Pedro of Avis, prince

(1392-1449)
   One of the many talented sons of King João I and Philippa of Lancaster, regent and older brother of Prince Henry of Aviz (Prince Henry the Navigator). Pedro's life and work were important in consolidating an independent Portuguese monarchy and in promoting the maritime discoveries and explorations down the coast of Africa. Well-educated for a member of royalty in his day, Infante Dom Pedro was present as a warrior at the auspicious conquest of Ceuta in Morocco in 1415, and was named Duke of Coimbra that same year. From 1425 to 1428, he traveled and studied in Europe, including in England, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Aragon and Castile. He returned from his travels with a copy of Marco Polo's famous book and introduced this to his country.
   Among royalty and nobility, Prince Pedro's views were cautious regarding further Portuguese expansion in Morocco, and during the troubled times of 1436-38, he opposed the planned but ill-fated attack on the Moroccan city of Tangier; he called for the surrender later of Ceuta, in order to ransom the life of Prince Fernando, a prisoner in Moroccan hands. Following the death of King Duarte in 1438 and the subsequent succession crisis, including a civil war among factions, Prince Pedro acted as regent until 1446, when Prince Afonso reached his majority and was acclaimed King Afonso V, called "The African" (r. 1446-81).
   After Prince Pedro's powers were given up finally in 1448, his formerly exiled enemies returned to Portugal and vowed vengeance against him. Warfare ensued and, with the defeat of his army at the battle of Alfarrobeira in 1449, Prince Pedro was killed. His many accomplishments and talents off the battlefields were forgotten over the generations. Beginning in the late 19th century, the memory of his distinction and greatness was increasingly obscured by the growing fame, legend, and myth of his younger brother, Prince Henry of Aviz (Prince Henry the Navigator). An effort to rehabilitate the memory and public knowledge of Prince Pedro began in the early 1960s among a handful of foreign scholars, and was carried on by Portuguese scholars in the 1990s, but it appeared to have little effect against the pervasive cult of Prince Henry the Navigator.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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