Battle of Alfarrobeira

Battle of Alfarrobeira
Date20 May 1449
LocationAlverca, near Lisbon, Portugal
Result Rebellion suppressed;
Supremacy of the main line of the House of Aviz preserved
Portugal Kingdom of Portugal Coimbra Rebels
Commanders and leaders
Afonso V of Portugal
Duke of Braganza
Duke of Coimbra [1]
30,000 men[2]

6,000 men:[3]

  • 5,000 infantry
  • 1,000 cavalry
Casualties and losses
500 dead or wounded 4,000 dead, wounded, or captured

The Battle of Alfarrobeira (Portuguese pronunciation: [aɫfɐʁuˈbɐjɾɐ]) took place on 20 May 1449. It was a confrontation between the forces commanded by King Afonso V of Portugal and his uncle Afonso, Duke of Braganza, against the army of the rebellious Peter, Duke of Coimbra. The place was Alverca do Ribatejo, near Lisbon, at the margins of the creek of Alfarrobeira. The result was the clear defeat and death of the Duke of Coimbra and the establishment of the Braganzas as the most powerful House of Portugal.

The reasons for battle

After the death of King Fernando, the last of the First Dynasty, in 1383, power fell on the regent Queen Leonor, hated by the people, and her daughter Beatrice, married to the Castilian King Juan I. Fernando's half-brother John, Master of Aviz, led a revolution against Queen and the Castilian King, defeating them with a smaller army in the battle of Aljubarrota. The battle became a turnpoint in Portuguese and the world's History, and King John I and his military aide, Constable Nuno Álvares Pereira, became immortal idols.

King John I had a first illegitimate son, Afonso, and a daughter Beatrice; after marrying Philippa of Lancaster, John of Gaunt's daughter, and establishing the House of Aviz, they had a first boy (died of young age), a girl Isabella (who became a famous duchess of Burgundy and Flanders), then five boys who were grew up under the memories of the famous battle. Edward (Duarte) was trained to become King, Peter (Pedro), Henry (Henrique, a.k.a. "The Navigator"), that was becoming powerful and famous with the military actions in Northern Africa against Muslims; John and Fernando, the youngest, died before Alfarrobeira. For ten years Peter lived abroad.

When King John I, and a few years later, King Edward, died, the crown fell on the boy Afonso V, under the regency of the Queen, an Aragonese; the people remembered 1383 and the civil war, and rebelled against the Queen. The old Afonso, Count of Barcelos, King John's first son, supported the Queen. Peter (now the eldest brother) led a revolution with the help of his brothers, but Henry managed to establish peace through a tripartite regency between the Queen, Peter and Afonso.

In the years to follow, the Queen tried a coup-d'etat with the help of her family; Peter, married to an Aragonese whose family fought for Castilian power against the Queen's family, managed to send her back to Castile, appeased older Afonso giving him the Duchy of Braganza and conquered the thrust of his sons by promising them military titles, married his daughter to the young King, and assumed the Regency, establishing himself as the most powerful man in Portugal with the help of his brother Henry. But he made mistakes, for when his two brothers John and Fernando died, he gave their military titles to his sons, and not Afonso's sons as promised.

When young Afonso V reached his 14th birthday, he dismissed his uncle as regent, associated with Afonso's sons, and began to uproot Peter's men from their positions of power. Finally, for reasons that would be proven false later, the King marched against Peter. The battle, near Lisbon, to the North, was short, and Peter one of its first victims being killed by an arrow.[4] Henry, King John's fifth son, was now first and only of the House of Aviz.

Outcomes of the battle

Mistrusted by King Afonso V and the Duke of Braganza's sons as a member of the House of Aviz, and mistrusted by his dead brother's friends who never accepted his betrayal (and rejected by his old sister Isabella, in Burgundy), Henry retreated to his land in Sagres, the southernmost and westernmost tip of Portugal - and Europe. There, living a secluded and religious life, he concentrated his efforts on the sailing expeditions of his men, becoming worldly renowned as discoverer of never before seen oceans and coasts (Madeira, Azores, the African coast to Guinea, and after his death Cape of Good Hope, India, Japan, Canada, Brasil, etc.).

Afonso V ignored the travels of his uncle and immersed himself in the battles of Castile, trying to take the throne to himself, but his claim was defeated in the indecisive Battle of Toro by Queen Isabella the Catholic and King Fernando of Aragon. However, he won the naval war against the Catholic monarchs during this war of the Castilian Succession (1475–79). He died leaving Portugal on the brink of bankruptcy.

Afonso's son, John II, turned his back on Castile and saw an opportunity on the ocean discoveries and expanded them, making Portugal the first intercontinental empire and becoming the most powerful King in medieval History.


  1. M. D. D. Newitt, p.10
  2. Newton de Macedo, p.86
  3. Newton de Macedo, p.86
  4. Clayton J. Drees, p.15


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