On this day, 16 February, 1279, Afonso III of Portugal, died in Lisbon. He was my two-times 24th great-grandfather through his granddaughter Constance of Portugal and though his grandson Afonso IV (both children of his son Denis).
In 1227, Afonso III traveled to France; while there, he served as vassal to Louis IX (my 24th great-grandfather), fighting against Henry III (my two-times 23rd great-grandfather).
Circa 1238, Afonso III married Matilda, Countess of Boulogne, thereby becoming Count, jure uxoris.
While Afonso III was in France, a struggle developed back home in Portugal between his brother Sancho II and the Catholic Church. In 1245, Pope Innocent IV directed the Portuguese to select a worthier king, and Afonso III was summoned. In early 1246, Afonso III arrived in Lisbon; civil war broke out soon after his arrival. The war was hard-fought; however, in the end, the strong Castilian support Sancho II anticipated failed to materialize. Sancho II lost the Crown and died in exile in Toledo on 4 January 1248.
In order to ascend the throne of Portugal, Afonso III was forced to abdicate his rights to Boulogne. He did so in 1248.
To consolidate his rule over the divided kingdom, Afonso III launched a campaign to free southern Portugal from Muslim rule. Faro fell in 1249. The rest of the Algarve was secured for Portugal, according to the terms of a 1253 pact with Alfonso X of Castile.
At the time, Alfonso III had been married to Matilda for 15 years. However, the pact stipulated that Afonso III would marry Beatrice of Castile, the illegitimate daughter of Alfonso X of Castile, and Mayor Guillén de Guzmán. Consequently, in 1253, Afonso III divorced Matilda and married Beatrice (my two-times 24th great-grandmother). Although the Church disapproved of this marriage, Beatrice was warmly received by the Portuguese people.
Determined not to make the same mistakes as his brother, Afonso III paid special attention to merchants and small land owners—the middle class. In 1254, in the city of Leiria, he held the first session of the Cortes, a general assembly composed of nobles, clergy, and commoners. Afonso III also made laws restraining the nobility from abusing those less fortunate. He founded several towns, granted the title of city to many others, and reorganized public administration. Some of his more progressive measures included ending preventive arrests (all arrests were first presented to a judge to determine the detention measure) and fiscal innovation, such as negotiating extraordinary taxes with the mercantile classes and direct taxation of the Church.
Despite the fact that the Pope had helped put Afonso III on the throne, the Catholic Church became frustrated with Afonso III’s taxation of the Church. As a result, Afonso III was excommunicated.
On 16 February 1279, at the age of 68, Afonso III died in Lisbon. His eldest surviving son, Denis, who was only 18 years old at the time, became King of Portugal.