Nuno Álvares Pereira

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Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira, O. Carm. (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈnunu ˈaɫvɐɾɨʃ pɨˈɾɐjɾɐ]; July 24, 1360 – April 1, 1431), also spelled Nun'Álvares Pereira, was a Portuguese general of great success who had a decisive role in the 1383-1385 Crisis that assured Portugal's independence from Castile. He later became a mystic, was beatified by Pope Benedict XV in 1918 and was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.


Early life

Nuno Álvares Pereira was born in Flor da Rosa, near Crato, central Portugal. His father was Dom Álvaro Gonçalves Pereira, Prior of Crato and Iria Gonçalves do Carvalhal. His grandfather was Dom Gonçalo (Gonçalves) Pereira, 97th Archbishop of Braga (1326–1349). He descended from the oldest Portuguese and Galician nobility. At age 17, he married Leonor de Alvim, daughter of João Pires de Alvim and wife Branca Pires Coelho and childless widow of Vasco Gonçalves Barroso.

Military life

Nuno started a military career very early. He was in the army when he was only 13, in 1373, and helped stopping a Castilian invasion. However, according to his own words, his first military campaigns were no more than skirmishes on the borders of Portugal. He was an impetuous and brave young man who soon showed himself to be an excellent leader.

Later on, when king Fernando I of Portugal died in 1383, with no heir besides Beatrice married to king John I of Castile, the Portuguese independence was again very fragile. Nuno was one of the first nobles to support the claim of king Fernando's brother John, Master of Aviz to the throne. True that John was a natural son of Peter I of Portugal, but, like many others, it was a better option than the loss of independence. After his first victory over the Castilians, in the Battle of Atoleiros (April 1384), João of Aviz named Nuno Álvares Pereira Protector and 2nd Constable of Portugal (Condestável do Reino), in practice supreme commander of Portugal’s armies and 3rd Count of Ourém. He was only 23 years old.

In April 1385, João of Aviz was recognized and accepted as king by the kingdom assembly (the Cortes) as John I. This strong Portuguese position for independence triggered an invasion of the country by Juan I of Castile, willing to defend his wife's rights to the throne. Nuno Álvares Pereira engaged in a pursuit against the cities loyal to the Castilians, namely in the North of the country. In August, he was the mastermind of the Portuguese victory in the Battle of Aljubarrota, after which the threat of annexation was over. After the 1383-1385 Crisis, Álvares Pereira received from John I the titles of 2nd Count of Arraiolos and 7th Count of Barcelos, which along with the previous one were the only three Countdoms existing at the time and which had been taken from Noblemen who took part for Castile. He was also made the 38th Mordomo-Mór (Major Majordomo) of the Realm.

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