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Eleanor of Portugal (1434–1467)

Eleanor of Portugal (1434–1467)

Portuguese princess, Holy Roman empress and queen of Germany as wife of Frederick III, and mother of Emperor Maximilian I. Name variations: Eleanora; Eleonore; Leonor. Born on September 18, 1434, in Torres Novan Vedras; died on September 3, 1467, in Wiener-Neustadt from complications of childbirth; daughter of Edward also known as Duarte I, king of Portugal (r. 1433–1438), and Leonora of Aragon (1405–1445); married Frederick III, king of Germany and Holy Roman emperor (r. 1440–1493), on March 15, 1452; children: Christopher (b. 1455); Maxmilian I (1459–1519), Holy Roman Emperor (who married Mary of Burgundy [1457–1482] and Bianca Maria Sforza [1472–1510]); Johann or John (1466–1467); Helen (1460–1461); Cunegunde (1465–1520, who married Albert II of Bavaria).

Birth of Frederick III (1415); death of her uncle, Henry the Navigator (1460); accession of Frederick III as king of Germany (1440); Frederick III's coronation as Holy Roman emperor (1452); death of Frederick III (1493).

Princess Eleanor of Portugal was born on September 18, 1434, in Torres Vedras, the daughter of King Duarte I of Portugal and Queen Leonora of Aragon . When Eleanor was 15, negotiations for her betrothal to the French crown prince failed. In 1451, her father consequently arranged her betrothal to Frederick III, king of Germany, and agreed to provide a dowry of 60,000 gold florins. Married by proxy on August 9, 1451, in Lisbon, Eleanor departed the following October by sea for Italy, where she was to meet her husband. During the voyage, pirates attacked her ten-ship fleet, but Eleanor reached Italy safely on February 2, 1452. Frederick III and his court met her in Siena, and the party then proceeded to Rome. Pope Nicholas V officiated at their wedding on March 15, 1452, and the imperial coronation four days later.

On her arrival in Germany, Eleanor probably found the country coarse and insular, compared with Portugal which was embarking on its great age. Her husband was neither handsome nor devoted. Still, from the palace-castle at Wiener-Neustadt near the Hungarian border, she faced with Frederick the nearly continuous challenge of rebellious German nobles and Turkish expansion into the Balkans. Their first child, Christopher, was born in 1455, but their joy at having a son was brief, as he died the following year. In 1459, Eleanor gave birth to Maximilian I, who succeeded his father and established in reality many of the grandiose claims Frederick made for the Habsburg dynasty. Two daughters, Helena (1460–1461) and Cunegunde (1465–1520), plus another son, John (1466–1467), followed. Eleanor died on September 3, 1467, from complications of childbirth. She is buried in the Cistercian monastery of Neustadt, and in 1469 Frederick hired Niklas Gerhaert van Leyden to carve both his and Eleanor's likenesses for the tomb.


Cordeiro, Luciano. Portuguezes fôra de Portugal. Uma sobrinha do infante, imperatriz da Allemanha e rainha da Hungria. Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional, 1894.

Fichtenau, Heinrich. Der junge Maximilian, 1459–82. Vienna: Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, 1959.

Heinig, Paul Joachim, ed. Kaiser Friedrich III. (1440–1493) in seiner Zeit: Studien anlasslich des 500. Todestags am 19. August 1493/1993. Köln: Böhlau, 1993.

Lanckmann, Nicolaus. Historia desponsationis, benedictionis et coronationis Imp. Friderici III et coniugis ipsius Eleonorae a. 1451. Trans. by Aires A. Nascimento. Lisbon: Edições Cosmos, 1992.

Kendall W. Brown , Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

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