The two extraordinary, carved, fourteenth-century tombs in the abbey church at Alcobaça shine a light on a doomed medieval romance. Prince Pedro (1320–1367), son of Afonso IV and heir to the Portuguese throne, was married to Constance of Castile, but fell in love with her maid, Inês de Castro (1320–1355), who was from a noble Galician (ie Spanish) family. The two continued an affair, despite the disapproval of the king, who feared a creeping Spanish influence in the Portuguese court. Following Constance’s death in 1345, Afonso IV banished Inês and forbade her marriage to Pedro, but the pair wed in secret in Bragança in the far north of the country. With Inês’s brothers and other Spanish nobles favoured by Pedro, and Afonso in danger of losing control of his court, the king moved to more radical measures, and ordered his daughter-in-law’s murder. She was killed in Coimbra in 1355, sparking a revolt by Pedro against his own father. Afonso died two years later, and when Pedro succeeded to the throne in 1357 he assuaged his grief with the commissioning of two elaborate tombs, which he placed foot to foot in the abbey church – allegedly, so that they could see each other when they rose again. Inês’ corpse was transferred here from Coimbra and ceremonially reinterred – not before, according to gory legend, Pedro placed her rotting body on the throne and insisted the court honour his lost queen by kissing her hand.

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