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Alfonso III

Alfonso III

The Portuguese king Alfonso III (1210-1279) reigned from 1248 to 1279. He completed the conquest of Portugal from the Moslems and presided over the country's first parliaments.

On May 5, 1210, Alfonso was born in Coimbra, the second son of Alfonso II and Urraca. In 1227 he went to France, where he fought as a vassal of Louis IX against Henry III of England and in 1238 married Matilda, Countess of Boulogne.

While Alfonso was in France, a struggle developed in Portugal between his older brother King Sancho II and the Church hierarchy. When Pope Innocent IV directed the Portuguese in 1245 to select a worthier king, the ambitious Alfonso was summoned, and he arrived in Lisbon in early 1246. Alfonso controlled only southern Portugal, and the civil war which broke out soon after his arrival was more hard-fought than his forces had anticipated. But the strong Castilian support desired by Sancho failed to materialize, and he abandoned hope of retaining his crown. Retiring to Toledo, Sancho died there in 1248.

To consolidate his rule over the divided kingdom, the usurper, who was declared king Alfonso III, launched a campaign to free southern Portugal from the Moslems. Faro fell in 1249, and the rest of the Algarve was secured for Portugal according to the terms of a 1253 pact with Alfonso X of Castile. Despite the fact that Alfonso III was already wed to Countess Matilda, he agreed to marry Beatrice, an illegitimate daughter of the Castilian monarch. Although this marriage brought Alfonso III into disfavor with the Church, Beatrice was received by the Portuguese with all the honors of a queen.

The hostility shown to him by supporters of his brother accentuated Alfonso's less noble characteristics—his overweening ambition, his lack of scruples, and his taste for vengeance. He confiscated the lands of Sancho's partisans and favored his own supporters with grants of land and money.

In 1254 Alfonso called the Cortes of Leiria, the first Portuguese parliament to include the third estate (commoners). The Cortes approved a number of fiscal reforms which the King had proposed. Throughout his reign Alfonso cultivated the support of the townsmen by protecting them against abuse of power by nobles and clergy.

Even though he owed his throne to the Pope, Alfonso was by no means a loyal servant of the Church. He opposed the Church's attempts to broaden the authority of the ecclesiastical courts, and he strove to preserve his traditional right to select bishops. Finally, in September 1275, the Pope ordered Alfonso to abide by the promise to obey Church authority that he had made in order to secure papal recognition of his status as Portuguese monarch. The King did not comply and was excommunicated; he maintained his political strength, however, until the end of his reign. After being reconciled on his deathbed to the Church, Alfonso III died in Lisbon on Feb. 16, 1279.

Further Reading

The life of Alfonso III is adequately covered in H.V. Livermore, A History of Portugal (1947). Also useful for general background is Bailey W. Diffie, Prelude to Empire: Portugal Overseas before Henry the Navigator (1960). □

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Alfonso III (king of Portugal)

Alfonso III, 1210–79, king of Portugal (1248–79), son of Alfonso II, brother and successor of Sancho II. By his marriage with Matilda, countess of Boulogne, he became count of Boulogne and thus was known as Alfonso o Bolonhez [Alfonso of Boulogne]. He seized power after the deposition (1245) of his brother by the pope, becoming king on Sancho's death. Alfonso completed the reconquest of Portugal from the Moors by taking (1249) the rest of the Algarve. This involved him in a long quarrel with Alfonso X of Castile, who had been receiving revenues from Algarve, but the two kings reached an agreement by which Alfonso III married the illegitimate daughter of Alfonso X, and Alfonso X was to relinquish all rights to the Algarve when the heir born of this union (the later King Diniz) should reach the age of seven. Alfonso's second marriage brought the Portuguese king into disfavor with the church because Matilda was still living, but her death ended the conflict. Despite promises he had made at the time of Sancho's deposition, Alfonso seized lands and revenues from the church. This caused another break with the church, which healed shortly before his death. Alfonso called the Cortes of Leiria (1254), the first Portuguese Cortes to include commoners. He also instituted administrative and financial reforms, encouraged commerce and the development of the towns, and commuted many feudal dues into money payments. French and Provençal culture was imported to the court, and the period was one of great intellectual activity. Alfonso was succeeded by Diniz.

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Alfonso III (king of Aragón and count of Barcelona)

Alfonso III, 1265–91, king of Aragón and count of Barcelona (1285–91), son and successor of Peter III. He was forced to grant wide privileges to the cortes of the Aragonese nobles. At first he supported the claim to Sicily of his brother James (later James II of Aragón) against Charles II of Naples. Later, however, he recognized papal suzerainty over Sicily and pressed James to abandon his claim. He also made war on Castile and on his uncle, James I of Majorca. James II succeeded him.

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Philip IV

Philip IV (1605–65) King of Spain, Naples and Sicily (1621–65), King of Portugal (as Philip III, 1621–40). Economic and social decline in Spain continued during Philip's reign. The Thirty Years' War ended disastrously for Spain. Portugal threw off Spanish rule (1640), and maintained indepedence in the ensuing war. Philip supported the arts, and Velázquez was his court painter.

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