• Into the Rabbit Hole

Ep. 27 The True Corpse Bride

The corpse bride

The 14th century was a time of kings and knights and dark seedy plots. It was an era of darkness. But romance wasn’t dead. Not for a young prince. Peter the 1st and his star-crossed love, Ines.

Inês de Castro was born sometime in 1325 to a noble family of Castilian descent from the Kingdom of Galicia. In 1340, when she was just 15 years old, Inês was sent to the court of Crown Prince Peter I of Portugal to be the lady-in-waiting to his wife, Constanza of Castile.

However, Constanza and Peter was a marriage of power, not one of love and the young crown price had been smitten with the beautiful and kind Ines. Quickly after meeting, their affair began.

Constanza died five years later, in 1345, shortly after she gave birth to Ferdinand I, who was the future king of Portugal. After Constance’s death, Peter asked his father, King Afonso IV, for permission to marry Inês.

Afonso was a man who desired connections and power. This maid turned lover was a foolish match for the crown prince. So in a cruel addition to refusing his son’s request, Afonso also banished Inês from court.

But this exile did nothing to prevent the lovers from continuing their relationship.

Peter and Inês moved to a villa near Coimbra that was dramatically dubbed the Villa of Tears. Between 1346 and 1354, Inês and Peter had four children, though only three survived infancy.

King Afonso IV and his advisers were afraid that Inês’ relationship with Pedro gave the Spanish influence over his son. You see Ines wasn’t just a maid. She was the daughter of Pedro Fernández de Castro, Lord of Lemos and Sarria, and his noble Portuguese mistress Aldonça Lourenço de Valadares. Her family descended both from the Galician and Portuguese nobilities. What was more was that Peter's legitimate son, future King Ferdinand I of Portugal, was a frail child, whereas Peter and Inês's illegitimate children were thriving; this created even more discomfort among the Portuguese nobles, who feared the increasing Castilian influence over Peter.

So the King sent three assassins to Inês and Peter’s home in 1355 to put a violent end to their illicit affair. When the killers arrived at the villa, they found Inês and her children sitting near a fountain but Peter was nowhere to be found. The young lover was beheaded in front of her children, some sources claiming she was stabbed a dozen times. While the children remained unharmed physically, this scarred them mentally. Inês’ body was eventually buried at the Monastery of Santa Clara in Coimbra.

When the bastard Afonso died in 1357, Peter inherited the throne and immediately set about getting revenge. He brought two of Inês’ three murderers to justice and had their hearts ripped out while he watched.

Peter declared that he and Inês married in secret and that she was the rightful queen of Portugal. Shocking his people and all of the nobles under him, He then ordered that her corpse be crowned during his coronation ceremony. A grand display of his love.

Inês’ decomposing body was clothed in royal robes, a crown was placed on her head, and she was placed on a throne next to Peter in the Cathedral of Coimbra. This sight alone would make most people quiver, but King Peter wasn’t done. They had all stood by and let his father murder the woman he loved. The courtiers were to be taught a lesson in humility. During his coronation, with his corpse bride proudly perched next to him, Peter had all of the nobles line up to kiss her decaying hand in a show of respect to their queen.

An issue of Dublin Magazine published in 1852 describes the ceremony:

“Pedro, on occasion of his coronation, in the Cathedral of Coimbra, caused the corpse of Inez, in the Convent of Santa Clara, to be taken out, after having lain there from 1355 to 1357, dressed in royal robes, and placed on a throne beside him. He publicly swore to the fact of their marriage at Braganza, by a dispensation from Rome, caused her to be proclaimed queen, and crowned as such; and compelled all the nobles to do her corpse homage, and kiss the cold dead hand, jealously watching for any symptom of repugnance.”

After the ceremony, Inês’ body was taken to the Monastery of Alcobaça and placed in a tomb with her effigy. Her tomb faces Peter’s so they will rise facing each other during the Last Judgment. The burial fit for a proper queen.

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