How was the Portuguese national costume chosen
How Infante Dom Henrique's megalomania brought his brother Fernando to the dungeon • by Andreas Lausen
> The cause of this emotional tragedy lies in the year 1415. Portugal had conquered the city of Ceuta on the north coast of Morocco in a daring operation and thus laid the foundation stone for the voyages of discovery and the colonialism of the Europeans. Infante Dom Henrique - known in Germany as Heinrich the Navigator - had excelled as a young prince and knight when he took the fortress.
The Portuguese combined the capture of the city with the hope of being able to take over the profitable trade of Ceuta with the Orient and North Africa. This expectation was not fulfilled: The caravans and ships of the Moors avoided the now Portuguese Ceuta and called at Tangier, 50 kilometers to the west.
Ceuta had become a burden for Portugal. All food and supplies for Ceuta had to be brought from Portugal. Thousands of men were needed to defend the city without any profit for the motherland. King Duarte (reigned 1433-1438) and his advisors decided after long hesitation that Tangier would also have to be conquered in order to finally break the trade monopoly of the Moors, Venetians and Genoese.
The Infante Henrique was put in charge of a military force of 6,000 men, to which his youngest brother Fernando (1402−1443) also belonged as deputy commander. In contrast to the successful Ceuta expedition, Henrique did the preparations sloppily. He did not take the advice of his advisors seriously.
In September 1437, the Portuguese forces landed ten kilometers east of Tangier. Contrary to the warnings of his advisors, Henrique let his troops march overland against Tangier. There was only a small guard on the ships. Water was hardly taken with you - after all, Tangier was full of bubbling fountains, and it took the Portuguese only two days to conquer Ceuta in 1415.
But the Infante's plan did not work out. The Sultan had prepared Tangier well for the Portuguese attack. It was impossible to conquer the city quickly, and the Portuguese were not equipped for a siege. The soldiers of the Sultan under their general Salah Ibn Salah cut off Portugal's troops on the way back to the ships.
The infant was trapped with his men. Thirst took all of them courage. So they languished in the hot steppe outside the walls of Tangier and were doomed to die. But the Sultan made them an offer of peace: the Portuguese could leave with honor if they vacated Ceuta. Infant Henrique promised to withdraw from Ceuta. The order to do so could only be given by the king - with the consent of the Cortes.
The Sultan agreed, but demanded that Henrique's brother, Infanta Fernando, remain in the custody of the Moors as a guarantor for this agreement. Fernando and 12 companions went into captivity, while Henrique brought the forces safely to the ships and home to Portugal. Everyone assumed that Portugal would honor the deal and hand over Ceuta.
King Duarte immediately agreed, but not the Cortes. This assembly was similar to a parliament, but was not elected by today's standards, but composed of representatives of the nobility, clergy and estates. They discussed the situation in detail. The king appealed urgently to return Ceuta to the Moors and to release his brother from hostage.
But the Cortes refused. The conquest of Ceuta had been paid dearly with the lives of hundreds of Portuguese, and that would weigh more heavily than the life of a prince. At most ransom can be paid. The Sultan did not agree to this. If the Infante had been treated as a guest in Morocco until then, he was now taken to the dungeon in Fez. Fernando was tortured there and fed only with waste.
Fernando sent pleading letters to Portugal asking them to free him from dungeon. Messengers reported that his condition continued to deteriorate. But the Cortes stuck to their unyielding demeanor. After six years, Fernando died miserably on June 5, 1443 in a Moroccan dungeon.
Infant Dom Henrique, responsible for the Tangier disaster, became a different person. He realized that Portugal's goals on the African continent could not be achieved with blind violence, but only with planning, negotiations and thorough preparation. He spent his days and nights in Lagos and Sagres, brooding and in asceticism. The expeditions on the coast of Africa were carefully worked out, the captains handpicked. The discoveries of the Portuguese by sea to India were adventurous, but their protagonists were not adventurers, not even after the death of the Infante in 1460.
For Portugal, Ceuta was only symbolic. In 1668 it was handed over to the Spanish according to a treaty. Ceuta is still Spanish today - the destination of Africans on their way to Europe.
Tangier was conquered by Portugal after all in 1471. In 1661 the city was given to England as a dowry from the Infanta Catarina.
The bones of Fernando were found by Portugal in 1471 and buried in the burial chapel of the Aviz dynasty in the monastery of Batalha. The Spanish playwright Pedro Calderon de la Barca was inspired by the fate of the Portuguese prince for his play "El Principe Constante - The steadfast prince" (1636).
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