Portucale´s County – The early days of Portugal


The use of the name “Portugal” to define a more or less autonomous political configuration dates from the XIth  century. Portugal is the country with the oldest borders in Europe. The rectangular territory of the western tip of the European continent acquired an almost providential form in the collective imagination. 

            The country’s history and evolution was due mainly to the people that invaded and conquered it such as: Romans, Suevos, Visigoths and Muslims. It were the last ones who stayed the longest in the Iberian Peninsula and shaped the way of acting and living in Portugal. Muslims invaded the Peninsula in 711 and quickly dominated almost all of it. Christians who did not conform with the Muslim power took refuge in the rocky regions of the north, the Asturias.

            The Christian´s victory over the Muslims happens in 722 at the Covadonga’s Battle starting the process of the Christian Reconquest recovering, or trying to recover, the mourish territories.

            In the IXth century, Christians arrived at the Douro river line being one of the most important landmarks of this advance – the settlement of Portucale, in 868 by Vimara Peres.

            The Christian north took the initiative against the Islamic south. However the following years were complicated for the Christians hence they faced the Almorávidas, strictly and extremely agressive Muslims who unleashed a violent counteroffensive based on the concept of holy war (jihad).

            It’s in this context that french nobles come to the Iberian Peninsula trying to help Afonso VIth. These knights wanted to fight the muslims but were also trying to make fortune and conquer new lands. Two knights are going to be linked through marriage to the royal house of Leon, the knights were  Raimundo and Henrique. Urraca (legitimate daughter of Afonso VIth) got married with Raimundo and received Galiza has a wedding present. In 1096, Afonso VIthgave Henrique and Teresa (his illegitimate daughter) the counties of Portucale and Coimbra. The new Counts needed to pay tribute and fidelity to the king of Leon and Castile. Henrique’s main objective is to fight the muslims and increase the county but he also wants it’s independece, however, the Count dies in 1112 and it was Teresa that succeeded him and took over the control of the county calling herself Regina (Queen). Unfortunatelly Teresa fell in love with a galician noble and the portuguese nobles were afraid that Galiza would take over the county and started to support her son, Afonso Henriques. In 1128 Teresa and Afonso Henriques fight each other in S. Mamede Battle and Teresa’s troops were defeated and she renouces to Afonso Henriques that adopts the title of Prince and starts to rule the county in the new capital, Coimbra, in 1131. In 1139 Afonso H. started calling himself King of the Portuguese (Portugalensium Rex). Thus the independence of Portugal was outlined and in 1143, the King of Leon recognized him as king but Afonso H. needed to maintain his link with Leon and Castile staying as a vassal of Afonso VIIth. The vision of the portuguese king was different and the young king only pays tribute to the Pope. Afonso H., the Conqueror, had to wait 35 years for the Pope to recognize him as king of Portugal, something that only happens in 1179 through the Bula Manifestis Probatum.

            A new country started to align under the command of a man that has as dream to enhance his territories, be independent and rule as king of this new territory, Portugal.

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