Afonso III of Portugal

Afonso III (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐˈfõsu]; rare English alternatives: Alphonzo or Alphonse), or Affonso (Archaic Portuguese), Alfonso or Alphonso (Portuguese-Galician) or Alphonsus (Latin), the Boulonnais (Port. o Bolonhês), King of Portugal (5 May 1210  16 February 1279) was the first to use the title King of Portugal and the Algarve, from 1249. He was the second son of King Afonso II of Portugal and his wife, Urraca of Castile; he succeeded his brother, King Sancho II of Portugal, who died on 4 January 1248.[1]

Afonso III
King Afonso in Genealogia dos Reis de Portugal (António de Holanda; 1530-1534)
King of Portugal
Reign4 January 1248  16 February 1279
PredecessorSancho II
Count of Boulogne (jure uxoris)
Reign1238  1248
Co-monarchMatilda II
Born5 May 1210
Coimbra, Kingdom of Portugal
Died16 February 1279 (aged 68)
Alcobaça, Kingdom of Portugal
SpouseMatilda II of Boulogne
Beatrice of Castile
Denis of Portugal
Afonso of Portalegre
(illeg.) Martim Afonso Chichorro
(illeg.) Urraca Afonso
FatherAfonso II of Portugal
MotherUrraca of Castile

Early life

Afonso was born in Coimbra. As the second son of King Afonso II of Portugal, he was not expected to inherit the throne, which was destined to go to his elder brother Sancho.[2]

He lived mostly in France, where he married Matilda, the heiress of Boulogne, in 1238, thereby becoming Count of Boulogne, Mortain, Aumale and Dammartin-en-Goële jure uxoris.[3]


In 1246, conflicts between his brother, the king, and the church became unbearable. In 1247, Pope Innocent IV ordered Sancho II to be removed from the throne and to be replaced by the Count of Boulogne. Afonso, of course, did not refuse the papal order and consequently marched to Portugal. Since Sancho was not a popular king the order was not hard to enforce, and he fled in exile to Toledo, Castile, where he died on 4 January 1248. Until his brother's death and his own eventual coronation, Afonso retained and used the title of Visitador, Curador e Defensor do Reino (Overseer, Curator and Defender of the Kingdom).[4]

In order to ascend the throne Afonso abdicated his rights to the county of Boulogne in 1248. In 1253, he divorced Matilde in order to marry Beatrice of Castile, illegitimate daughter of Alfonso X, King of Castile, and Mayor Guillén de Guzmán.[5]

Determined not to make the same mistakes as his brother, Afonso III paid special attention to what the middle class, composed of merchants and small land owners, had to say. In 1254, in the city of Leiria, he held the first session of the Cortes, a general assembly comprising the nobility, the middle class and representatives of all municipalities. He also made laws intended to restrain the upper classes from abusing the least favored part of the population. Remembered as a notable administrator, Afonso III founded several towns, granted the title of city to many others and reorganized public administration.[6]

Afonso showed extraordinary vision for the time. Progressive measures taken during his kingship include: representatives of the commons, besides the nobility and clergy, were involved in governance; the end of preventive arrests such that henceforward all arrests had to be first presented to a judge to determine the detention measure; and fiscal innovation, such as negotiating extraordinary taxes with the mercantile classes and direct taxation of the Church, rather than debasement of the coinage. These may have led to his excommunication by the holy see and possibly precipitated his death, and his son Denis's premature rise to the throne at only 18 years old.[7]

Secure on the throne, Afonso III then proceeded to make war with the Muslim communities that still thrived in the south. In his reign the Algarve became part of the kingdom, following the capture of Faro.[8]

Final years and death

Following his success against the Moors, Afonso III had to deal with a political situation concerning the country's borders with Castile. The neighbouring kingdom considered that the newly acquired lands of the Algarve should be Castilian, not Portuguese, which led to a series of wars between the two kingdoms. Finally, in 1267, the Treaty of Badajoz (1267) was signed in Badajoz, determining that the southern border between Castile and Portugal should be the River Guadiana, as it is today.[9]

Afonso died in Alcobaça, Coimbra or Lisbon, aged 68.

Marriages and descendants

Afonso's first wife was Matilda II, Countess of Boulogne, daughter of Renaud, Count of Dammartin, and Ida, Countess of Boulogne. They had no surviving children. He divorced Matilda in 1253 and, in the same year, married Beatrice of Castile, illegitimate daughter of Alfonso X, King of Castile, and Mayor Guillén de Guzmán.

By Matilda II of Boulogne (c.1202–1262; married in 1239)
By Beatrice of Castile (1242–1303; married in 1253)
Blanche25 February 125917 April 1321Lady of Las Huelgas
Fernando (Ferdinand)12601262 
Dinis (Denis)9 October 12617 January 1325Succeeded him as Denis, 6th King of Portugal. Married Infanta Isabel of Aragon.
Afonso8 February 12632 November 1312Lord of Portalegre. Married to Violante Manuel of Castile (daughter of Manuel of Castile).
Sancha2 February 1264c.1302 
Maria21 November 12646 June 1304Nun in the Convent of Saint John in Coimbra.
Constança (Constance)12661271 
Vicente (Vincent)12681271 
By Madragana (Mor Afonso) (c.1230-?)
Martim Afonso Chichorroc.1250a. 1313Natural son; Married Inês Lourenço de Valadres.
Urraca Afonsoc.1260?Natural daughter; Married twice: 1st to D. Pedro Anes de Riba Vizela, 2nd to João Mendes de Briteiros
By Maria Peres de Enxara (?-?)
Afonso Dinisc.1260a. 1310Natural son; Married to D. Maria Pais Ribeira, Lady of the House of Sousa.
Other natural offspring
Leonor Afonsoc.12501291Natural daughter. Married twice: 1st to D. Estevão Anes de Sousa (without issue), 2nd to D. Gonçalo Garcia de Sousa, Count of Neiva (without issue).
Gil Afonso125031 December 1346Natural son; Knight of the Order of the Hospital.
Fernando Afonso??Natural son; Knight of the Order of the Hospital.
Rodrigo Afonso de Santarém1258about 12 May 1272Natural son; Prior of the city of Santarém.
Leonor Afonso (nun)?1259Natural daughter; Nun in the Monastery of Santa Clara of Santarém.
Urraca Afonso12504 November 1281Natural daughter; Nun in the Monastery of Lorvão.
Henrique Afonso??Natural son; Married to Inês (last name unknown).



  1. Ennes, Antonio (1876). Historia de Portugal (in Portuguese). Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  2. España Sagrada. Tomo XVII (in Spanish). En la Oficina de Antonio Marin. 1763. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  3. Dinis (King of Portugal); Ferreira, Manuel Pedro (2005). Cantus Coronatus: 7 Cantigas d'El-Rei Dom Dinis: by King Dinis of Portugal. Edition Reichenberger. ISBN 9783937734095. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  4. Lumbreras, Joaquín (1841). Libertades de la Iglesia española vindicadas contra la alocución del beatísimo padre Gregorio XVI en el consistorio secreto de 1o de marzo de este año (in Spanish). Imprenta de la Viuda de Calero. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  5. Catálogo histórico y bibliográfico de la Exposición Internacional de Barcelona (1929-1930) - VOLUMEN I (in Spanish). Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia. 1931. ISBN 9788496849341. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  6. Fernando de Olaguer-Feliú Alonso (27 January 1998). Arte medieval español hasta el año 1000 (in Spanish). Encuentro. ISBN 9788474904888. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  7. Jiménez, Manuel González (1991). Diplomatario Andaluz de Alfonso X (in Spanish). El Monte, Caja de Huelva y Sevilla. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  8. Wheeler, Douglas L.; Opello, Jr, Walter C. (10 May 2010). Historical Dictionary of Portugal. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810870758. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  9. Pérez-Embid, Florentino (1975). La frontera entre los reinos de Sevilla y Portugal (in Spanish). University of Michigan: Ayuntamiento, Delegación de Cultura, Sección de Publicaciones. ISBN 9788450066029. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
Afonso III of Portugal
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 5 May 1210 Died: 16 February 1279
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Sancho II
King of Portugal
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Matilda II
as sole monarch
Count of Boulogne
Succeeded by
Matilda II
as sole monarch
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