St. Isabel of Portgual (1271-1336)
Queen of Portugal
Queen of Portugal
Elizabeth was the daughter of King Peter III of Aragon and Constantia, grandchild of Emperor Frederick II. She was named after her great-aunt St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
Elizabeth was educated very piously, and led a life of strict regularity and self-denial from her childhood. At the age of 12yo, Elizabeth married King Denis/Diniz of Portugal, a poet, and known as "the working king" , in recognition of his work in the service of his country. His morals, however, were extremely bad, and the court to which the young Elizabeth was brought consequently most corrupt.
Nevertheless, Elizabeth quietly pursued the regular religious practices, all the while attempting to win the affections of her husband theough her gentleness and extraordinary forbearance. She bore two children, a daughter Constantia and son Affonso, within seven years. Elizabeth became the benefactor of the poor, orphans, and women, and devoted every spare moment of her time helping them, even pressing her court ladies into their service.
However, such a pious life was considered a reproach to many around her, and caused ill will in some quarters. Her own life was full of turmoil. Elizabeth was neglected by her unfaithful husband, whose morals were not improved until much later in his life. When her son Alfonso rebelled, as he greatly resented the favours being shown to the illegitiamte sons of his father, war was declared (1323). Elizabeth attempted to reconcile father and son, but was unjustly suspected by her husband of involvement in the rebellion, and banished.
Though away from court, Elizabeth still maintained influence. She succeeded in averting pending strife among her royal kinfolk. Upon the death of her husband Denis (1325), Elizabeth returned to her house at Coimbra, near the Poor Clare convent she founded. Here she took to wearing the habit of a Franciscan Tertiary, her only wish to spend the rest of her life in relative obscurity, devoted to the sick and poor.
When her son King Alfonso IV warred with King Alfonso XI of Castile (1336) - Alfonso had married his daughter Maria, and had ill-treated and neglected her, Elizabeth, despite her age and weakened condition followed the Portuguese army in field at Estremoz, and was succeessful in obtaining peace. But the exertion of obtaining the peace brought on her final illness.
Elizabeth died at Estremoz, of fever before she was able to return home. Elizabeth was buried at Coimbra, and many miracles were attributed to her. She was canonized in 1626 by Pope Urban VIII.
~~~ Melisende (first pub: 1998 Women of History)