The Papacy did not at first recognize the legitimacy of Afonso's adoption of the royal title in 1139, but continued to regard him as a vassal of the kingdom of León. The switch in papal policy in 1179 was justified by Afonso's conquest of lands to the south to which no other Christian monarch had claim.
Alexander, Bishop, Servant of God’s servants, to the Dearest son in Christ, Afonso, Illustrious King of the Portuguese, and to his heirs, in perpetuity:
And so that your devotion and service to St. Peter, prince of the Apostles, and to the Holy Roman Church may grow, we decide to extend this same concession to your heirs and, with the help of God, to defend it for them, as far as our apostolic magistrature is concerned.
It is clearly demonstrated that, as a good son and catholic prince, you have rendered innumerable services to your mother, the Holy Church, intrepidly exterminating through hardships and military prowess the enemies of the Christian name and diligently propagating the Christian faith, thereby leaving to generations still unborn a name worthy of memory and an example deserving of imitation.
The Apostolic See must love with sincere affection and strive to efficiently attend, in their just requirements, those chosen by the divine Providence for the government and salvation of the people.
We, therefore, because of your qualities of prudence, justice and worthiness of government, take you under St. Peter’s and our own protection, and grant and confirm by apostolic authority to your excellent domain, the kingdom of Portugal, full honours of kingdom and the dignity which corresponds to kings, as well as all places which, with the help of the celestial grace, you have wrested from the hands of the Saracens, and on which your neighbouring Christian princes may not claim any rights.
- Philipp Jaffé, p. 786
- Javier Gallego Gallego and Eloísa Ramírez Vaquero, "Rey de Navarra, rey de Portugal, títulos en cuestión (siglo XII) Príncipe de Viana 48, 180 (1987): 115–20. The kingdom of Navarre presented a similar case at the same time. The Papacy initially refused to recognize the election of García Ramírez as king in 1134, because the kingdom had been willed by the late King Alfonso the Battler to the military orders. The Papacy continued to recognize the kings of Navarre as mere "leaders of Navarre" (duces Navarrae) until 1196. In a bull sent to "Duke" Sancho VII on 29 March, he was urged to break his alliance with the Almohads; on 28 May, a letter to Cardinal Gregory of Sant'Angelo referred to Sancho with the royal title. This was confirmed in a bull addressed to Sancho as king on 20 February 1197, confirming that he could expand his lands by conquest in the south, even though his kingdom did not border Almohad territory.