Afonso V of Portugal

Afonso V
Domafonsov.jpg
Contemporary portrait in the Itinerarium of Georg von Ehingen, c. 1470
King of Portugal
Reign13 September 1438 – 28 August 1481[a]
Acclamation15 January 1446
PredecessorEdward
SuccessorJohn II
Regents
Born15 January 1432
Sintra Palace, Portugal
Died28 August 1481(1481-08-28) (aged 49)
Lisbon, Portugal
Burial
Consorts
Issue
HouseAviz
FatherEdward, King of Portugal
MotherEleanor of Aragon
ReligionRoman Catholicism
SignatureAfonso V's signature

Afonso V[1] (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐˈfõsu]) (15 January 1432 – 28 August 1481), called the African (Portuguese: o Africano), was King of Portugal. His sobriquet refers to his conquests in Northern Africa.

As of 1471, Afonso V was the first king of Portugal to claim dominion over a plural "Kingdom of the Algarves", instead of the singular "Kingdom of the Algarve". Territories added to the Portuguese crown lands in North Africa during the 15th century came to be referred to as possessions of the Kingdom of the Algarve (now a region of southern Portugal), not the Kingdom of Portugal. The "Algarves" then were considered to be the southern Portuguese territories on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar.

Early life

Afonso V of Portugal

Afonso was born in Sintra, the second son of King Edward of Portugal by his wife Eleanor of Aragon. Following the death of his older brother, Infante João (1429-1433), Afonso acceded to the position of heir apparent and was made the first Prince of Portugal by his father, who sought to emulate the English Court's custom of a dynastic title that distinguished the heir apparent from the other children of the monarch. He was only six years old when he succeeded his father in 1438.[2]

During his minority, Afonso V was placed under the regency of his mother[3] in accordance with a will of his late father. As both a foreigner and a woman, the queen was not a popular choice for regent. Opposition rose and without any important ally among the Portuguese aristocracy other than Afonso, Count of Barcelos, the illegitimate half brother of King Edward, the queen's position was untenable. In 1439, the Portuguese Cortes (assembly of the kingdom) decided to replace the queen with Peter, Duke of Coimbra (Dom Pedro),[3] the young king's oldest uncle.[2]

Peter's main policies were concerned with restricting the political power of the great noble houses and expanding the powers of the crown. The country prospered under his rule, but not peacefully, as his laws interfered with the ambition of powerful nobles. The count of Barcelos, a personal enemy of the Duke of Coimbra (despite being half-brothers) eventually became the king's favourite uncle and began a constant struggle for power. In 1442, the king made Afonso the first Duke of Braganza. With this title and its lands, he became the most powerful man in Portugal and one of the richest men in Europe. To secure his position as regent, Peter had Afonso marry his daughter, Isabella of Coimbra, in 1445.[2]

But on 9 June 1448, when the king came of age, Peter had to surrender his power to Afonso V. The years of conspiracy by the Duke of Braganza finally came to a head. On 15 September of the same year, Afonso V nullified all the laws and edicts approved under the regency. In the following year, led by what were later discovered to be false accusations, Afonso declared Peter a rebel and defeated his army in the Battle of Alfarrobeira, in which his uncle (and father-in-law) was killed.[3] After this battle and the loss of one of Portugal's most remarkable infantes, the Duke of Braganza became the de facto ruler of the country.