17 May 2011

The Immortal Love of Pedro and Inês

Bacalhau Boy had a birthday last week.

Because I am a clever girl who will use any excuse for luring him away from his workaholic tendencies, one of his birthday presents was a romantic weekend road trip to find the footsteps of Portugal's most famous star-crossed lovers, Dom Pedro I and Inês de Castro. 

And because I am also an excessively share-y and excitable girl, here is a little of what we saw from this extraordinary (and TRUE) love story which began almost 700 years ago... and is still waiting for its happy ending.

(If you are not a fan of tragic and haunting love stories, stop reading now. No judgement.)

When Pedro I was just a young prince, he was pledged to marry Princess Constança of Castille, daughter of the Spanish king.  When she came to Portugal to become his wife in 1340, she brought her cousin Inês de Castro as a maid-in-waiting.  One look at Inês' "heron neck,"  and the prince was smitten.  And why not?  By one famous account, she was as "beautiful as a flower, blond as the sun, and extremely elegant."

While Pedro went through with his arranged marriage and even produced a legitimate heir, Fernando, his passion for Inês never faded.

Pedro and Inês at Quinta das Lágrimas. (artist: Ernesto Ferreira Condeixa)
King Afonso IV, Pedro's father, disapproved of the scandal and the potential political trouble this affair might bring with Spain.  To keep his love safe, Pedro had Inês hidden away at a monastery nearby.  While he was living at Quinta das Lágrimas in Coimbra he would use the water ducts (pictured in the foreground below) to send notes to Inês at the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha, just down the road.

Fonte dos Amores (1326), Quinta das Lágrimas
As for poor unloved Constança, her luckless role in this story ended when she died in childbirth in 1345, just five years after they were married.  And once she was gone, Pedro refused to marry anyone but Inês-- whom his father would never allow him to marry.  Nonetheless, the two lived happily in Coimbra together and had four children as proof of their continued passion.  Over ten years passed, and King Afonso grew more and more unhappy with this situation.  The illegitimate children were a threat to Fernando's claim on the throne, and even without being married to Inês, Pedro was being drawn into Spanish political intrigues through her brothers.

So, in 1355, when Pedro was away from home, King Afonso ordered the execution of Inês.  Though history places her death at their home in Santa Clara-a-Velha, legend is more poetically inclined and places it just a few feet from the Fonte dos Amores, here:

Fonte das Lágrimas, Quinta das Lágrimas
(Though a bit hard to see above, the rocks at the bottom are still said to be stained red with Inês' blood.)

When Pedro arrived home to find his love murdered by his own father, he went into a rage and lashed out at the king, laying siege to Porto and trying to take the throne.  Two years later when King Afonso died and Pedro became King Pedro I, things took a final leap into Mel-Gibson-Lethal-Weapon Batshit Crazyland.

The first thing Pedro did as king was to hunt down and get his vengeance on two of the three men who killed Inês by ripping their hearts out of their bodies.  While he watched.  While eating dinner. 

(I think you will see that "poetic and disturbing" becomes a recurring thing in this story...)

Next, he declared that he and Inês had been married secretly years earlier.  Therefore, she was rightfully due every honor of a Queen of Portugal.  He had her body exhumed from her resting place in Coimbra and brought to the Tomb of Kings in the Monastery at Alcobaça.  Once in Alcobaça, she was sat on her throne, crowned, and the royal court was made to kiss the hand of her corpse and bow to her, swearing allegiance to her as queen.
"Coronation" of Inês (artist: Pierre-Charles Comte)
Inês was finally laid to rest in her white marble tomb in Alcobaça, and when Pedro's time came, he was laid in a matching tomb.  The tombs were placed foot to foot on opposite sides of the Cathedral so that when they rose on Judgement Day the first thing they would see would be each other.

Tombs of Inês (near) and Pedro, Monastery at Alcobaça

Happy Birthday, Bacalhau Boy.  Although I hope neither of us takes a turn into actual insanity, I wish us both a love as long-lasted as that of King Pedro and his Inês.  At least 700 more birthdays to come.


  1. Wow! what a wonderful story. Great post too! I can't begin to imagine what would happen to he who would refuse to kiss the Corpse Queen hand. :)

    Let me tell you one thing though, Pedro I sure knew the meaning of vengeance....

  2. I know now that i shouldn't have had slept in class, lol. Do you know there is a portuguese movie about this story?

  3. Yeah, he had an epic vengeful streak! Makes for a good story... although I am not entirely convinced about that movie trailer. I am so glad you sent it and I kind of want to see the movie, just because I love the story. But I have to say it looks less fierce than I imagined it in my head. And is it just me, or is that Inês looking kind of rough??

  4. Well this is one of those stories from the annals of Portuguese history that I always thought was creepy and interesting and romantic(??). This King Pedro is also called Pedro O Justiceiro or sometimes O Vingativo--so I hear. Kinda fitting really.

  5. VERY fitting! And you are right, it is romantic, but definitely romantic with a ??, isn't it?