Eleanor of Viseu

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Eleanor of Viseu
Eleanor of Portugal - Breviary, Morgan Library & Museum MS M.52 fol. 1v, cropped.png
Queen consort of Portugal
Tenure28 August 1481 – 25 October 1495
Born2 May 1458
Beja, Portugal
Died17 November 1525(1525-11-17) (aged 67)
Palace of Xabregas, Lisbon
(m. 1470; died 1495)
Afonso, Prince of Portugal
FatherFerdinand, Duke of Viseu
MotherBeatrice of Portugal
ReligionRoman Catholicism
SignatureEleanor of Viseu's signature

Eleanor of Viseu (2 May 1458 – 17 November 1525; Portuguese: Leonor de Viseu [liuˈnoɾ dɨ viˈzew]) was a Portuguese infanta (princess) and later queen consort of Portugal.

To distinguish her from other infantas of the same name, she is commonly known as Eleanor of Viseu (after her father's title) or Eleanor of Lancaster (Lancaster, a name used by some Portuguese royals after her great-grandmother Queen Philippa of Lancaster). In Portugal, she is known universally as Rainha Dona Leonor. She is considered one of the most notable Portuguese queens consort. She was the second of only two queens consort of Portugal who were not foreigners.


Eleanor was a daughter of Infante Fernando, Duke of Viseu, and his wife and cousin Beatrice of Portugal. Her maternal grandparents were Infante João of Portugal and his wife and niece Isabel of Barcelos.

Eleanor's sister Isabel of Viseu married Fernando II of Braganza, who was later accused and executed of treason by Eleanor's husband King John II. Eleanor's older brother Diogo, Duke of Viseu, was also involved in activities that John II considered treasonous and was executed by the king himself. Her younger brother succeeded John II as King Manuel I of Portugal.


Queen Eleanor of Portugal statue in Beja

Eleanor married John, Prince of Portugal, on 22 January 1470. She thereby became the Princess of Portugal. The bride was eleven years old, and the groom was fourteen years old. Her spouse was the only living son of Afonso V of Portugal and Isabel of Coimbra and heir apparent to the Portuguese throne. Eleanor and John spent a lot of their childhood together and were good friends.

Queen consort[edit]

On 28 August 1481, Eleanor's father-in-law died, and her husband became John II of Portugal, thus she became the new queen consort. The queens consort of Portugal were awarded fiefs and villages to grant them independent incomes, and Eleanor was granted Silves e Faro and Terras de Aldeia Galega e Aldeia Gavinha for this purpose.

She founded what became the city of Caldas da Rainha, which was named in her honor ("rainha" means "queen" in Portuguese).

Eleanor and John II survived both their sons. Eleanor opposed the wish of her spouse to have his illegitimate son recognized as heir to the throne and appealed to the Pope, who sided with her and had her brother Manuel recognized as the heir of her husband.

John II died on 25 October 1495; the hypothesis of poisoning was never ruled out.

Queen dowager[edit]

The Arrival of D. Leonor with the Relics of Santa Auta at Madre de Deus by Cristóvão de Figueiredo.

After her brother Manuel I succeeded to the throne in 1495, Eleanor moved to the palace of Xabregas, where she hosted the royal court and continued to be socially active. For a short period between 1500 and 1502, Eleanor's brother Manuel found himself childless, and Eleanor herself became the heir to the throne. As she had no children, she declined to make the oath as an heir in favour of her sister Isabel.

Eleanor was extremely wealthy and used much of her money for charity. In 1498, she spearheaded the creation of the Santa Casa da Misericórdia as confraternities with humanitarian purposes, especially the care of the poor, the sick, and abandoned children. The original foundations survive today, and more have since been founded in other towns and cities of Portugal and in the Portuguese colonies.

Eleanor is also credited with having introduced the printing press to Portugal, when she commissioned a translation of Vita Christi into Portuguese.[1] When the first of its four volumes were published in 1502, it became the first book to be printed in Alcalá de Henares.[1]

Eleanor supported the foundation of the Hospital Real de Todos-os-Santos (All Saints' Royal Hospital) in Lisbon, considered the best in contemporary Europe. She also founded the convent Madre de Deus (1509), considered a great architectural work, where she spent many of her later years, dressed almost as a nun.


Name Birth Death Notes
Prince Afonso 18 May 1475 13 July 1491 Prince of Portugal. Died in a horse riding accident, leading to the accession of his uncle Manuel I.
Stillborn 1483 1483 Stillborn son, born in 1483.



  1. ^ a b Luttikhuizen, Frances (2016). Underground Protestantism in Sixteenth Century Spain. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. p. 30. ISBN 9783647551104.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Stephens, Henry Morse (1903). The story of Portugal. G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 125, 139, 303.
  3. ^ a b "Leonora of Aragon (1405–1445)". Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Gale Research. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
Eleanor of Viseu
Cadet branch of the House of Burgundy
Born: 2 May 1458 Died: 17 November 1525
Portuguese royalty
Preceded by Queen consort of Portugal
1477 – 1477
Succeeded by
Queen consort of Portugal
1481 – 1495
Succeeded by