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Philippa of Lancaster
Queen consort of Portugal
Tenure 11 February 1387 – 19 July 1415
Spouse John I of Portugal
m. 1387; wid. 1415
Issue
Edward of Portugal
Infante Peter, Duke of Coimbra
Henry the Navigator
Isabella, Duchess of Burgundy
John, Lord of Reguengos de Monsaraz
Ferdinand the Saint Prince
House House of Lancaster (by birth)
House of Aviz (by marriage)
Father John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster
Mother Blanche of Lancaster
Born 31 March 1359(1359-03-31)
Leicester Castle, England
Died 19 July 1415 (aged 55)
Sacavem, Portugal
Burial Batalha Monastery, Leiria

Philippa of Lancaster, LG (31 March 1359 – 19 July 1415) was Queen consort of Portugal. Her marriage with King John I secured the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, and also produced several famous princes and princesses of Portugal that became known as the 'Illustrious Generation'. She was the eldest daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and Blanche of Lancaster, and sister of king Henry IV of England.

Contents

Early life and education

As the eldest child of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and Blanche of Lancaster, Philippa spent most of her childhood in the many palaces and castles of her father, such as the Savoy Palace.[1] Here, she was raised and educated alongside her two younger siblings, Elizabeth, who was three years younger, and Henry, six years younger, who would later become king.

Philippa’s mother, the Duchess Blanche, died from the plague in 1369. Her father, the Duke remarried in 1371 to Infanta Constance of Castile, daughter of King Peter of Castile, and later married his former mistress, Katherine Swynford, who had been Philippa’s governess. The affair and eventual marriage was considered scandalous, and in the future Philippa would protect herself against such embarrassment.[2]

Katherine seems to have been well liked by Philippa and her Lancastrian siblings, and had an important role in Philippa's education. Katherine had close ties with Geoffrey Chaucer (her sister, Philippa Roet, was Chaucer’s wife). John of Gaunt became Chaucer’s patron, and Chaucer spent much time with the family as one of Philippa’s many mentors and teachers. She was remarkably well educated for a female at the time, and studied science under Friar John, poetry under Jean Froissart, and philosophy and theology under John Wycliffe.[1] She was well read in Greek and Roman scholars such as Pliny and Herodotus, and was diligent in her study of religion.[1]

Marriage

Philippa became Queen consort of Portugal through her marriage with King John I. This marriage was the final step in the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, against the France-Castile axis.

The couple received the blessing of the church in the Cathedral of Oporto on 2 February 1387. Their married life would officially begin on 14 February 1387. The Portuguese court celebrated the union for fifteen days.[3] Philippa married King John I by proxy, and in keeping with a unique Portuguese tradition, the stand-in bridegroom pretended to bed the bride. The stand-in for King John I was João Rodrigues de Sá.[4]

The marriage itself was a political arrangement. Philippa was thought to be somewhat plain-looking, so it seemed implausible that the King would chose her based on physical attractiveness.[5] King John specifically chose Philippa, the eldest daughter of John of Gaunt, because it was rumored that John of Gaunt would claim the Kingdom of Castile, through his younger daughter by Constance of Castile, Catalina.[6] As the “de facto King of Castile,” John of Gaunt could challenge King John’s claim to the Kingdom of Portugal.[3] Philippa, at age 27, was thought to be extremely old for to be first-time bride. The court questioned her ability to bear the King children. Their fears were quickly assuaged, as Philippa bore nine children, six of whom survived into adulthood.

The King had three other children by his long-time mistress, Inês Peres Esteves; their son, Afonso, was ten when Philippa and João married. Philippa allowed Alfonso and his sister, Beatriz, to be raised in the Portuguese court. Their mother left the court by Philippa's command to live in a convent, and under Phillipa’s patronage, became the Prioress.[7]

Influence in the Court

The wedding of Philippa and John

Though Philippa was seen in her time as the perfect symbol of queenly piety[8], and made public comments saying that “it would be regarded as an indecent thing for a wife to interfere in her husband’s affairs”[8], she actually wielded quite a bit of influence in both the Portuguese and English courts and was “actively involved in world affairs”.[8]

Surviving letters show that Philippa often wrote the English court from Portugal, and stayed involved in English politics in this way. On one instance, Philippa intervened in court politics on the “behalf of followers of the dethroned Richard II when they appealed for her help after her brother, Henry IV, had usurped the English throne”.[8] On another occasion, she persuaded the reluctant earl of Arundel to “marry the Portuguese king’s bastard daughter Beatriz[8], further cementing the alliance between Portugal and England.

Philippa’s main political contribution, however, was in her own court. Upon the end of the Portuguese involvement in several wars with Castile and the Moors, the Portuguese economy was in ruins, and many men who had found employment in the war were suddenly unemployed. Philippa showed considerable knowledge of trade and politics in suggesting that the King send an armed expedition to the African city of Ceuta[citation needed]. Philippa knew that the conquest and control of Ceuta would be quite lucrative for Portugal: it would mean the control of the African and Indian spice trade. Though Philippa died before her plan was realized, Portugal did send an expedition to Ceuta and conquered the city on 14 August 1415 in the Battle of Ceuta.[1]

Children

Philippa is remembered for being a generous and loving queen, and for being the mother of the "Illustrious Generation" (in Portuguese, Ínclita Geração) of princes, whose members were:

Death

At the age of 53, Philippa fell mortally ill with the plague. She moved from Lisbon to Sacavém and called her sons to her bedside so that she could give them her blessing.[9] Philippa presented her three sons with jewel encrusted swords, which they would use in their impending knighthoods, and gave each a portion of the True Cross, “enjoining them to preserve their faith and to fulfill the duties of their rank”.[10]

Though he had been reluctant to marry her, the King had grown quite fond of his wife, and it is said that he was “so grieved by [her] mortal illness… that he could neither eat nor sleep”.[10]

In her final hours, Philippa was said to be lucid and without pain. A story tells that she was roused by a wind which blew strongly against the house, and asked what wind it was. She was delighted to hear that it was the north wind, and thought that this would be quite beneficial for her son’s and husband’s voyage to Africa, which she had coordinated.[11] Philippa’s end was as pious, harmonious, and peaceful as her life: she prayed with several priests and, “without any toil or suffering, gave her soul into the hands of Him who created her, a smile appearing on her mouth as though she disdained the life of this world”.[10]

Legacy

Philippa and King John’s union was praised for establishing purity and virtue in a court that was regarded as particularly corrupt.[12] Philippa is remembered as the mother of “The Illustrious Generation” (Portuguese: Ínclita Geração). Her surviving children went on to make historically significant contributions in their own right. Duarte of Portugal, became the eleventh King of Portugal, and was known as, “The Philosopher,” or the “Eloquent.” Henrique, or Henry the Navigator, sponsored expeditions to Africa.

Philippa’s influence was documented in literary works. The medieval French poet, Eustache Deschamps, dedicated one of his ballads to “Phelippe en Lancastre,” as a partisan of the Order of the Flower.[13] It has also been speculated that Geoffrey Chaucer may have alluded to Philippa in his poem, “The Legend of Good Women,” through the character, Alceste.[14]

Ancestry

References

  1. ^ a b c d "European Voyages of Exploration: Philippa of Lancaster." Home | Welcome to the University of Calgary. University of Calgary. 30 Mar. 2009
  2. ^ Beazley, Raymond C. Prince Henry the Navigator. New York: G.P Putnam's Sons, 1923, 9.
  3. ^ a b Armitage-Smith, Sydney. John of Gaunt: Duke of Lancaster. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905. Google Book Search. 29 Mar. 2009, 318-321. "http://http://books.google.com/books?id=aUutJGyx5EEC&printsec=titlepage">
  4. ^ Marques, Oliveira. Daily Life in Portugal in the Late Middle Ages. Madison: University of Wisconsin P, 1971, 167.
  5. ^ Major, Richard H. The Life of Prince Henry the Navigator. London: Frank Cass & Co, 1967, 8.
  6. ^ (Philippa of Lancaster 2)
  7. ^ Sanceau, Elaine. Henry the Navigator; the story of a great prince and his times. New York: Hytchinson & Co, 1945, 9.)
  8. ^ a b c d e Rusell, Peter E. Prince Henry 'the Navigator': a life. New Haven: Yale UP, 2000, 23
  9. ^ Rusell, Peter E. Prince Henry 'the Navigator': a life. New Haven: Yale UP, 2000.
  10. ^ a b c Prestage, Edgar. The Portuguese pioneers. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1966, 22.
  11. ^ Lee, Sidney, ed. "Philippa of Lancaster." The Dictionary of National Biography. 1st series 1896. 167.
  12. ^ Major, Richard H. The Life of Prince Henry the Navigator. London: Frank Cass & Co, 1967, 11,
  13. ^ McCash, June H. The Cultural Patronage of Medieval Women. Athens: : University of Georgia P, 1996.
  14. ^ Marques, Oliveira. Daily Life in Portugal in the Late Middle Ages. Madison: University of Wisconsin P, 1971, 536.
Preceded by
Leonor Telles de Menezes
Queen consort of Portugal
11 February 1387 – 19 July 1415
Succeeded by
Leonor of Aragon
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