Eleanor of Viseu – A Queen in conflict (Part two)

eleanor of viseu
(public domain)

Read part one here.

Tragically, the marriage didn’t last long. A few months later, the court was staying at Ribeira de Santarém as the summer heat was getting worse. King John wanted to cool off in the waters of the Tagus, and Afonso accompanied him. During the trip, Afonso’s horse fell, and Afonso was pinned underneath the horse. He was unconscious but still alive. Eleanor and Isabella rushed to be by his side and sat by him all night as they hoped for his recovery. He died on 13 July 1491 as his mother “uncovered his chest and kissed him many times on the heart.”1 The family went into mourning, and Isabella cut off her hair. The heartbroken Isabella returned to Castile.

The death of Afonso as portrayed in Isabel (2011) (Screenshot/Fair Use)

After a period of mourning, Eleanor and John returned to Lisbon at the end of October. Eleanor broke down in the room where Afonso had been born as she said, “Son, this is where you were born; this is where I would have no choice but to go.”2 The loss of their son and heir to the throne was a huge blow, and their grief hung like a shadow over their relationship.

After the death of Afonso, Eleanor no longer wanted to see the King’s illegitimate son, George. John had him moved to the household of the Count of Abrantes. However, he also applied to the Vatican to have the boy recognised as legitimate and the new heir to the throne. Pope Innocent VIII seemed agreeable to the idea. Eleanor became the head of a rival campaign to support the succession of her brother, Manuel. Eleanor and John’s relationship suffered, and they lived apart, meeting only for ceremonies.

Eleanor had the support of Castile, and in 1494, they offered Isabella as a wife for Manuel, while George was offered King Ferdinand’s illegitimate daughter, Joanna. They also feared that John would divorce Eleanor in order to remarry and father more children. During this time, Eleanor became seriously ill and John rushed to be by her side. Believing she was already dead, he sobbed by her bedside. After a period of ill health, Eleanor recovered, although she was never quite the same again.

As Eleanor recovered, John himself fell ill, and he was diagnosed with dropsy. He was advised to travel to Caldas de Monchique, where he could receive treatment. Before he left, he met with Eleanor, and they argued over George again. John left for treatment, taking George with him. At Caldas de Monchique, John’s illness worsened, and he wrote up his last will and testament. In it, he declared Manuel to be his successor while asking him to protect George. He also asked his wife and mother-in-law to forgive him for his misdeeds. However, the will was only valid for one year, and he hoped to live longer than that.

King John sent for Eleanor and Manuel, but neither were there when he died on 25 October 1495. Eleanor had stayed away, but Manuel had begun his travels when he learned that the King had already passed away. Eleanor was no longer the wife of the King, but she was now the King’s sister. In a twist of fate, she was now the heiress to the Portuguese throne while her brother had no children.

In 1497, Eleanor saw the return of Isabella, the widow of her son, who was now the new bride of King Manuel. That same year, Isabella’s brother died, leaving behind a pregnant widow. She later gave birth to a stillborn daughter, which meant that Isabella was now set to become Queen of Castile in her own right. Isabella and Manuel travelled to Castile to be sworn in as the new heirs of the kingdom, leaving Eleanor as regent of Portugal. Isabella was already pregnant with her first child.

More tragedy was to come. Isabella died in her father’s arms following the birth of her son on 23 August 1498. Her son, Miguel de la Paz, was now the heir to several Kingdoms, and he was left in the care of Castile. However, he died on 19 July 1500, shortly before his second birthday. Manuel went on to marry Isabella’s younger sister, Maria, in 1500. However, the succession of Castile passed to her sister Joanna. Maria gave birth to a son named John in 1502, and Eleanor was his godmother.

Eleanor continued to have influence at court, but it was not the same as when she was Queen consort.

Just as the betrothal of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and her niece Isabella, was being celebrated in November 1525, the news of Eleanor’s death spread. She died on 17 November 1525 at the age of 67. She had lived during the reign of four kings. She was buried in the Convent of the Mother of God, keeping up the separation between husband and wife in death. Her grave is in a passage so that people would step on her grave, a sign of humility.

  1. Rainhas Medievais de Portugal by Ana Rodrigues Oliveira p.536
  2. Rainhas Medievais de Portugal by Ana Rodrigues Oliveira p.538

About Moniek Bloks 2749 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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