Afonso, Prince of Portugal

For the son of John III of Portugal, see Afonso, Prince of Portugal (1526).
Prince of Portugal

The Death of Prince Afonso
Born (1475-05-18)18 May 1475
Died 13 July 1491(1491-07-13) (aged 16)
Santarém District
Burial Batalha Monastery
Spouse Isabella, Princess of Asturias
House House of Aviz
Father John II of Portugal
Mother Eleanor of Viseu
Religion Roman Catholicism

Afonso, Prince of Portugal (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐˈfõsu]; 18 May 1475 – 13 July 1491)[1] - was the heir apparent to the throne of Portugal. He was born in Lisbon, Portugal, and died in a horse-riding accident on the banks of the river Tagus.

Heir apparent

Afonso, named after his grandfather, King Afonso V, was the only son King John II and Eleanor of Viseu.[2] The king was very fond of him and named the smaller island of São Tomé and Príncipe after him (Príncipe meaning Prince in the Portuguese language).


Afonso's grandfather Afonso V of Portugal had sided with Joanna la Beltraneja who was a rival for the throne of Castile against her half-aunt, Queen Isabella I of Castile. She was never considered legitimate and, when the king was dying, no one took her as a serious contender for the crown. Isabella was due to inherit the crown, but Afonso V was keen to interfere with the succession in Castile. In 1475 he married his niece Joanna, whom he considered the legitimate heir to the crown. Since her adulteress mother was his own sister, Afonso V had not only ambition, but the family honour to protect. He proclaimed himself King of Castile and León and prepared to defend his wife's rights.[3]

King Ferdinand and Isabella, however, won the war of succession and, as part of the Treaty of Alcáçovas, signed in 1479, it was agreed that their eldest daughter Isabella would marry Alfonso.[4][5] Isabella was also to come with a very large dowry that in practice represented the war compensation obtained by Portugal. In 1480, Prince Afonso, who at that time was five years old, went to live in the town of Moura with his maternal grandmother, Beatrice. In the early months of the following year, his future wife, the ten-year old Isabella, joined him and lived there for about two years.[6]

The wedding, by proxy, took place ten years later in the spring of 1490 in Seville.[7][8] On 19 November of that year, Isabella arrived in Badajoz where she was welcomed by Afonso's uncle, Manuel, the future King Manuel I of Portugal, whom she would eventually marry six years after her husband's death. Afonso and Isabella were reunited in Elvas on 22 November and, on the following day, Isabella met her mother-in-law, Queen Eleanor, in the Convento do Espinheiro in Évora, where the court had gathered to ratify the marriage that had been celebrated earlier in Seville.[9]

This wedding had the blessings of both Kingdoms. The queen of Castile, whose mother and nurse were Portuguese, wanted to strengthen the ties with Portugal,[10] and, at the same time, this would allow her to "keep an eye on and control the steps of her eternal rival, Juana la Beltraneja", through her daughter.[8]


Cloister of Batalha Monastery

In July 1491, the royal family was spending the summer in the Santarém District near the banks of the River Tagus. King John invited his son to swim with him. The young prince refused the invitation at first, but seeing that his father wanted him to keep him company, decided to join him. According to the chronicle of Rui de Pina: força do correr, o cavalo do príncipe caiu, e o levou debaixo de si, onde logo de improviso ficou como morto, sem fala e sem sentidos. ("...running at a great speed, the Prince's horse fell, dragging (the prince) under him, where he remained, seemingly dead, without speaking and having lost his senses").[11]

According to the same author, when Afonso's mother heard the news of the accident, stricken with pain, she ran, riding on a mule, accompanied by her daughter-in-law, to be with her son who was lying on the ground. Nothing could be done. As a sign of mourning, his parents decided to dress in black. The funeral rites were held at Batalha Monastery and Prince Afonso was buried there, also the resting place of his grandfather King Afonso V.[12] His widow, Infanta Isabella, returned to Castile and even before the siege of Granada was lifted, she joined her parents in Íllora. The Catholic Monarchs abandoned the camp temporarily to be with their daughter and to console her.[7]


John tried without success until the end of his life to legitimise the ten-year-old Jorge, Duke of Coimbra, his illegitimate son. His wife, Queen Eleanor, was adamantly against having the king's bastard son occupy the throne, an opinion shared by the Catholic Monarchs, who, like Queen Eleanor, supported the claims of the Duke of Beja, Eleanor's brother, as the heir to the throne. In 1494, King John, whose health had worsened, executed his last will in which named his cousin and brother-in-law, the Duke of Beja, his successor. King John died in October 1495 and, in 1497, his successor, the Duke of Beja, now King Manuel I of Portugal, married Isabella, Prince Afonso's widow.[13]




Afonso, Prince of Portugal
Cadet branch of the House of Burgundy
Born: 18 May 1475 Died: 13 July 1491
Preceded by
John (II)
Prince of Portugal
Succeeded by
Manuel (I)
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