugal in the year of our Lord 1360. She had been the mistress of the heir apparent to the throne for fifteen years. Her elevation to royalty didn’t make the least impression on her; she neither changed expression nor moved a muscle during the entire ceremony. For you see, in one of the most unusual royal coronations in history, Inez had already been dead for five years before the event.

    Inez’s story on this side of the cemetery is quickly told. Inez was a sexy noble temptress with Galician blood – her ancestors came from the same region as the Monster of Mondoñedo. She arrived in Portugal when Prince Pedro of that country married Costanza of Castille – Inez was one of Costanza’s ladies at waiting – and soon she and Pedro were jumping in and out of bed with frequency and enthusiasm. More seriously, they began to have children together.

    Pedro’s father, Afonso IV, particularly disapproved and had Inez banished and then murdered. In fact, in one of those killings so characteristic of the sadism of royal history, Inez was decapitated in a monastery in front of one of her and Pedro’s children – memories here of some of the psychos in the British royal family

    Pedro bided his time. And then, when his father died, he announced that he had, in fact, secretly married Inez making the various children that they had had together legitimate.

    Legend has it – as Ed in the passage above suggests – that Inez herself was wheeled out of her grave and the court was forced to kiss her in the most macabre coronation in history.

    Did this skull and crossbones coronation really happen though?

    Well, many of the details of the narrative above are argued over: for example, was Inez really murdered or was her death actually the result of a quick legal chopping off?

    We are in something of a dark age in Portuguese history.

    The deathly coronation has predictably and perhaps correctly come in for especially fierce fire. Certainly, Fernão Lopez writing in the mid fifteenth century, our first source on Inez death, gives no coronation details.

    E sendo lembrado de lhe honrar seus ossos, pois lhe já mais fazer não podia, mandou fazer um moimento de alva pedra, todo mui subtilmente obrado, pondo elevada sobre a campa de cima a imagem d’ella, com corôa na cabeça, como se fôra rainha. E este moimento mandou pôr no mosteiro de Alcobaça, não á entrada, onde jazem os reis, mas dentro na egreja, á mão direita, a cerca da capella-mór. E fez trazer o seu corpo do mosteiro de Santa Clara de Coimbra, onde jazia, o mais honradamente que se fazer pode, cá ella vinha em umas andas, muito bem corrigidas para tal tempo, as quaes traziam grandes cavalleiros, acompanhadas de grandes fidalgos, e muita outra gente, e donas, e donzellas e muita clerezia. Pelo caminho estavam muitos homens com cirios nas mãos, de tal guisa ordenados, que sempre o seu corpo foi, por todo o caminho, por entre cirios accesos; e assim chegaram até ao dito mosteiro, que eram d’alli dezesete leguas, onde com muitas missas e grão solemnidade foi posto seu corpo n’aquelle moimento. E foi esta a mais honrada trasladação que até áquelle tempo em Portugal fôra vista.

    In EM’s translation:

    And having thought to honor her bones, as there was nothing else he could do, he ordered a sepulcher carved of pale stone, all very cunningly executed, placing her image upon the upper stone, with a crown upon her head, as if she was a queen. And he ordered the sepulchre placed in the monastery of Alcobaça, not at the entrance, where rest the kings, but inside the church, on the right, close to the principal chapel. And he had her corpse brought from the monastery of Santa Clara de Coimbra, where she had been laid in the most exalted procession that could be arranged. She came in stages, a procession with extremely correct protocol for the time, carried by the great cavaliers, accompanied by gentlemen of noble birth and many other people, and ladies and damsels and a great number of clergy. By the sides of the road stood many men with great candles in their hands, organized in such a way that, wherever the corpse went, along the entire route, it travelled between lit candles. And thus they arrived at the aforesaid monastery, seventeen leagues distant, where with many masses and great solemnity, her corpse was placed in that monument. And that was the grandest funeral procession which had been seen in Portugal as of that time.

    It sounds very much as if the coronation never happened, but that it was inspired by the bizarre levels of devotion that Pedro showed his bride (if that is what she, in fact, was) post mortem in a translatio that could have come out of the lives of the saints.

    Other legends or, better still, facts about strange royal ceremonies: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com


    30 April 2011: When Beachcombing put this post up he thought ‘this might be Invisible’s kind of thing’ and sure enough before nightfall. ‘Your post about the post-mortem crowning of Inez of Portugal got me thinking about strange stories of Iberian royalty who really can give British eccentrics a run for their money. I wonder how much the story of Inez’s funeral procession influenced Joanna of Castile (like Henry IV, below, of the House of Trastamara) when she was supposedly carrying the decomposing body of her husband Philip the Fair about the countryside. Both stories of great love/passion perhaps cut short by murder. And because of the royal wedding, I got to thinking of royal consummation stories. First up was Henry IV of Castile, dubbed Enrique el Impotente. In a book by Townsend Miller called Henry IV of Castile (pretty sure of the author, too lazy to locate it somewhere in the unshelved piles), it is related that Henry’s first marriage to Blanche of Navarre ended in divorce after 13 years with the bride certified a virgin. He next married Joan of Portugal (sister of Alfonso V of Portugal) and the book gives some painful details of their attempts to sire an heir involving the court doctor, a silver tube, and Henry’s uncooperative member. When a daughter, Joan, was born, there were rumours that someone besides the king had done the job although the author leaves open the possibility that a miracle occurred. Of course, there were the difficulties in Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI’s marriage, ascribed by some to a phimosis. Marie Antoinette’s mother, Empress Marie-Therese, blamed Antoinette for a lack of allure since she could not rouse the lethargic young man. A visit from Antoinette’s brother, Emperor Joseph (I believe he threatened in a letter to spank Louis’ bottom to arouse him!) apparently did the trick – some say Louis had an operation to loosen the stricture. In any event, after 7 years, the marriage was consummated and the queen was pregnant. Last year I read of a gourd purporting to contain blood collected from the scaffold after Louis was guillotined and thought that DNA testing (if it really was Louis’ blood) might shed some light on any endocrinological disorders that might have caused Louis’ health problems. Then there is Gustav III of Sweden, who supposedly asked his friend, Adolf Fredrik Munck for hands-on help in consummating his marriage after 9 years. Considering that Gustav III had male favorites (as well as a fab fashion sense and a keen interest in the theatre), it was perhaps a miracle that two children were eventually produced. If you look for Munck and Gustav III on the internet, eventually you will find a very explicit contemporary drawing of the consummation procedure although it is ambiguous as to Munck’s role in ‘leading from the rear’.  And, finally, I found this on the internet while looking for convents that still weave linen. I have no idea if the information is actually correct or if it appears in the books listed after it. ‘Portuguese Nuns and Princesses: Nuns from the Carmelite order used to weave the linen sheets for the marriage beds of Portuguese princesses. The sheets were then displayed the morning after the wedding night. The bloody sheets told the story of each bride’s loss of virginity. In return for their excellent work the nuns used to receive that central piece of snow-white linen which bore witness to the honour of a royal bride. They then displayed these pieces, framed with the appropriate princess’s name on each, in a gallery at the convent. Of most interest however, is one piece of linen which is a blank page, no blood appears on it and no name appears on the frame. Passers by contemplate why this might be‘. This is an excerpt from: The Blank page by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) Related Link: Angela Carter and the fairy tale By Danielle Marie Roemer and Cristina Bacchilega Well, this unusually long e-mail has left me quite spent….’ Thanks Invisible!

    27 May: Luis very kindly sent in this link to a Portuguese language blog that describes the true history of Ines. It blames the legend of the coronation on an overenthusiastic reading of Camões! A rough and ready translation follows: ‘Ines de Castro, was probably born in Monforte, in the province of Lugo in 1325 and died 7 January 1355. She was a Galician, the bastard daughter of Pedro Fernandez de Castro and a Portuguese lady Aldonza Soares de Valadares. Pedro was one of the most powerful nobles of Castile, and was, like Prince Pedro, the grandson of Sancho IV, King of Castile,  making the two Pedros cousins. Ines de Castro is remembered by Camões in Book III of the Lusíadas, where he referred to ‘… the miserable and wretched one, who was killed after becoming queen …’. She was posthumously declared lover and lawful wife of Pedro I of Portugal… Inês de Castro arrived in Portugal in 1340, as a lady in the entourage of Princess Constance Manuela, daughter of João Manuel, a powerful noble of royal Castilian lineage, who would marry Prince Pedro, heir to the Portuguese throne. The prince fell in love with Ines shortly after, neglecting his legitimate wife, Constance, and thereby risking the already dangerous relations with Castile… King Afonso IV, exiled Ines from his court in 1344, fearing scandal… In October 1345, Constanca Manuel dies giving birth to Prince Fernando, leaving Pedro a widower and free to defy his father and bring Ines back from her exile in Albuquerque. The couple moved away from the court to northern Portugal, where they were had four children: Afonso, João, Dinis and Beatriz… After some years in the North, Pedro and Ines return and settle in the Palace of Santa Clara. Then 7 January 1355, Afonso yields to pressure from his advisers, and taking advantage of the absence of Pedro on a hunt, signs the death warrant of Ines. Pero Coelho, Alvaro Gonçalves and Diogo Lopes Pacheco go to the Monastery of Santa Clara in Coimbra, where Ines was and slay her. This, according to legend, caused the water flowing there in the Quinta das Lágrimas to turn red. The death of Ines did not bring Pedro closer to his father (!!!), on the contrary, the heir revolted against Afonso IV, who he blamed for Ines’ death… Pedro became the eighth king of Portugal in 1357. In June 1360 he made the famous statement of Cantanhede, legitimizing his children with Ines by stating that he secretly married Ines in 1354 ‘… on a day he could not remember …’. The word of the king and his chaplain were the only evidence of this marriage. Pedro built two splendid tombs in the monastery of Alcobaça, one for himself and one where he transferred the remains of his beloved Ines. The dreary ceremony of kissing the hand, so vivid in the popular imagination, was probably inserted in the narratives of the late sixteenth century, after Camões and his third Canto. Pedro was buried with Ines in 1367, and the remains of both lie together to this day.’ Thanks Luis!