Afonso, Prince of Portugal : biography
Afonso, Prince of Portugal ( ) (18 May 1475 – 13 July 1491) was the heir to the throne of Portugal. He was born in Lisbon, Portugal, and died in a horse-riding accident on the banks of the river Tagus.
Afonso was John II’s only son and beloved by the king. If John, the only son of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile died without a male heir, as was probable, Afonso would be heir not only to the throne of Portugal but also to the thrones of Castile and Aragon. This threat to Castilian and Aragonese independence was very real and the Catholic Monarchs tried every diplomatic trick to dissolve the wedding. Finally, in 1491, Afonso died in mysterious circumstances—a fall from a horse during a ride in the margin of the Tagus river, he died in a fisherman’s hut. The influence of the Catholic Monarchs in this accident was never proved, but the prince was an excellent rider, his Castilian valet fled never to be seen again and after this, Isabella, the heiress, was no longer married to the enemy. John tried without success until the end of his life to legitimise the ten-year-old Jorge, Duke of Coimbra, his illegitimate son. King John II then nominated his cousin the Duke of Beja as his successor; Beja became Manuel I of Portugal after John’s death, and married Afonso’s widow.
Afonso was the only son and heir of king John II of Portugal by his marriage with Leonor of Viseu, princess of Portugal. The king was very fond of him and named the smaller island of São Tomé and Príncipe after him (Príncipe meaning Prince in the Portuguese language).
Afonso’s grandfather Afonso V of Portugal had sided with Joanna la Beltraneja who was a rival for the throne of Castile against her half aunt Isabella of Castile. She was never considered legitimate and, when the king was dying, no one took her as a serious contender for the crown. Her half-aunt, the future Queen Isabella I of Castile, was due to inherit the crown, but Afonso V was keen to interfere with the succession in Castile. In 1475 he married his niece Joan, the Beltraneja, whom he considered the legitimate heir to the crown. Since her adulteress mother was his own sister, Afonso V had not only ambition, but the family honour to protect. He proclaimed himself King of Castile and León and prepared to defend his wife’s rights. However Ferdinand and Isabella won the war of succession in 1479 and entered into a treaty with the Portuguese by betrothing their eldest daughter Isabella to Afonso. Isabella was also to come with a very large dowry that in practice represented the war compensation obtained by Portugal.
In 1490 Afonso was married to Isabella, the eldest daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Though it was an arranged marriage, Isabella and Afonso quickly fell in love, and Isabella was grief-stricken when he died in 1491:. Sent home to her parents by John II, she declared that she would never marry again, and would enter a convent. Her parents ignored this, and in 1497 she was persuaded to marry to Manuel I of Portugal, Afonso’s uncle and John II’s cousin and successor.