On this day 831 years ago, Afonso I “The Conqueror”, the first King of Portugal, died at the age of 76. He was my 27th great-grandfather.
In 1095, Alfonso VI of Léon and Castile (my 28th great-grandfather through his daughter Urraca and my 29th great-grandfather through his daughter Teresa) granted the county of Portugal to Henry of Burgundy, who successfully defended it against the Moors. Henry then married Alfonso VI’s illegitimate daughter, Teresa. On 25 July 1109, a son was born to Henry and Teresa; his name was Afonso Henriques (later known as Afonso I).
On 22 May 1112, Afonso’s father died during the Siege of Astorga. Afonso was not yet three-years old. His mother Teresa joined forces with Fernando Pérez de Trava, the most powerful count in Galicia, and governed Portugal in Afonso’s stead until he would come of age.
However, when that time came—on Afonso’s 14th birthday, Teresa was unwilling to cede power to her son. Consequently, in 1122, Afonso knighted himself, raised an army, and began his quest to wrest control of his lands from his mother. In 1128, at the Battle of São Mamede, Afonso and his army overcame Fernando Pérez de Trava’s troops. Afterwards, Afonso exiled his mother to Galicia. Though initially obliged as a vassal to submit to his cousin Alfonso VII of Léon (my 26th great-grandfather through his son Ferdinand II, my 27th great-grandfather through his son Sancho III, and my 27th great-grandfather through his daughter Sancha), Afonso eventually was able to gain control of Portugal from Alfonso VII.
Afonso then focused his war efforts against the Moors. On 25 July 1139, he was victorious at the Battle of Ourique. After this victory, the neighboring Muslim kingdoms paid tribute to Afonso, acknowledging Portugal as an independent kingdom. Soon after, Afonso unanimously was proclaimed King of the Portugal by his soldiers, establishing his equality in rank to the other realms of the Iberian Peninsula.
However, independence from Alfonso VII of León’s oversight was not something Afonso could achieve exclusively through military maneuvers. Portugal also needed to be acknowledged diplomatically by the Roman Catholic Church. Afonso wed Mafalda of Savoy (my 27th great-grandfather), daughter of Amadeus III, Count of Savoy. He then sent ambassadors to Rome to negotiate with the Pope and succeeded in renouncing the suzerainty of his cousin, Alfonso VII.
Afonso constructed several convents and monasteries, bestowing key privileges to these religious orders. In 1143, he wrote to Pope Innocent II, declaring himself and his kingdom servants of the church and vowing to drive the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula. In 1147, Afonso continued to distinguish himself by his exploits against the Moors, from whom he wrested Santarém and Lisbon.
Meanwhile, the kings of León and Castile were attempting to re-annex Portugal. Since the Roman Catholic Church still had not sanctioned Afonso and the Kingdom of Portugal, Afonso I made an alliance with the Crown of Aragon, and together they fought Castile and León. Then, in 1174, Afonso’s son Sancho I married Dulce of Aragon (my 26th great-grandmother), daughter of Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona and Petronila of Aragon.
Finally, in 1143, after Portugal won the Battle of Valdevez, the Treaty of Zamora established peace between the Léon and Portugal, and the Kingdom of León recognized Portugal as a sovereign kingdom.
Afonso continued to expand his territory beyond the Tagus River, annexing Beja in 1162 and Évora in 1165. In 1169, in a skirmish near Badajoz, Afonso was unhorsed and briefly was taken prisoner by the soldiers of Ferdinand II.
In 1179, in the Manifestis Probatum, Pope Alexander III acknowledged Afonso as king and Portugal as an independent crown with the right to conquer lands from the Moors.
In 1184, in spite of his advanced years, Afonso rallied to the rescue of his son Sancho, who was besieged in Santarém by the Moors. Afonso died shortly thereafter on 6 December 1185.
To this day, Afonso I is revered by the Portuguese as the founder of their nation.