DENIS (Portuguese : Dinis or Diniz, IPA: ;
Denis ruled the
Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarves for over 46
years and is remembered as a major contributor to the formation of a
sense of national identity and an awareness of
* 1 Reign * 2 Cultural pursuits * 3 Administration * 4 Latter years and death * 5 Appraisal of reign * 6 Physical Description * 7 Marriage and descendants * 8 Ancestry * 9 See also * 10 References * 11 External links
The royal couple
In 1290, Denis began to pursue the systematic centralisation of royal power by imposing judicial reforms, instituting the Portuguese language as the official language of the court, creating the first university in Portugal, and ridding the military orders in the country of foreign influences. His policies encouraged economic development with the creation of numerous towns and trade fairs. He advanced the interests of the Portuguese merchants, and set up by mutual agreement a fund called the Bolsa de Comércio, the first documented form of marine insurance in Europe, approved on 10 May 1293. Always concerned with development of the country's infrastructure, he encouraged the discovery and exploitation of sulphur , silver , tin and iron mines and organised the export of excess production of agricultural crops, salt, and salted fish to England, Flanders, and France.
Denis signed the first Portuguese commercial agreement with England in 1308, and secured a contract in 1317 for the services of the Genoese merchant sailor Manuel Pessanha (Portuguese form of the Italian "Pezagno") as hereditary admiral of his fleet, with the understanding that Pessanha and his successors should provide twenty Genoese captains to command the king's galleys, thus effectively founding the Portuguese navy.
In 1289 Denis had signed an agreement with
Pope Nicholas IV ,
swearing to protect the Church's interests in Portugal. When Pope
Clement V allowed the annihilation of the
Statue of Denis at the University of Coimbra
During Denis' reign,
As a devotee of the arts and sciences, Denis studied literature and wrote several books on topics ranging from government administration to hunting, science and poetry, as well as ordering the translation of many literary works into Galician-Portuguese (Portuguese had not yet fully evolved into a distinct language), among them the works attributed to his grandfather Alfonso X. He patronised troubadours , and wrote lyric poetry in the troubadour tradition himself. His best-known work is the Cantigas de Amigo , a collection of love songs as well as satirical songs, which contributed to the development of troubador poetry in the Iberian Peninsula. All told, 137 of the songs attributed to him, in the three main genres of Galician-Portuguese lyric , are preserved in the two early 16th-century manuscripts, the Cancioneiro da Biblioteca Nacional and the Cancioneiro da Vaticana . A spectacular find in 1990 by American scholar Harvey Sharrer brought to light the Pergaminho Sharrer , which contains, albeit in fragmentary form, seven cantigas d'amor by King Denis with musical notation . These poems are found in the same order in the two previously known codices.
Cross of the Order of Christ, a symbol that adorned, among others, the Portuguese caravels during the Age of Discoveries
As heir-apparent to the throne,
Infante (Prince) Denis was summoned
by his father Afonso III to share governmental responsibilities. The
country was again in conflict with the
In 1284, however, Denis emulated the example of his grandfather and father, and launched a new series of inquiries to investigate the expropriation of royal property; this was to the detriment of the church. The next year he took further steps against ecclesiastical power when he promulgated amortisation laws. These prohibited the church and religious orders from buying lands, and required that they sell or forfeit any they had purchased since the start of his reign. Several years later he issued another decree forbidding them to inherit the estates of recruits to the orders.
In 1288, Denis managed to persuade
Pope Nicholas IV to issue a papal
Bull that separated the Order of Santiago in
Denis was essentially an administrator and not a warrior king. He
went to war with the kingdom of Castile in 1295, relinquishing the
villages of Serpa and Moura. In 1297, he signed the Treaty of
Alcañices with Castile, which defined the current borders between the
two Iberian countries, and reaffirmed Portugal’s possession of the
Denis pursued his father's policies on legislation and centralisation of power, and promulgated the nucleus of a Portuguese civil and criminal law code, protecting the lower classes from abuse and extortion. These edicts survived in the Livro das Leis e Posturas (Book of Laws and Postures), and the Ordenações Afonsinas (Afonsine Ordinances), proclaimed during the reign of Afonso V . These are not legislative "codes" as we understand them today, but rather compilations of laws and customary municipal law, as amended and restated by the Portuguese crown. King Denis Administers Justice (1899), by Veloso Salgado ( Palácio da Bolsa )
As king, Denis travelled around the country to resolve various problems. He ordered the construction of numerous castles, created new towns, and granted the privileges due cities to several others. He declared in 1290 that 'the language of the people' was to become the language of the state, and officially known as Portuguese . Denis also decreed that Portuguese replace Latin as the language of the law courts in his kingdom. His wife Elizabeth donated much of the large income generated by her lands and properties to charities, inspiring Denis to help improve the life of the poor and found several social institutions.
The frequent procedural issues that arose when he issued his decrees
increasingly occupied Denis in his quest to frame the common law as
being within the scope of the crown's jurisdiction, and in exercising
royal power in the realm. The restrictions he placed on the actions of
alvazis (local council officials), judges, as well as proctors and
advocates in the courts, show that a merely nominal power of the
monarchy over all the inhabitants of the kingdom, as was typical in
Its geographical situation between the ancient divisions of the country, i.e., the north and the south, enhanced Lisbon's status as the most practical centre for an emergent united Portuguese nation, the south now receiving as much royal attention as the north and becoming the residence of the monarchy. Their different characters created a realm where the two regions complemented each other. The great manors were closer together in the north, and the vast dominions conquered from the Muslims in the south, as well as the large areas of unclaimed land there, expanded the domain of the crown, and much of the territory of the extreme south came under the control of the military orders.
Denis promoted development of the rural infrastructure, earning the nickname of "the Farmer" (o Lavrador). He redistributed land, founded agricultural schools to improve farming techniques, and took a personal interest in the expansion of exports. He set up regular markets in a number of towns and regulated their activities. One of his principal achievements was to protect agricultural lands from advancing coastal sands by ordering the planting of a pine forest near Leiria . which also provided a source of raw materials for construction of a naval fleet. This forest, known as the Pinhal de Leiria ( Leiria Pinewood), still exists, and is an important conservation area.
LATTER YEARS AND DEATH
The latter part of Denis' generally peaceful reign was nevertheless
marked by internal conflicts. The contenders were his two sons: Afonso
, the legitimate heir, and Afonso Sanches , his bastard son, who
quarreled frequently among themselves for royal favour. At the time of
Denis' death in 1325, he had placed
Afonso, born in
Infante Afonso greatly resented the king, whom he accused of
favoring Afonso Sanches. Denis had little popular support in the war
because of the many privileges he had granted to the nobles in the
last years of his reign, while the infante had the support of the
county's cities; these circumstances were rooted in the longstanding
conflict between the upper and lower classes of Portuguese society.
Repulsed to the town of Alenquer , which supported the Infante, Denis
was prevented from killing his son through the intervention of the
Queen. As legend holds, in 1323, Elizabeth, mounted on a mule,
positioned herself between the opposing armies on the field of the
Battle of Alvalade in order to prevent the combat. Peace returned in
1324 when Afonso Sanches was sent into exile and the
loyalty to the king. Remains of the medieval Monastery of Saint
King Denis died on 7 January 1325 at Santarém , and was buried in
the Monastery of Saint Denis in
APPRAISAL OF REIGN
Bearing in mind the many centuries that separate Denis from the present, an impression of his personality can be gathered from the historical record: he was determined, even obstinate, in his attempts to systematically centralise the government and consolidate royal power. For example, he launched general inquiries (Inquirições gerais) at a remarkably accelerated pace to investigate land ownership and identify cases where abuses were committed.
Denis revealed early on his ability as an effective strategist in the pursuit of his goals, and as an innovator of proactive legislative policy. With the benefit of a posteriori scrutiny, it is clear that his administrative decisions were not made randomly or without consideration of his ideal of a well-governed nation. The wide range of his policies is indicated by a few examples: the concomitant creation of new towns and trade fairs, the fortification of the country's borders and the increasing dependence of the military orders on the royal power. He was recognized as an intelligent, perceptive ruler with demonstrated success, both by contemporaries and by later historians.
Denis was not lacking in political skill. Being adroit in negotiation
and a student of human nature, he knew how to go about "opposing and
appeasing alternately the secular and the ecclesiastical manorial
interests. He confiscated the properties of the clergy, but made the
concordat with the Portuguese bishops; he restricted the comedoria
(victuals) rights of the monasteries, but replaced those rights with a
fixed annual sum of money. His actions were sufficiently enough, for
him to secure the confiscation laws and check the erosion of the state
patrimony". As administration of the royal properties became more
efficient and he became richer, Denis gained fame for his wealth, even
being mentioned in Dante Alighieri's
Nevertheless, Denis is described in contemporary chronicles as a wise and able ruler. Although most of the legislative work of his reign focused on procedural juridical issues, the purpose of much of this new legislation was to avoid excessive delays and court costs and to prevent abuse by attorneys and prosecutors.The personal determination that allowed Denis to achieve so much in the political realm could sometimes harden into obstinacy and arrogance. He was described occasionally as cruel, especially in family relations, shown for example in the way he dealt with his legitimate son and rightful heir, Afonso (never his favorite), and his wife, Elizabeth, to whom he turned over the children born of his infidelities, leaving her the responsibility of their care and education.
An inescapable figure in the history of the
Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, ancestor of Denis of
The historical sources of King Denis's time, as well as later authors, failed to provide any detailed physical description of the monarch. The information known comes from an accidental opening of his tomb during a restoration in 1938. It was discovered that the legend of a figure of towering height was not an accurate one as he was only about 1.65 metres (5 feet 5 inches) tall. Denis made his will when he was 61 and died at age 63. He apparently enjoyed excellent health throughout his life, as he traveled frequently, got involved in wars from an early age and at age 60 still hunted. He died with complete dentition, a rarity for the time, something that even today continues to be fairly unusual.
A distinctive feature of his physiognomy revealed by examination of
the body was that his hair and beard were auburn. This is a curious
fact, as he was the first of the Portuguese royal line up to that time
to have that hair color. This genetic trait could have been passed on
the maternal side, as his uncle Ferdinand , called "La Cerda", or "the
bristly one", had red hair as well. Denis may have inherited the trait
from Henry II of
MARRIAGE AND DESCENDANTS
Denis' only wife was Isabel or
Elizabeth of Aragon
NAME BIRTH DEATH NOTES
BY ELIZABETH OF ARAGON (1271–1336; married in 1282)
Infanta Constança (Constance)
3 January 1290
18 November 1313
Queen of Castile by marriage to
Ferdinand IV of Castile
BY MARIA PIRES (?-?)
João Afonso c. 1280 1325 Lord of Lousã
BY MARINHA GOMES (c. 1260-?)
Maria Afonso c. 1290 a. 1340 married Juan Alfonso de la Cerda
Maria Afonso (nun)
Religious at the Monastery of
BY GRáCIA FROES (c. 1265-?)
Count of Barcelos
BY ALDONçA RODRIGUES TALHA (c. 1260-?)
Afonso Sanches b. 1289 1329 Lord of Albuquerque and rival of his half-brother Afonso IV
OTHER NATURAL OFFSPRING
Fernão Sanches c. 1280 1329
ANCESTORS OF DENIS OF PORTUGAL
16. Afonso I of
8. Sancho I of
17. Matilda of Savoy
4. Afonso II of
21. Blanche of Navarre
5. Urraca of Castile
22. Henry II of
11. Eleanor of
1. DENIS OF PORTUGAL
26. Philip of Swabia
27. Irene Angelina
3. Beatrice of Castile
28. Pedro Rodríguez de Guzmán
29. Mahalda ...
30. Gonzalo Rodríguez Girón
15. María González Girón
31. Sancha Rodríguez
This article incorporates information translated from the equivalent article on the Portuguese.
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