Elizabeth of Portugal (1271–1336)

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Elizabeth of Portugal (1271–1336)

Saint and queen of Portugal. Name variations: Isabel or Isabella of Aragon; Isabella of Portugal. Born in 1271 in Aragon; died on July 4, 1336, in Estremos, Portugal; interred in Coimbra; daughter of Pedro also known as Peter III, king of Aragon, and Constance of Sicily (r. 1282–1302); grandniece of Elizabeth of Hungary (1207–1231); married Diniz also spelled Dinis or Denis (1261–1325), king of Portugal (r. 1279–1325), in 1280 or 1282; children: Alphonso IV (1291–1357), king of Portugal (r. 1325–1357); Constance of Portugal (1290–1313), later queen of Castile.

Elizabeth of Portugal was an Aragonese princess, the daughter of King Peter III and Constance of Sicily . She married King Denis of Portugal in 1280. Her diplomatic skills and pious nature led her to act as a mediator to various political factions within both the Aragonese and Portuguese royal families, earning her the sobriquet "the Peacemaker." Despite her mediating role, Elizabeth never played a central part in the actual administration of the kingdom. Extremely unhappy in her marriage, she sought activities that could be pursued away from her husband and that would fulfill her pious inclinations. She became increasingly involved in charitable works and acts of personal piety, including extreme fasting. Elizabeth was celebrated throughout Portugal for her generous donations to public works such as hospitals and orphanages, and she founded a college designed to prepare young women to be farmers.

In 1325, when King Denis died, Elizabeth's eldest son succeeded as Alphonso IV. Freed from the constraints of marriage and queenship at age 54, Elizabeth joined the monastic order of the Poor Clares and embarked on pilgrimages. Over time, she developed a following of those who believed she was exceptionally gifted and could perform miracles; one legend claims that she restored sight to a blind child. After her death in 1336, a shrine was built for Elizabeth in Coimbra. Despite the popularity of the queen during her life, and of the shrine after her death, Elizabeth of Portugal was not canonized until 1625.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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