Amor: The tragical love story of D. Inês De Castro and D. Pedro

When we speak of love, we refer more often to characters in literature than to people in real life. However, sometimes reality surpasses fiction.

The love relationship between Inês de Castro and King Pedro I of Portugal is full of myth, love and tragedy. It's the perfect example of this and Portugal's most beautiful love story.

Dom Pedro e Inês de Castro


Inês de Castro was born in 1320 or 1325 in Galicia, she was the illegitimate daughter of the Galician nobleman Pedro Fernandes de Castro and a Portuguese lady, Aldonça Suárez de Valadares.

She arrived in Évora, integrated into the retinue of D. Constança, in 1340. From an early age, D. Pedro's love for the Galician lady was immediate. This extra-marital relationship of the prince did not please the king his father.  As much as there is historical knowledge, D. Afonso IV was the only Portuguese king who had no children illegitimate and who has always fiercely fought such licentious situations. Inês went then exiled to the castle of Albuquerque, where she remained until D. Constança's death in1345. 

When D. Constança died (leaving only one son, the future King D. Fernando), she returned to Coimbra and lived openly with D. Pedro, of whom he already had three children in the Palace annexed to the Santa Clara Convent.

D. Inês de Castro had brothers, the powerful Castro, nobles who began to conspire to convince D. Pedro to consider himself entitled to the throne of Castile and Leon, which would allow one day a nephew of theirs (son of Pedro and Inês ) would come to rule this powerful Iberian kingdom.
D. Afonso IV – sensitive to the fragility of Portuguese independence – reacted against such ideas and his advisers easily convinced him that the only way to avoid a Castilian adventure would be to separate D. Pedro from D. Inês. Faced with the latter's refusal to accept this issue, and taking advantage of the Prince's absence, a summary trial was held in Montemor-o-Velho, which sentenced her to death.
Three nobles: Diogo Lopes Pacheco, Álvaro Gonçalves and Pero Coelho, taking advantage of the king's weakness of will due to his advanced age, insisted that the sentence be carried out, and the king eventually gave in. Alvaro Goncalves and Pero Coelho killed Inês right there, without any compassion for the three innocent children who saw their mother brutally murdered before their eyes.

The assassination of Inês de Castro. Painting by Karl BriullovThe assassination of Inês de Castro, 1834 by Karl Briullov

D. Pedro reacted with violence to the execution of his beloved and mother of 3 of his children and started a period of civil war against the King, which only ended due to the mediation intervention of the Queen of Portugal, his Mother.
When D. Pedro ascended the throne in 1357, he immediately began a persecution of the three men who had murdered D. Inês and who, in the meantime, had taken refuge in Castile. Only two were caught. One of them, D. Pedro took the heart out of the chest; to the other, he took the heart in the back saying that "men who had killed an innocent woman could not have hearts". The third escaped and survived; there were rumours that, in fact he had not taken part in the murder and had even tried to dissuade his companions from doing so.

D. Pedro announced that he had secretly married D. Inês, who thus became Queen of Portugal; he then ordered tombs built for him and for her in Alcobaça, taking her remains from the Convent of Santa Clara de Coimbra to that monastery, demanding that all classes (clergy, nobility and people) pay homage to her. The transfer took place in a funeral procession that would remain in the memory of the populations.

Imagination soon turned such a symbolic tribute into a formal ceremony in which the three orders of the State (clergy, nobility and people) kissed the hand of the “Dead Queen” whose corpse, unearthed and seated on a throne, has always been assumed as the definitive sign of an unending passion.

The Coronation of Inês de Castro in 1361 by Pierre-Charles Comte The Coronation of Inês de Castro in 1361 by Pierre-Charles Comte

When the tombs were placed face to face in the 18th century, the legend appeared that they were so that D. Pedro and D. Inês «can look each other in the eye when they wake up on the day of judgment».
D. Pedro and Ines de Castro tombs
Inês de Castro in the literature and music:
The combination of history and legend of this tragic love never failed to enthrall the popular imagination of the Portuguese and Europeans over time:

- The first appearance of the loves of D. Inês in literature occurs with the Trovas A Morte de Inês de Castro, by Garcia de Resende, in the Cancioneiro Geral of 1516;
- Tragedy was also represented among the people, with the cordel theater;
- The Lusíadas by Luís Vaz de Camões, constituted the greatest influence on the legend, with the episode of "beautiful Inês" in stanzas 120 to 135 of Canto III;
- The tragedy A Castro (1587), the first Portuguese classical tragedy, by António Ferreira, was based on her life;
 The play by French playwright Henry de Montherlant called La Reine morte (The Dead Queen);
Inês de Castro is a novel by Maria Pilar Queralt del Hierro in Spanish and Portuguese;
The Undiscovered Island, a novel in English by Darrell Kastin, features a descendant's version of the events in the tragedy of Inês de Castro and Dom Pedro. It was published in 2009;
Plays written in English include Aphra Behn's Agnes de Castro, or, the Force of Generous Love (1688); and Catharine Trotter Cockburn's Agnes de Castro (1695). Mary Russell Mitford also wrote a drama from the story entitled Inez de Castro;
- She is a recurring figure in Ezra Pound's The Cantos. She appears first at the end of Canto III, in the lines Ignez da Castro murdered, and a wall/Here stripped, here made to stand.
There have been over 20 operas and ballets created about Inês de Castro.

Sources: Fondação Inês de Catro e Wikipedia

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