The Tale of Pedro and Inês

In Portugal we like love stories and macabre tales. When you like these two, you can’t quite beat the tale of Pedro and Inês (Peter and Agnes, in English). A true story that took place in Portugal during the middle ages.

Born in Coimbra, in 1320, Pedro was the son of the king of Portugal, Afonso IV. Even though he was not the firstborn male child of the king, he was the first in line for the throne of Portugal, after the death of his brother. His marriage would serve as political alliance, and the king wanted to make sure that he could find the perfect future queen for Portugal. He went to Castile, to choose the bride of his son. The truth is he could not have made a better choice for his political agenda, and chose a Castilian noble women by the name of Constança. You are probably guessing that this poor Constança did not have a lot of luck in the matters of the heart, and you are guessing correctly. After the wedding of Pedro and Constança, the soon to be king of Portugal fell in love, not with his wife but with her lady-in-waiting, Inês de Castro.

The love affair started and lasted well after the death of Constança during child labour, which was very common during the middle ages. Now a widow, the prince of Portugal could join in marriage with his true love. However, his father, the king, would not allow this to happened, as it was important that the prince remained single and available. The couple had three children, Beatriz, João and Dinis and moved to Coimbra. After a secret marriage, Inês lived in the convent of Santa Clara and in the gardens around it the couple would trade little love notes and make enduring promises of love. This ideal place was however the stage of a horrendous crime, when on the 7th of January of 1355 three men sent by the King Afonso killed Inês in front of her children. A fountain in that garden, called a Quinta das Lágrimas, is said to have the blood marks of Inês still today.

Pedro turned against his father and when the king died and Pedro got to the throne he did the unthinkable. He ordered for the body of Inês to be taken out of its resting place and sat her dead body on the throne. She was in his eyes the queen of Portugal and everyone should act like it. Thus, he made everyone kiss her (decomposed!) hand.

The macabre love story is up to this day something that inspires artists in Portugal. Starting with Camões that wrote about this love story, a lot of poems, books, plays, movies and dance shows have been made in memory of Pedro and Inês.

Their tombs are in Mosteiro de Alcobaça, and Pedro design them in a way that when the world ends and the dead come back they will face each other. The tombs themselves are gothic works of art and they represent the circle of life and are deeply connect with the idea of life, death and the afterlife. You really cannot get more romantic and creepy than that.