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Afonso I
King of the Portuguese
Reign 26 July 1139 – 6 December 1185
Coronation 26 July 1139
Predecessor Henry, Count of Portugal (de jure)
Teresa, Countess of Portugal (de facto)
Successor Sancho I
Consort Maud of Savoy
Urraca, Queen of León
Sancho I
Infanta Teresa, Countess of Flanders
House Capetian House of Burgundy
Father Henry, Count of Portugal
Mother Teresa of León
Born 25 July 1109
Guimarães or Viseu
Died 6 December 1185
Coimbra, Kingdom of Portugal
Burial Santa Cruz Monastery, Coimbra, District of Coimbra, Portugal

Afonso I or Alfonso I ( 25 July 1109, Guimarães or Viseu – 6 December 1185, Coimbra), or also Affonso (Archaic Portuguese) or Alphonso (Portuguese-Galician) or Alphonsus (Latin version), sometimes rendered in English as Alphonzo or Alphonse, depending on the Spanish or French influence, more commonly known as Afonso Henriques (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐˈfõsu ẽˈʁikɨʃ]), nicknamed the Conqueror (Port. o Conquistador), El-Bortukali («the Portuguese») by the Moors, was the first King of Portugal, achieving its independence from León and doubling its area with the Reconquista.



Afonso I was the son of Henry of Burgundy, Count of Portugal and Teresa of León, the illegitimate daughter of King Alfonso VI of León. He was proclaimed King on 25 July 1139, immediately after the Battle of Ourique, and died on 6 December 1185 in Coimbra.

At the end of the 11th century, the Iberian Peninsula political agenda was mostly concerned with the Reconquista, the driving out of the Muslim successor-states to the Caliphate of Córdoba after its collapse. With European military aristocracies focused on the Crusades, Alfonso VI called for the help of the French nobility to deal with the Moors. In exchange, he was to give the hands of his daughters in wedlock to the leaders of the expedition and bestow royal privileges to the others. Thus, the royal heiress Urraca of León wedded Raymond of Burgundy, younger son of the Count of Burgundy, and her half-sister, princess Teresa of León, wedded his cousin, another French crusader, Henry of Burgundy, younger brother of the Duke of Burgundy. Henry was made Count of Portugal, a burdensome county south of Galicia, where Moorish incursions and attacks were to be expected. With his wife Teresa as co-ruler of Portugal, Henry withstood the ordeal and held the lands for his father-in-law.

Tomb of Afonso Henriques in the Santa Cruz Monastery in Coimbra.

From this marriage several children were born, but only one son, Afonso Henriques (meaning "Afonso son of Henry") survived. The boy, born 1109, followed his father as Count of Portugal in 1112, under the tutelage of his mother. The relations between Teresa and her son Afonso proved difficult. Only eleven years old, Afonso already had his own political ideas, greatly different from his mother's. In 1120, the young prince took the side of the archbishop of Braga, a political foe of Teresa, and both were exiled by her orders. Afonso spent the next years away from his own county, under the watch of the bishop. In 1122 Afonso became fourteen, the adult age in the 12th century. He made himself a knight on his own account in the Cathedral of Zamora, raised an army, and proceeded to take control of his lands. Near Guimarães, at the Battle of São Mamede (1128) he overcame the troops under his mother's lover and ally Count Fernando Peres de Trava of Galicia, making her his prisoner and exiling her forever to a monastery in León. Thus the possibility of incorporating Portugal into a Kingdom of Galicia was eliminated and Afonso became sole ruler (Duke of Portugal) after demands for independence from the county's people, church and nobles. He also vanquished Alfonso VII of León, another of his mother's allies, and thus freed the county from political dependence on the crown of León. On 6 April 1129, Afonso Henriques dictated the writ in which he proclaimed himself Prince of Portugal.

Portuguese Royalty
House of Burgundy
Afonso Henriques (Afonso I)
Children include
Sancho I
Children include
Afonso II
Children include
Sancho II
Afonso III
Children include
Children include
Afonso IV
Children include
Peter I
Children include
Ferdinand I
Children include
Beatrice (disputed queen)
Children include
  • Infante Miguel of Castile and Portugal

Afonso then turned his arms against the persistent problem of the Moors in the south. His campaigns were successful and, on 25 July 1139, he obtained an overwhelming victory in the Battle of Ourique, and straight after was unanimously proclaimed King of Portugal by his soldiers. This meant that Portugal was no longer a vassal county of León, but an independent kingdom in its own right. The first assembly of the estates-general convened at Lamego (wherein he would have been given the crown from the Archbishop of Braga, to confirm the independence) is likely to be a 17th century embellishment of Portuguese history.

Independence, however, was not a thing a land could choose on its own. Portugal still had to be acknowledged by the neighboring lands and, most importantly, by the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope. Afonso wed Mafalda of Savoy, daughter of Count Amadeo III of Savoy, and sent Ambassadors to Rome to negotiate with the Pope. In Portugal, he built several monasteries and convents and bestowed important privileges to religious orders. In 1143, he wrote to Pope Innocent II to declare himself and the kingdom servants of the Church, swearing to pursue driving the Moors out of the Iberian peninsula. Bypassing any king of León, Afonso declared himself the direct liegeman of the Papacy. Thus, Afonso continued to distinguish himself by his exploits against the Moors, from whom he wrested Santarém and Lisbon in 1147 (see Siege of Lisbon). He also conquered an important part of the land south of the Tagus River, although this was lost again to the Moors in the following years.

Meanwhile, King Alfonso VII of León (Afonso's cousin) regarded the independent ruler of Portugal as nothing but a rebel. Conflict between the two was constant and bitter in the following years. Afonso became involved in a war, taking the side of the Aragonese king, an enemy of Castile. To ensure the alliance, his son Sancho was engaged to Dulce, sister of the Count of Barcelona, and princess of Aragon. Finally, in 1143, the Treaty of Zamora established peace between the cousins and the recognition by the Kingdom of León that Portugal was an independent kingdom.

In 1169, Afonso was disabled in an engagement near Badajoz by a fall from his horse, and made prisoner by the soldiers of the king of León. Portugal was obliged to surrender as his ransom almost all the conquests Afonso had made in Galicia in the previous years.

In 1179 the privileges and favours given to the Roman Catholic Church were compensated. In the papal bull Manifestis Probatum, Pope Alexander III acknowledged Afonso as King and Portugal as an independent land with the right to conquer lands from the Moors. With this papal blessing, Portugal was at last secured as a country and safe from any Leonese attempts at annexation.

In 1184, in spite of his great age, he still had sufficient energy to relieve his son Sancho, who was besieged in Santarém by the Moors. Afonso died shortly after, on 6 December 1185.

The Portuguese revere him as a hero, both on account of his personal character and as the founder of their nation. There are stories that it would take 10 men to carry his sword, and that Afonso would want to engage other monarchs in personal combat, but no one would dare accept his challenge.

Scientific research

In July 2006, the tomb of the King (which is located in the Santa Cruz Monastery in Coimbra) was to be opened for scientific purposes by researchers from the University of Coimbra (Portugal), and the University of Granada (Spain). The opening of the tomb provoked considerable concern among some sectors of Portuguese society and IPPARInstituto Português do Património Arquitectónico (Portuguese State Agency for Architectural Patrimony). The government halted the opening, requesting more protocols from the scientific team because of the importance of the king in the nation's formation.[1][2]


16. Robert II of France
8. Robert I, Duke of Burgundy
17. Constance of Arles
4. Henry of Burgundy
18. Dalmas, seigneur de Semur
9. Helie of Semur
19. Aremburge of Burgundy
2. Henry of Burgundy, Count of Portugal
1. Afonso I of Portugal
24. Sancho III of Navarre
12. Ferdinand I of León
25. Mayor of Castile
6. Alfonso VI of León
26. Alfonso V of León
13. Sancha of León
27. Elvira Mendes of Portugal
3. Teresa of León, Countess of Portugal
(several alternative theories)
7. Ximena Moniz


Afonso married in 1146 Mafalda or Maud of Savoy (1125–1158), daughter of Amadeo III, Count of Savoy, and Mafalda of Albon.

Name Birth Death Notes
By Maud of Savoy (1125–1158; married in 1146)
Infante Henrique (Henry) 5 March 1147 1147  
Infanta Mafalda 1148 c. 1160  
Infanta Urraca c. 1151 1188 Queen of León by marriage to King Ferdinand II of León.
Infanta Sancha 1153 1159  
Infante Sancho 1154 26 March 1212 Succeeded him as Sancho I, 2nd King of Portugal
Infante João (John) 1156 1156  
Infanta Teresa (Theresa) 1157 1218 Countess consort of Flanders by marriage to Philip I of Flanders. Duchess consort of Burgundy by marriage to Eudes III of Burgundy.
By Elvira Gálter
Urraca Afonso c. 1130 ? Natural daughter. Married Pedro Afonso Viegas. Lady of Aveiro.
Other natural offspring
Fernando Afonso ?[3] c. 1172 High-General of the Kingdom (Constable of Portugal)
Pedro Afonso c 1130 1169 A.k.a. Pedro Henriques. 1st Grand-Master of the Order of Aviz.
Afonso c. 1135 1207 12th Grand Master of the Order of Saint John of Rhodes (also known as the Knights Hospitaller).
Teresa Afonso c. 1135 ? Married Fernando Martins Bravo or Martim Moniz.

See also

Afonso I of Portugal
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 25 de Julho 1109 Died: 6 December 1185
Regnal titles
New title
from LeónCastile
King of Portugal
1139 – 1185
Succeeded by
Sancho I
Titles of nobility
Preceded by
Count of Portugal
1112 – 1139
with Theresa (1112 – 1126)
from LeónCastile



  1. ^ IPPAR: direcção nacional diz que não foi consultada sobre abertura do túmulo de D. Afonso Henriques, Público, 6 July 2006, accessed December 2006 (in Portuguese)
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ c. (1166 is an erroneous date)


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