The Nascent Kingdom: Consolidation and Expansion under Afonso Henriques (1128–1148)



The battle of São Mamede marked the beginning of a new phase in Portuguese history. Unlike Count Henry and Infanta Teresa, who had pursued their ambitions outside the county, Afonso Henriques concentrated his considerable energies into first consolidating an authority within Portugal and then on formalising his relationship to the Leonese throne. By 1140 Afonso was in a position to declare himself king; and three years later this self-proclaimed status was acknowledged by his titular overlord, Alfonso VII of León-Castile. Posterity came to view Afonso’s successful assumption of royal status as marking the foundation of Portugal as an independent nation. Alexandre Herculano admirably captured the attitude of many of his countrymen towards their first king:

National affection came to accord to Afonso Henriques the aura of sainthood … for when we pass through the grey, eroded archway of the Church of Santa Cruz [the site of Afonso’s tomb] we go to salute the mortal remains of the man without whom there would not exist today the Portuguese nation and, perhaps, not even the name of Portugal.1


Twelfth Century Portuguese Coast Noble Family Papal Protection Royal Authority 
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© Stephen Lay 2009

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