Why did Count Henry gain the County of Portucale?

It’s a known fact Henry of Bourgogne gained the county of Portucale around the year of 1096, together with the hand of Teresa of Portugal,a bastard daughter of Alfonso VI of Léon and Castile, but the fact it was gained from the domain of his cousin Count Raymond (the husband of Alfonso’s daughter Urraca and the count of Portugal and Galicia) raises the following question: why was the region taken from the control of the supposed heir to the Castilian throne and given to Alfonso Henriques’ father?

According to traditional Romantic accounts, Henry was a knight who helped Alfonso VI and the county together with the marriage to Teresa were
the “rewards” for his brave actions against the Almoravids, but, if this was true, why would be given Raymond’s lands to him? This simply doesn’t explain historical facts (if the King was kind in giving lands, he wouldn’t surely take lands from his son-in-law, besides the fact “there aren’t free lunches”).

Many Portuguese historians see this appointment as a result of the inability of the Galician count in holding the border against the Muslim attacks, resulting in the losses of Sintra and Lisbon in 1094, but there are two commonly forgotten but important facts which in my view undermine this theory: Portugal was part of Urraca’s dowry (so Alfonso VI couldn’t hope to take it out without annoying his son-in-law and daughter) and the military record of the Leonese king and his court, including count Henry (who would fail several times as count of Portucale and royal commander), in the border skirmishes against the Almoravids was very mixed.

Now that all these theories were discarded, I’d like to present one I saw which explains everything: the cession of the county of Portugal to count Henry was a political manoeuver to weaken Bourgogne’s faction at the Castilian court. The new “Portuguese” count was a royal agent at that time (as his early rule clearly shows) and a grandson of Duke Robert I of Burgundy through his older son Henry, while Urraca’s husband was the 4th son of Count William of Burgundy, which meant that Henry’s status was superior to that of his cousin, thereby creating rivalries between the two for lands and any potential succession rights.

Why would Alfonso VI want to create such troubles in his kingdom? It seems the answer lies in the succession issue: the Leonese king’s concubine Zaida (who converted later to Christendom and possibly married with the monarch under the name of Elizabeth) had given to birth an illegitimate son called Sancho Alfónsez and Alfonso started preparing his succession to him instead of his legitimate daughter Urraca and her husband Raymond. We mustn’t forget succession in medieval Hispania (until the early 13th century in Portugal and the end of the century in Léon and Castile) was much more open than in late medieval France, as all sons (including sometimes bastards) had right to part of their father’s inheritance (even resulting in the splitting of kingdoms in the case of several sons, like in 1065 or 1157) and dynastic claims could also be transmitted by female or bastard lines (royalty was seen as shared by the whole family and not something exclusive to the monarch and his/her consort). In fact, this wasn’t the whole move and made part of a wider strategy of weakening Latin influence at the court, especially from Cluny.

The only problem with this plot (notwithstanding the Succession Pact between Raymond and Henry) is that Prince Sancho, who was proclaimed as the heir to the Castilian throne in 1107, was murdered in 1108 by mudéjars after the battle of Uclés, ruining it completely. Another evidence for this theory is precisely what Alfonso did next: he married Urraca (her first husband had died in 1105) with Alfonso the Battler of Aragon and nominated them as their heirs in 1109, in an attempt of avoiding the succession of either the future Alfonso VII or Count Henry and Teresa.


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