Afonso Henriques (Afonso I of Portugal), First King of Portugal

Afonso Henriques (Afonso I of Portugal) (1109-1185) was the first king of Portugal. Called "The Conqueror" he reigned 42 years from 1143 to 1185 and left a nation as his legacy.

Afonso Henriques was probably born in Guimarães, Portugal, on August 5, 1109. Son of D. Henrique de Burgundy and D. Teresa de León, he was the grandson of the Castilian king Afonso IV of León and Castile. His father, D. Henrique de Burgundy, was ordained count by King Alfonso VI, for the success in the military campaigns against the Moors in the Iberian Peninsula. In 1096, he was then rewarded with Condado Portucalense, grouping the former counties of Portucale and Coimbra, thus detached from Galicia.

With the death of D. Henrique de Burgundy in 1112, it was not long before there was a strong interference by the Trava Galician lineage in county politics, already under the rule of D. Teresa who from 116 passed to call themselves "queen". When Fernão Peres de Trava settled in the county in 1121, living with D. Teresa and performing governmental functions in the territory of Coimbra, the reaction of the Portuguese nobility was of rupture with the widow of Count D. Henrique.

The Siege of Guimarães

In 1122, aged 14, Afonso Henriques, who had received a good education, is knighted at Zamora Cathedral. At that time, the rejection of Galician interference spread to most of the Portucalenses gentlemen. The rebels won for their cause the infant Afonso Henriques, who in 1127 for defending the city of Guimarães from the siege that was put to him by Alfonso VII of Leon and Castile demanded that the Portucalenses recognize him as sovereign.

Battle of St. Mamede

The power struggle ended only with the Battle of São Mamede, in 1128, and consequent victory of the faction led by D. Afonso Henriques, with great emphasis on the action of the Portuguese noblemen. With the victory, Afonso Henriques adopted the title of prince and established himself as the county's ruler. The political separation between Galicia and what would become Portugal became definitive.

From 1131, Afonso Henriques settles in Coimbra, where he could more easily trigger raid operations against the Moors, extend the county territories and claim a kingdom. For the affirmation of the future Portuguese monarchy, Afonso Henriques sought to negotiate with the Holy See. The first step was the foundation of the Santa Cruz Monastery of Coimbra, still in 1131.

King of the Portuguese

Still in the 1130s, Afonso Henriques intensified his warrior character of the Afonsino government. It organized the defense of Coimbra, subject to raids by the Moors of Santarém, building castles that would guard and hinder the actions of enemies. With the construction of the castle of Leiria, he began to unleash and lead raids in Muslim-controlled areas.

In 1139, Afonso Henriques organized a large expedition that entered Islamic lands and culminated in the Battle of Ourique. With the triumph achieved, Afonso Henrique began to call himself "king of the Portuguese" (portugalensium rex) title that appears in court documents. The Portuguese king and monarchy emerged before the perfectly delimited and stabilized kingdom of Portugal was established.

Independence and New Achievements

In 1143 a decisive step towards the independence process took place when a Pope's envoy, Cardinal Guido de Vico, went to the Peninsula to resolve various administrative issues of the Church in a meeting with D. Afonso Henrique and Emperor Afonso VII. (proclaimed emperor of Hispania in 1135). The papal envoy also wanted the two cousins ​​not to have so much disagreement, as they only favored the Moors. Alfonso VII recognized his cousin as king, but such recognition did not mean a dissolution of the vassal bond between the two.

Determined to widen the territory, D. Afonso will regain southern lands previously taken by the Moors. It occupies Santarém and Lisbon, then Almada, Sintra, Beja, Evora, Moura, among others. In Badajoz, meets his first defeat, being seriously injured in one leg and prisoner. It is said that he had to pay pounds of gold for his release.

Even though he was recognized by his cousin and the Portuguese monarch sent a letter to Pope Innocent II, he offered to pay him four ounces of gold a year and stated that he considered him his sole master, excluding any kind of subordination to Alfonso VII. , the papal documents continued to treat him by duke (dux). And only in 1179 did Alfonso I see the Holy See's recognition of his royalty. In fact independence has long been a fait accompli.