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An Independent Portugal

After a botched attempt at marital diplomacy and the abortive siege of Lisbon, King John the 1st of Castile [cast-STEEL] returns to Portugal to bring them to heel. Portugal has named a new king, the bastard son of King Pedro the Cruel. The Portuguese call their new king: "King John the Great." (You can imagine what he is called by the Castillians.) The Castillians come in force with 32,000 infantry and knights. In comparison, Portugal's defense forces are extremely small and John of Gaunt has sent only 600 longbowmen. Fortunately for Portugal, these bowmen are veterans of the 100 Years' War and they know how to kill knights. The Portuguese take the high ground at a choke point north of the city of Alcobaça [ALL-ko-BAH-sah] and frankly... it is ALL high ground except for the road passing through. They dig trenches to slow down any cavalry charge and the longbowmen do their job with skill. It is a decisive win for Portugal. The war for independence is not over but the rest will be small skirmishes in comparison. John the Great will remain King of Portugal. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The battle is a little more complex that I am portraying it here. The steep slope on the north side of the hill forces the Castillians to swing around to get behind the Portuguese, all the while getting hammered by the English bowmen. Then as the Castillians charge up the more gentle slope they hit the ditches as the bowmen continue to break up and scatter the charge. It is a new tactic for the Middle Ages and it is worth studying. King John the Great will build a monastery there to commemorate the battle. [6] [7]

The King Wears a Skirt

Hedwig is the King of Poland. She is also a twelve-year-old girl. Her name means "A Head for Battle" and she is called "King" so that everyone will realize, instantly, that she is the one in charge around here.... right? Well... she's not an idiot. After her coronation last year, she's had a number of suitors including a guy who showed up on the doorstep ready to consummate the marriage! After he gets the boot, she signs a marriage agreement with the Grand Duke of Lithuania on the condition that he convert to Christianity. Lithuania has been under attack for years by the Teutonic Knights on a Crusade to force Lithuania to Christianity, but with the stroke of a pen... uh... she has brought the Grand Duke to Christianity and the people of Lithuania soon follow. The Grand Duke will be baptized as [wah-DIS-loff]. (I can't even spell it.) and they will marry next year. [8] [9]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The guy who got the boot had an earlier marriage contract but, that was BEFORE Hedwig was selected as monarch in a sweet deal that cut out her less promising older sister. Marriages between the high nobility were primarily political. (The marriage of Edward the Black Prince to Joan of Kent being a notable exception.) A marriage that would turn such a massive region as Lithuania toward Christianity could not be ignored. Hedwig will be made Saint Hedwig in 1997... and not to be confused with the Duchess Saint Hedwig who is the namesake for the Texas town of St. Hedwig. [10] [11]

A Garland of Roses: Legend holds that Hedwig would smuggle food out of the castle in the folds of her apron to feed the poor but her husband suspected her of complicity with his enemies and even smuggling food out would have been a capital offense. One night he surprised her and when she opened the folds of her apron, the food she was carrying turned into a garland of roses... thus saving her life. -- (This story paraphrased from The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, edited by Norman F. Cantor, p. 286.)

Hungary: It's Complicated

A few years ago King Charles the Short of Hungary had Queen Joanna I of Naples strangled to death and took the throne of Naples. (Don't feel bad. She REALLY deserved it.) Her adopted son heard the bad news and marched on King Charles but he died so his troops left the field. Pope Urban felt threatened by the King and excommunicated him so he moved to Hungary since he is also the Duke of Croatia and Dalmatia which are part of Hungary at this time. Then King Louis I of Hungary died and his daughter, Queen Mary, ascended the throne... but... the nobles haven't liked her much and don't like her scheming mother, Elizabeth of Bosnia, either. King Charles now claims the throne and has given Mary the boot. You'd think that would be the end of it, but you'd be wrong. Elizabeth will have Charles killed in February of next year. Then Elizabeth and Mary will... well... it's complicated.[12] [13]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Queen Mary is the elder sister of the King of Poland. [See "The King Wears a Skirt"] Mary should have been the one to take that kingship but she was passed over in favor of her little sister, Hedwig who was named King... an odd title for a girl but true nevertheless. You know something had to be wrong with Mary when they thought a little girl was the better choice. In time Mary will come to a bad end as will her mother, Elizabeth.[14]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1385, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. 1300-1400 AD, from History Central, Multieducator, Inc. (WEB SITE) quote=" The Portugese [sic] fought Castile at the Battle of Ajubarrota. The Portugese [sic] were led by John the Great. His victory insured the independence of Portugal."
  2. Portugal - Historical Setting - The House of Avis. About.com, 2014 [last update]
  3. Satellite View of Region around the Battle of Aljubarrota. 2014 [last update] (GOOGLE MAPS)
  4. Peter I of Portugal - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  5. 1383-85 Crisis - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  6. Batalha Abbey, Portugal. GoLisbon.com. 2014 [last update]
  7. Battle of Aljubarrota: Castile Arrives - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  8. Cantor, Norman F. general editor, The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. Viking Penguin. 1999. pp. 285-286. (BOOK)
  9. Jadwiga of Poland (Hedwig) - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  10. St. Hedwig, Texas - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  11. Hedwig of Silesia - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  12. Mary, Queen of Hungary - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  13. Charles III of Naples: Succession in Hungary - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  14. Stephen V of Hungary - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]

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