Denis of Portugal

D. Dinis - Compendio de crónicas de reyes (Biblioteca Nacional de España).png
King Denis in the Castilian manuscript Compendium of Chronicles of Kings (...) (c. 1312-1325)
King of Portugal
Reign6 February 1279 – 7 January 1325
PredecessorAfonso III
SuccessorAfonso IV
Born9 October 1261
Lisbon, Portugal
Died7 January 1325 (aged 63)
Santarém, Portugal
St. Denis Convent, Odivelas, Portugal
SpouseSaint Elizabeth of Aragon
IssueConstança, Queen of Castile
Afonso IV
HousePortuguese House of Burgundy
FatherAfonso III
MotherBeatrice of Castile
ReligionRoman Catholicism
SignatureDenis's signature

Denis (Portuguese: Dinis or Diniz, IPA: [diˈniʃ]; 9 October 1261 – 7 January 1325 in Santarém), called the Farmer King (Rei Lavrador)[1] and the Poet King (Rei Poeta), was King of Portugal and the Algarve. The eldest son of Afonso III of Portugal by his second wife, Beatrice of Castile, and grandson of king Alfonso X of Castile (known as the Wise), Denis succeeded his father in 1279. His marriage to Elizabeth of Aragon, who was later canonised as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church,[2] was arranged in 1281 when she was 10 years old.

Denis ruled the Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarves for over 46 years and is remembered as a major contributor to the formation of a sense of national identity and an awareness of Portugal as a nation-state. He worked to reorganise his country's economy and gave an impetus to Portuguese agriculture. He ordered the planting of a large pine forest (that still exists today) near Leiria to prevent the soil degradation that threatened the region and as a source of raw materials for the construction of the royal ships.[3] He was also known for his poetry,[4] which constitutes a major contribution to the development of Portuguese as a literary language.


The royal couple

In 1290, Denis began to pursue the systematic centralisation of royal power by imposing judicial reforms, instituting the Portuguese language as the official language of the court, creating the first university in Portugal, and ridding the military orders in the country of foreign influences. His policies encouraged economic development with the creation of numerous towns and trade fairs.[5] He advanced the interests of the Portuguese merchants, and set up by mutual agreement a fund called the Bolsa de Comércio, the first documented form of marine insurance in Europe, approved on 10 May 1293.[6][7] Always concerned with development of the country's infrastructure, he encouraged the discovery and exploitation of sulphur, silver, tin and iron mines and organised the export of excess production of agricultural crops, salt, and salted fish to England, Flanders, and France.[5]

Denis signed the first Portuguese commercial agreement with England in 1308, and secured a contract in 1317 for the services of the Genoese merchant sailor Manuel Pessanha (Portuguese form of the Italian "Pezagno") as hereditary admiral of his fleet,[8] with the understanding that Pessanha and his successors should provide twenty Genoese captains to command the king's galleys,[9] thus effectively founding the Portuguese navy.[10]

In 1289 Denis had signed an agreement with Pope Nicholas IV, swearing to protect the Church's interests in Portugal. When Pope Clement V allowed the annihilation of the Knights Templar throughout most of Europe on charges of heresy, Denis created in 1319 a Portuguese military order, the Order of Christ, for those knights who survived the purge.[11][12] The new order was designed to be a continuation of the Order of the Temple.[13] Denis negotiated with Clement's successor, John XXII, for recognition of the new order and its right to inherit the Templar assets and property.[14]

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