Granddaughter of Edward III of England, Lancaster was also the daughter of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster; she married Joćo I of and thus became queen consort of Portugal.
"You cannot know where you are going if you don't know where you are coming from." - Proverb.
She was the oldest child of John of Gaunt, who was 1st Duke of Lancaster[1.135][1.156], and in such a position, received the finest possible education at the time. In 1369 her mother did of the plague and his father remarried with Constanza de Castilla, daughter of king Pedro de Castilla.
Constanza died and John of Gaunt married again, this time with Catherine Swynford, former governess of Philippa. That event produced a full-scale scandal among the court. Apparently, Philippa found it so embarrassing that it changed some of her attitudes for life.
She married with Joćo I of Portugal in 1387 by proxy. The never met until nearly two weeks after the marriage which, indeed, was politically motivated and served to seal the alliance between England and Portugal. The pact continues to this day.
In the beginning, Joćo didn't treat her well since he believed that he was forced into that marriage by circumstances: Had Portugal not made an alliance with England, the kingdom would probably had ceased to exist. England, among other things, was prepared to lend Portugal large sums of money that were needed to finance the constant state of war in which Joćo's kingdom was involved.
The king had a mistress and children, and he flatly preferred to spend time with them rather than with Philippa. So, due to the humiliation that she felt when her father when his father married her former governess and the ensuing scandal, she decided not to be treated in the same way again. So, one day, as Joćo went away, she essentially had his mistress sent to a convent as prioress and adopted her children. From there, the House of Braganēa was born. By the way, the district of Braganēa lies somewhat near the town of Belmonte.
King Joćo slowly began accepting Philippa, not only in personal terms but also as a political figure: Portugal was constantly at war and the king, acting as the commander of the armed forces, was always busy with warfare, so Philippa was left in charge of all domestic affairs.
|The marriage of Joćo I and Philippa of Lancaster.
|The tomb of Philippa of Lancaster.
Since Philippa married when she was already 26, she was considered too old to give birth a successor for the kingdom of Portugal. However. She had nine children with Joćo. They were also very well educated and those that survived into adulthood became commonly known as "The illustrious generation" because they became paradigmatic leaders in their own ways.
Duarte I de Portugal (1391-1438), king of Portugal, poet and writer (see Duarte I de Portugal).
Pedro, Duque de Coimbra (1392-1449), regent until the future king, Afonso V grew up. He died at the battle of Alfarrobeira.
Henrique, Duke of Viseu, (1394-1460), invested his fortune in science and exploration (see Henry The Navigator).
Isabel, Duchess of Burgundy (1397-1471) married Filipe III, duke of Burgundy.
Joćo, Infante de Portugal (1400-1442), condestable of Portugal.
Fernando, o Infante Santo (1402-1437), died in captivity in Fez.
Despite common protocols and customs of the day, and an ostensible public image of virtue and piety, Philippa had a lot of influence in the affairs of the court and decisions. She also took part - even if somewhat distantly - in English politics.
In the early years of the XIV century Portugal was facing serious trouble since ironically, some of the pending armed conflicts that it had were finally solved, but thousands of men returning home after surviving many years under arms were facing unemployment. So, some new task had to be conceived for all those individuals that otherwise would cause a social disaster.
After a lot of deliberation, Philippa managed to convince the court and the king himself about attacking Ceuta, the Moorish city that had a virtual monopoly on the commerce of spice and gold into Europe.
Philippa was very well educated and she had read all the accounts written by ancient historians as well as individuals that knew that there was a way around Africa, which would lead any ships to India and to a better position for spice trade, breaking the oligopoly of the Moors, Bizantium and the Venetians. It is know that she had learned about Marco Polo, the trip of Hanno the Phoenician around Africa (more on the Phoenicians here), and even Leif Ericsson and his forays into Greenland and Vinland - later identified as Newfoundland, in the American continent.
She was the first among European rulers to conceive a plan for expansion thorough the Atlantic ocean; others, mainly the Portuguese and Spanish followed, eventually leading to the trips of Columbus by the end of the XIV century.
By sending spies into the city, Philippa learned for the first time about the sources of the gold that the Muslims provided Europe again, under a virtual monopoly: Timbuktu. So, taking the city fortress began making a lot of sense, and three years were invested in the preparation for the Ceuta campaign.
Philippa died of the plague as many of her ancestors (see The curse of the Lancasters) as what could be arguably her masterplan began to unfold. Reportedly, she died as the Portuguese armada was in its final preparations before going into battle, which lasted just one day and completely changed the spice trade routes, opening the way for Portugal to become a maritime superpower.
By reviewing what Philippa of Lancaster conceived, and later, other kings of Portugal and Spain, it becomes plausible that they knew more about distant shores which were popularly considered unknown at the time, and they kept that knowledge in secret. We have to remember that, fore example, navigational charts were jealously guarded and not even most commanders on board carracks, caravels and later galleons even had access to them - only the great captains of each armada and perhaps a few selected witnesses.
On one hand we have this plan of Philippa, but then, considering the apparently casual discovery of Brazil by Cabral, less than a century after her time, and of course, the first expedition by Columbus, as suggestive indicators of this hypothesis.
After a few generations, one of the branches of the Portuguese royal family revived the origins of Philippa and began calling themselves de Lancaster again, along with its two Portuguese variants, which are Lencastre and Lancastre.
Indeed, the Duke of Coimbra, and son of King Joćo II and Ana de Mendonēa was known as Jorge de Lancastre. His granddaughter, Ana de Lancastre married Dom Bartholomew de Sampayo - Belmonte, and so originated the de Belmonte family, which later changed its name to Schoenberg (see Dom Iago de Sampayo y Belmonte), ultimately leading to us after 18 generations.
Philippa of Lancaster, queen of Portugal
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