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Castro, Inez de (c. 1320–1355)

Castro, Inez de (c. 1320–1355)

Spanish mistress and probably wife of Peter I of Portugal. Name variations: Ines de Castro or Inês de Castro; Ines di Castro; sometimes Anglicized as Agnes; called Collo de Garza (Heron's Neck). Born in Spanish Galicia around 1320 (some sources cite 1327); stabbed to death on January 7, 1355, at Coimbra, Spain; daughter, possibly illegitimate, of Pedro Fernandez de Castro of Castile and Alonca also known as Aldonca or Aldonza Soares de Villadares of Portugal; the reigning house of Portugal directly descended from her brother, Alvaro Perez de Castro; presumably became the third wife of Pedro I also known as Peter I(1320–1367), king of Portugal (r. 1357–1367), probably in 1354; children: (with Peter I) probably Beatrice of Portugal (c. 1347–1381), countess of Albuquerque; Affonso (b. 1348, died young); John, duke of Valencia (c. 1349–1397); Diniz or Denis, count of Villar-Dompardo (c. 1354–1397).

Inez de Castro was born into an aristocratic Spanish family, the daughter of Pedro Fernandez de Castro and Alonca Soares de Villadares, a noble Portuguese woman. Tradition maintains that her father and mother were unmarried, and that Inez and her two brothers were consequently considered of "bastard birth." As a child, she was sent to be educated in the palaces of Juan Manuel, duke of Penafiel. Many young noblewomen of the late medieval age experienced the same fate; their parents placed them in the homes of those who were even wealthier and more prestigious in the hope that they would become well-educated and attract suitable offers of marriage. Inez grew up with and became lady-in-waiting to her cousin Constance of Castile (1323–1345), the daughter of Constance of Aragon (d. 1327) and Duke Juan Manuel. In 1341, she and Constance moved to Lisbon upon Constance's marriage to Peter, prince of Portugal.

It was at Lisbon shortly after his marriage that Prince Peter fell deeply in love with Inez. Despite his married state and Inez's position as lady-in-waiting to his wife, the two soon became lovers. Given that many royal men had love affairs with little scandal or consequence in their era, the two might have remained happily together, yet tragedy awaited them instead. After Constance died in 1345 during childbirth, their relationship was almost that of husband and wife. Peter claimed that he and Inez married in 1354, although this would have been a secret marriage and thus cannot be proven.

Constance of Castile (1323–1345)

Queen of Portugal. Name variations: Constance of Aragon; Constance Manuel; (Spanish) Constance de Castilla. Born in 1323; died on November 13, 1345, in Santarum, during childbirth; daughter of Juan Manuel de Villena, duke of Penafiel, and Constance of Aragon (d. 1327); married Alphonso XI, king of Castile and Leon, on March 28, 1325 (annulled in 1327); became second wife of Pedro I also known as Peter I (1320–1367), king of Portugal (r. 1357–1367), on August 24, 1336; children: (second marriage) Luiz (1340–1340); Maria of Portugal (1343–1367, who married Fernando also known as Ferdinand of Aragon, marquis of Tortosa); Fernao also known as Fernando or Ferdinand I the Handsome (1345–1383), king of Portugal (r. 1367–1383, who married Leonora Telles ).

Inez's paternal relatives, the Castro family, were gaining power and prestige during the same years as Peter and Inez's affair. Eventually, enemies of the Castros convinced Peter's father, King Alphonso IV of Portugal, that the affair between his son and the daughter of the hated Castros could prove dangerous to the security of his throne. Their proposed solution was to have Inez murdered. King Alphonso first refused the plan but later yielded. The king was among those who went secretly in 1355 to the palace of Coimbra where Inez and Peter lived. Inez's beauty and her tears are said to have dissuaded the king, but those who accompanied him were resolute and stabbed Inez to death. Her body was then immediately buried in the church of Santa Clara. It seems Alphonso misread his son's passion for Inez, for the murder nearly cost Alphonso the throne that the misdeed was meant to secure. Prince Peter revolted against his father as soon as he learned of Inez's murder, and the three men who had committed the crime fled to Castile. Peter ended the revolt after winning guarantees of his father's good will. In 1357, Alphonso died, and Peter succeeded to the throne of Portugal. He had the three murderers brought from exile into Portugal and tortured to death, and belatedly had Inez's body buried in a magnificent tomb at Alcobaca. Many stories were told of Peter's undying love for his murdered wife, including one that had Prince Peter crowning Inez's corpse and setting it beside him at his coronation, the authenticity of which is highly questionable at best. These stories made the love between Inez and Peter the stuff of legends in their own time and for several centuries to follow. Around 1558, António Ferreira, the Lisbon humanist and younger son of a noble at the Court of the duke of Coimbra, wrote Inês de Castro; it was the first dramatic tragedy in Portuguese. At Naples, Elizabeth Billington appeared as the hero in Inez di Castro, an opera written for her by F. Bianchi. As well, Aphra Behn wrote The History of Agnes de Castro.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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