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Duarte I de Portugal

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Duarte Ⅰ de Portugal
Born 31 October 1391
Viseu, Portugal
Died 9 September 1438
Tomar, Portugal
Resting place Monastery of Batalha
Spouse(s) Eleonora d'Aragona
  • Infante John
  • Infanta Philippa
  • João Ⅰ de Portugal (father)
  • Philippa of Lancaster (mother)
Occupation King of Portugal (1433-38)
Genres Fencing manual
Language Old Portuguese
Manuscript(s) MS Portugais 5 (1438)
First printed
english edition
Preto, 2005

Duarte, KG, (1391 – 1438), called the Philosopher or the Eloquent, was King of Portugal and the Algarve and second Lord of Ceuta from 1433 until his death. He was born in Viseu, the son of João Ⅰ de Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster. Duarte was the oldest member of the Ínclita Geração ("Illustrious Generation").

As an infante (prince), Duarte always followed his father in the affairs of the kingdom. He was knighted in 1415, after the Portuguese capture of the city of Ceuta in North Africa, across from Gibraltar. On 22 September 1428, he married Eleonora d'Aragona, who would ultimately bear him nine children (of whom five survived to adulthood). Duarte became king in 1433 when his father died of the Black Death.[1] He soon showed interest in building internal political consensus. During his short reign of five years, Duarte called the Cortes (the Portuguese national assembly) no less than five times to discuss the political affairs of his kingdom. He also followed the politics of his father concerning the maritime exploration of Africa. He encouraged and financed his famous brother, Henrique "the Navigator", who initiated many expeditions on the west coast of Africa. That of Gil Eanes in 1434 first rounded Cape Bojador on the northwestern coast of Africa, leading the way for further exploration southward along the African coast.

In 1437, Duarte's brothers Henrique and Fernando persuaded him to launch an attack on the Marinid sultanate of Morocco. The expedition was not unanimously supported, and was undertaken against the advice of the Pope.[1] His brothers Pedro and João were both against the initiative; they preferred to avoid conflict with the king of Morocco. Their instincts proved to be justified. The resulting attack on Tangier, led by Henrique, was a debacle. Failing to take the city in a series of assaults, the Portuguese siege camp was soon itself surrounded and starved into submission by a Moroccan relief army. In the resulting treaty, Henrique promised to deliver Ceuta back to the Marinids in return for allowing the Portuguese army to depart unmolested. Duarte's youngest brother, Fernando, was handed over to the Marinids as a hostage for the final handover of the city.

The debacle at Tangier dominated Duarte's final year. Pedro and João urged him to fulfill the treaty, yield Ceuta and secure Fernando's release, while Henrique (who had signed the treaty) urged him to renege on it. Caught in indecision, Duarte assembled the Cortes at Leiria in early 1438 for consultation. The Cortes refused to ratify the treaty, preferring to hang on to Ceuta and requesting that Duarte find some other way of obtaining Fernando's release.

Duarte died late that summer, in Tomar, of the plague, like his father and mother (and her mother) before him. Popular lore suggested he died of heartbreak over the fate of his hapless brother; Fernando would remain in captivity in Fez until his own death in 1443.[1]

Duarte's premature death provoked a political crisis in Portugal. Leaving only a young son, Afonso, to inherit the throne, it was generally assumed that Duarte's brothers would take over the regency of the realm. But Duarte's will appointed his unpopular foreign wife, Eleonora d'Aragona, as regent. A popular uprising followed, in which the burghers of the realm, assembled by João de Reguengos, acclaimed Pedro as regent. But the nobles backed Eleanora's claim, and threatened civil war. The regency crisis was defused by a complicated and tense power-sharing arrangement between Eleanora and Pedro.

Another less political side of Duarte's personality is related to culture. A reflective and scholarly infante, he wrote the treatises O leal conselheiro ("The Loyal Counselor") and Livro da ensinança de bem cavalgar toda sela ("Book of Teachings on Riding Well in Every Saddle"), both of which now comprise the MS Portugais 5, as well as several poems and a series of miscellaneous advice that was ultimately collected in Livro dos conselhos ("Book of Counsel"). He was in the process of revising the Portuguese law code when he died.


In addition to his treatise on mounted combat, he also wrote a brief passage in his Livro dos conselhos called Regimento para aprender alguas cousas armas ("Regimen to Learn Certain Matters of Arms") which offers a few interesting points of guidance on training.

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