António, Prior of Crato

António, Prior of Crato
António, Prior of Crato
Portuguese royalty
House of Aviz-Beja
Flag Manuel I of Portugal.svg

Manuel I
Children include
   Miguel da Paz, Prince of Portugal and of Asturias
   John III
   Isabella, Holy Roman Empress
   Beatrice, Duchess of Savoy
   Louis, Duke of Beja
   Ferdinand, Duke of Guarda and Trancoso
   Cardinal-Infante Afonso
   Edward, Duke of Guimarães
   Maria, Lady of Viseu
Grandchildren include
   Anthony (illegitimate)
   Maria, Duchess of Parma and Piacenza
   Catherine, Duchess of Braganza
Great-Great-Grandchildren include
   John IV
John III
Children include
   Maria Manuela, Princess of Portugal and of Asturias
   John Manuel, Prince of Portugal
Grandchildren include

António, Prior of Crato (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐ̃ˈtɔniu]; 1531 – August 26, 1595; sometimes, rarely, called The Determined, The Fighter or The Independentist), was a grandson of King Manuel I of Portugal, claimant of the Portuguese throne during the 1580 dynastic crisis, who was King of Portugal as António I of Portugal during 33 days in the continent in 1580, and, after the crowning of Philip II of Spain as King of Portugal, claimant to the throne until 1583, in the Azores. He was a disciple of Bartolomeu dos Mártires.



Early life

António was born in Lisbon, the illegitimate son of Prince Louis, Duke of Beja (1506–1555) and Violante Gomes. (Some argue that his parents were later married, perhaps at Évora.[1][2]) His mother was long accused of being a Sephardic Jewess or a "new Christian" (a forced convert of Jewish or Muslim origin), but, in fact, she was a member of the minor Portuguese nobility,[2] the daughter of Pedro Gomes from Évora.[3] She died a nun at Santarém on 16 July 1568.

Through his father, he was the grandson of King Manuel I of Portugal (1495–1521). Due to his illegitimate status, however, his claim to the throne was considered invalid. Nonetheless, his father had also been Prior of Crato, which meant that he was able to marry without a pope's dispensation; so, the issue of young António's legitimacy is somewhat muddied. (His father may have married his mother, after all.)

António was educated in Coimbra, and he was placed in the Order of St. John. He received the wealthy priory of Crato as an endowment. In 1571, he was named governor of the Portuguese fortification at Tangier in Morocco.

Nonetheless, little is known of his life until 1578. In that year, he accompanied King Sebastian of Portugal (1557–1578) in his invasion of Morocco, and he was taken prisoner by the Moors at the Battle of Ksar El Kebir, the same battle where the young king was slain. António is said to have secured his release on easy terms by concocting a fiction. He was asked the meaning of the cross of St. John that he wore on his doublet, and he replied that it was the sign of a small benefice which he held from the Pope, something he would lose if he were not back in Portugal by 1 January 1579. His captor, believing him to be a poor man, allowed his release upon payment of a small ransom.

Claimant to the throne of Portugal

On his return to Portugal, António laid claim to the throne. But his pretension was opposed, and António’s uncle Henry, the cardinal archbishop of Évora and only surviving brother of King John III of Portugal (1521–1557), became the new monarch. The cardinal was old and the last legitimate male representative of the royal line. In January 1580, when the Cortes were assembled in Almeirim (where the rightful heir of the Portuguese throne was decided), old Cardinal-King Henry died without having designated a successor. The regency of the kingdom was assumed by a governing junta composed of five members. By this time, the Portuguese throne was contested by several claimants. Among these were Catherine, Duchess of Braganza; her eleven-year-old nephew, Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma; King Philip II of Spain; and António, the Prior of Crato. The Duchess was named the legitimate heir later, after her descendants obtained the throne in 1640 (through King John IV of Portugal); in 1580, though, she was but one of several possible heirs. According to feudal custom, her late older sister's Italian son Ranuccio was the closest heir, followed by the Duchess herself and, only after both, King Philip, for he descended from Manuel I through a female line. As for António, although King Manuel I's grandson in direct male line, he was illegitimate.

António, relying upon popular hostility to a Spanish ruler (even if Philip's mother was Portuguese), presented himself as an alternative candidate to King Philip II. He endeavoured to prove that his father and mother were married after his birth, but no evidence of the marriage could be found (and whether such a marriage ever took place is still debated). António's claim, inferior to Philip II’s and the Duchess of Braganza’s, was not supported by the nobles or gentry; his partisans were drawn instead from the inferior clergy, the peasantry, and artisans. Philip ensured the success of his claim to the Portuguese crown by using gold from the Americas to bribe the upper classes of Portugal; these aristocrats and rich believed that a personal union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns would be highly profitable for Portugal (whose economy was then failing), which would maintain formal independence as well as autonomous administration in both Europe and its empire).

António tried to win the common people to his cause, cashing in the diffuse anti-Spanish Portuguese identity and comparing the current situation to the one of the 1383-1385 Crisis. Then, just as in 1580, the king of Castile invoked arguments of blood nature to inherit the Portuguese throne; and like in 1580, the Master of Aviz (John), illegitimate son of King Peter I of Portugal, claimed his rights to the throne that ended in victory in the Battle of Aljubarrota and in the Cortes of Coimbra in 1385.

Proclaims himself king

On July 24, 1580, António proclaimed himself King of Portugal in Santarém which was followed by popular acclamation in several locations of the country. However, he governed in Continental Portugal for only 20 days, culminating in his defeat in the Battle of Alcântara by the Spanish Habsburg armies led by Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba on August 25.

After the above event, he attempted to rule Portugal from Terceira Island, in the Azores, where he established an opposition government that lasted until 1583, and where he even minted coin — a typical act of sovereignty and royalty. Because of that, many authors[clarification needed] consider him the last monarch of the House of Aviz (instead of Cardinal-King Henry) and the 18th King of Portugal.

His government on Terceira Island was only recognized in the Azores. On the continent and in the Madeira Islands, power was exercised by Philip II, who was recognized as official king the following year by the Portuguese Cortes of Tomar.


In early 1581, he fled to France carrying with him the crown jewels, including many valuable diamonds. He was well received by Catherine de' Medici, who had a claim of her own to the Crown of Portugal. She looked upon him as a convenient instrument to be used against Philip II. By promising to cede the Portuguese colony of Brazil to her and the sale of some of his jewels, António secured support to fit out a fleet manned by Portuguese exiles and French and English adventurers.

As the Habsburgs had not yet occupied the Azores, he sailed for them with a number of French adventurers under Philip Strozzi, a Florentine exile in the service of France, but was utterly defeated at sea by the Álvaro de Bazán, 1st Marquis of Santa Cruz at the Battle of Ponta Delgada off São Miguel Island on July 25 and 26, 1582. He then returned to France and lived for a time in Rueil near Paris. Fear of assassins, employed by Philip II to remove him, drove António from one refuge to another until he finally went to England.

Queen Elizabeth I of England favoured him for much the same reasons as Catherine de' Medici did. In 1589, the year after the Spanish Armada, he accompanied an English expedition, under the command of Francis Drake and John Norreys, to the coast of Spain and Portugal. The force consisted partly of the queen's ships, and in part by privateers who joined in search of booty. António, with all the credulity of an exile, believed that his presence would provoke a general rising against Philip II. However, none took place and the expedition was a costly failure.

Latter days and death

António soon fell into poverty. His remaining diamonds were disposed of by degrees. The last and finest was acquired by Nicholas Harlai, Seigneur de Sancy, from whom it was purchased by Maximilien de Béthune, duc de Sully. It was later included in the jewels of the crown. During his last days, he lived as a private gentleman on a small pension given by King Henry IV of France. He died in Paris on August 26, 1595 was buried in the middle of the choir of the convent church of the Franciscan Observantists (Cordeliers). The church was demolished in 1811. He left six illegitimate sons by two different women.[1] In addition to papers which he published to defend his claims, António was the author of the Panegyrus Alphonsi Lusitanorum Regis (Coimbra 1550), and of a cento of the Psalms, Psalmi Confessionales (Paris 1592), which was translated into English under the title of The Royal Penitent by Francis Chamberleyn (London 1659), and into German as Heilige Betrachtungen (Marburg, 1677).

António continued to fight for the restoration of an independent Royal Dynasty of his country until the end of his life. He did not see the end of the Philippine dynasty and of the Iberian Union, in 1640, when a Portuguese — the grandson of his cousin, the Duchess of Braganza — was acclaimed king as John IV of Portugal, after a victorious coup on December 1, 1640.



António, being a cleric, was never permitted to marry but had several children with several women.

Name Birth Death Notes
By Ana Barbosa (?-?)
Manuel de Portugal 1568 June 22, 1638 Accompanied his father in the exile in France, England and Flanders. Married Emilia of Nassau, daughter of William the Silent.
Other offspring
Cristóvão de Portugal April 1573 June 3, 1638 After his father's death continued to fight for his cause.
Dinis de Portugal ? ? Cistercian monk.
João de Portugal ? ? Died young.
Filipa de Portugal ? ? Nun at the Monastery of Lorvão.
Luísa de Portugal ? ? Nun in Tordesillas.



  • Antonio is frequently mentioned in French, English, and Spanish state papers of the time. A life of him, attributed to Gomes Vasconcellos de Figueredo, was published in a French translation by Mme de Sainctonge in Amsterdam (1696). A modern account of him, Un prétendant portugais au XVI siècle, by M. Fournier (Paris, 1852), is based on authentic sources. See also Dom Antonio Prior de Crato-notas de bibliographia, by J. de Araújo (Lisbon, 1897).
António, Prior of Crato
Cadet branch of the House of Aviz
Born: 1531 Died: 26 August 1595
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Portugal and the Algarves
1580 (settled in Portugal)
1580–1581 (settled in the Azores Islands)
Succeeded by
Philip I
Titles in pretence
Habsburg succession
Portuguese royals in exile
King of Portugal and the Algarves
Beja claimaint

Succeeded by

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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