Peter, Duke of Coimbra
|Duke of Coimbra|
|Detail from the St. Vincent Panels by Nuno Gonçalves, often believed to be a portrait of Peter, Duke of Coimbra.|
|Tenure||1439 - 1448|
|Spouse||Isabella of Urgell|
|Peter V of Aragon
John, Prince of Antioch
Isabella of Coimbra, Queen of Portugal
James, Archbishop of Lisbon
Beatrice of Coimbra, Lady of Ravenstein
Infanta Philippa of Coimbra
|House||House of Aviz|
|Father||John I of Portugal|
|Mother||Philippa of Lancaster|
|Died||9 May 1449
Infante Pedro, Duke of Coimbra KG (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈpedɾu]; English: Peter), (1392 – May 20, 1449) was a Portuguese infante (prince) of the House of Aviz, son of King John I of Portugal and his wife Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt. In Portugal he is better known as Infante D. Pedro das Sete Partidas [do Mundo], "of the Seven Parts [of the World]" because of his travels. Possibly the most well-travelled prince of his time, he was regent between 1439 and 1448. He was also 1st Lord of Montemor-o-Velho, Aveiro, Tentúgal, Cernache, Pereira, Condeixa and Lousã.
From the time he was born, Peter was one of John I's favourite sons. Along with his siblings, he received an exceptional education rarely seen in those times. Close to his brother Edward and John, Lord of Reguengos de Monsaraz, Peter grew up in a calm environment free of intrigues.
On August 14, 1415 he accompanied his father and brothers Edward and Henry in the conquest of Ceuta in Morocco. His mother had died the previous month, giving each of her sons on her deathbed an arming sword she had ordered forged for them. Peter refused to be knighted before showing valour in battle, being knighted along with his brothers the following day; he was also created duke of Coimbra. His younger brother Henry was made duke of Viseu. These were the first dukedoms created in Portugal.
On finishing the translation of Seneca's De Beneficiis in 1418, he initiated his extensive travels throughout Europe, which would keep him away from Portugal for the next ten years. After meeting with John II of Castile in Valladolid, he continued to Hungary, where he met with Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, and entered his service. He fought in the Imperial armies against the Turks and in the Hussite Wars in Bohemia, and was awarded the dukedom of Treviso in Northern Italy in 1422. In 1424 he left the Holy Roman Empire, meeting first with Murad II, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, on the island of Patmos, and then continuing to Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire; the hopeless position of the city against the Ottoman onslaught didn't fail to impress him. From Constantinople he travelled to the Holy Land via Alexandria and Cairo.
In 1425 he travelled west to France and England, visiting the universities of Paris and Oxford, before arriving in Flanders in 1426, where he spent the next two years at the Burgundian court. In September 1424/25 Coimbra landed in England. He attended upon the Court, whose intended gift had been given to the Duke of Exeter, in lieu of a debt payment. He remained in time to be made a Knight of the Garter, for which privilege he was obliged to pay the Exchequer £10.
The second wife of Philip the Good of Burgundy having died in 1425, Peter recommended him his sister Isabella for a wife. Philip later sent a delegation to Portugal in 1428-29, which included Jan van Eyck, who painted two portraits of the Infanta. Philip and Isabella eventually married on January 7, 1430, one of their sons being the future duke Charles the Bold. In 1427 Peter wrote a famous letter to his older brother, later King Edward, on "the proper administration of the kingdoms", from Bruges; later that year Henry VI of England (his first cousin once removed) made him a Knight of the Garter (as were already his father and older brother). In 1428 Peter visited his dukedom of Treviso and nearby Venice, where he was presented with a copy of the book of Marco Polo by the doge; he later offered that book, and maps of the Venetian trade routes in the Orient he purchased, to his younger brother Henry. From Venice he then travelled to Rome, where he was received by Pope Martin V, and from there he continued to Barcelona, where he negotiated the marriage of his brother Edward with Eleanor of Aragon as well as his own future marriage with Isabella of Urgell, before finally returning to Portugal.
In 1433 he completed his famous six-volume work, the Tratado da Virtuosa Benfeitoria.
When his brother King Edward I of Portugal died in 1438, his son Afonso V (Pedro's nephew) was an infant and the choice for the regency was the Queen-Mother Eleanor of Aragon. This choice for the regency was not popular because Eleanor was Aragonese. So in a reunion of the Cortes, summoned by Peter's brother John, Lord of Reguengos de Monsaraz, Peter was appointed as Regent of the Kingdom during the minority of his nephew Afonso V, a choice that pleased both the people and the fast-growing bourgeoisie.
However, inside the Portuguese aristocracy, especially the ones around Afonso, Count of Barcelos (Peter's half-brother), Eleanor of Aragon was preferred and there were doubts about Peter's political ability. A war of influences started and a few years later Afonso of Barcelos managed to become young King Afonso V's favourite uncle.
In 1443, in a gesture of reconciliation, Peter created his own half-brother Afonso Duke of Braganza and relations between the two seemed to return to normality. But, in 1445, the new duke of Braganza took offence because Isabella of Coimbra, Peter's daughter was the choice for Afonso V's wife, and not one of his granddaughters. Indifferent to the intrigues, Peter continued his regency and the country prospered under his influence. It is during this period that the first subsidies for the exploration of the Atlantic Ocean were implemented, and the organization was given to Henry the Navigator (Pedro's brother).
On June 9, 1448 Afonso V came of age and Peter returned control of the country to the king. Influenced by Afonso, Count of Barcelos, and more recently the Duke of Braganza, Afonso V nullified all Peter's edicts, starting, against himself, by the ones that concentrated power in the figure of the King.
The following year, under accusations that years later would prove false, Afonso V declared Peter a rebel. The situation became unsustainable and a civil war began. It was short because on May 20, 1449, during the Battle of Alfarrobeira, near Alverca, Peter died. The exact conditions of his death are debatable: some say it was in combat, while others say he was assassinated by one of his own men.
With the death of Peter, Portugal fell in the hands of Afonso, Duke of Braganza, with a growing influence over the destiny of the country. However, his regency would never be forgotten, and Peter was cited many times by his grandson King John II of Portugal as his main influence. The cruel persecution of the Braganzas by John II was perhaps the answer to the conspiracies that caused the fall of one of the major princes of the Ínclita Geração.
Marriage and Issue
- Peter V of Aragon (1429–1466)
- John, Prince of Antioch (1431–1457), married Charlotte of Lusignan, heiress of Cyprus, in 1456. He was created titular Prince of Antioch, and was possibly poisoned by his stepmother.
- Isabella of Coimbra (1432–1455), Queen of Portugal by marriage to Afonso V of Portugal.
- Infante James of Coimbra (1434–1459), Cardinal and Archbishop of Lisbon, lived in Italy; his beautiful tomb  is in the convent church of San Miniato al Monte in Florence.
- Infanta Beatrice of Coimbra (1435–1462), married Adolph of Cleves-Ravenstein.
- Infanta Philippa of Coimbra (1437–1493), a nun.
|Ancestors of Peter, Duke of Coimbra|
- Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council, (G.Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1st ed. 1834), 178.
- The Dukes of Coimbra General Books LLC, 2010.
- Sir G.F.Hill, History of Cyprus (1940), (2nd ed. CUP, 2010), vol.1 of 4. ISBN 1-108-02064-X