CASTRO, INEZ DE (d. 1355), mistress, and perhaps wife, of Peter I. (Pedro), king of Portugal, called Collo de Garza, i.e. “Heron’s Neck,” was born in Spanish Galicia, in the earlier years of the 14th century. Tradition asserts that her father, Don Pedro Fernandez de Castro, and her mother, Dona Aldonça Soares de Villadares, a noble Portuguese lady, were unmarried, and that Inez and her two brothers were consequently of bastard birth. Educated at the semi-Oriental provincial court of Juan Manuel, duke of Peñafiel, Inez grew up side by side with Costança, the duke’s daughter by a scion of the royal house of Aragon, and her own cousin. After refusing several crowned heads in marriage, Costança was at last persuaded to accept the hand of the infante Dom Pedro, son of Alphonso the Proud, king of Portugal. In 1341 the two girls left Peñafiel; Costança’s marriage was celebrated in the same year, and the young infanta and her cousin went to reside at Lisbon, or at Coimbra, where Dom Pedro conceived that luckless and furious passion for Inez which has immortalized them.The morality of the age was lax, and more especially so in Spain and Portugal, where the looseness of the marriage tie and the example of the Moors encouraged polygamy. Pedro’s connexion par amours with Inez would of itself have aroused no opposition. He might even have married her, after the death of his wife in childbirth in 1345. According to his own assurance he did marry her in 1354. But by that time the rising power of the Castro family had created the most brutal hatred among their rivals, both in Spain and Portugal. Alvaro Gonzales, Pedro Coelho, and Diogo Lopes Pacheco persuaded the king, Alphonso, that his throne was in danger from an alliance between his son and the Castros, and with all the brutality of the age they urged the king to remove the danger by murdering the poor woman. The old king listened, refused, wavered and ended by yielding. He went in secret to the palace at Coimbra, where Inez and the infante resided, accompanied by his three familiars, and by others who agreed with them. The beauty and tears of Inez disarmed his resolution, and he turned to leave her; but the gentlemen about him had gone too far to recede. Inez was stabbed to death and was buried immediately in the church of Santa Clara.
The infante raised at once the flag of revolt against his father, and was only appeased by the concession of a large share in the government. The three murderers of Inez were sent out of the kingdom by Alphonso, who knew his son too well not to be aware that the vengeance would be tremendous as the crime. They took refuge in Castile. In 1357, however, Alphonso died, and the infante was crowned king of Portugal. Peter the Cruel, his nephew, reigned over Castile; and the murderers were given up as soon as required. Diogo Lopes escaped through the gratitude of a beggar to whom he had formerly done a kindness; but Coelho and Gonzales were executed, with horrible tortures, in the very presence of the king.
The story of the exhumation and coronation of the corpse of Inez has often been told. It is said that to the dead body, crowned and robed in royal raiment, and enthroned beside the king, the assembled nobles of Portugal paid homage as to their queen, swearing fealty on the withered hand of the corpse. The gravest doubts, however, exist as to the authenticity of this story; Fernão Lopes, the Portuguese Froissart, who is the great authority for the details of the death of Inez, with some of the actors in which he was acquainted, says nothing of the ghastly ceremony, though he tells at length the tale of the funeral honours that the king bestowed upon his wife. Inez was buried at Alcobaça with extraordinary magnificence, in a tomb of white marble, surmounted by her crowned statue; and near her sepulchre Pedro caused his own to be placed. The monument, after repeatedly resisting the violence of curiosity, was broken into in 1810 by the French soldiery; the statue was mutilated, and the yellow hair was cut from the broken skeleton, to be preserved in reliquaries and blown away by the wind. The children of Inez shared her habit of misfortune. From her brother, however, Alvaro Perez de Castro, the reigning house of Portugal directly descends.
See Fernão Lopes, Chronica del Rey Dom Pedro (1735); Camoens, Os Lusiadas; Antonio Ferreira’s Ines de Castro,—the first regular tragedy of the Renaissance after the Sofonisba of Trissino; Luis Velez de Guevara, Reinar despues de morir, an admirable play; and Ferdinand Denis, Chroniques chevaleresques de l’Espagne et du Portugal.