Philippa of Lancaster (Portuguese: Filipa [fiˈlipɐ]; 31 March 1360 – 19 July 1415) was Queen of Portugal from 1387 until 1415 as the wife of King John I. Born into the royal family of England, her marriage secured the Treaty of Windsor and produced several children who became known as the "Illustrious Generation" in Portugal.

Philippa of Lancaster
Queen Philippa in Genealogia dos Reis de Portugal (António de Holanda; 1530–1534)
Queen consort of Portugal
Tenure14 February 1387 – 19 July 1415
Born31 March 1360
Leicester Castle, Leicester, England
Died19 July 1415(1415-07-19) (aged 55)
Sacavém, Portugal
SpouseJohn I of Portugal
FatherJohn of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster
MotherBlanche of Lancaster
SignaturePhilippa of Lancaster's signature

Early life and education


Born on 31 March 1360, Philippa was the eldest child of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and Blanche of Lancaster.[1] Philippa spent her infancy moving around the various properties owned by her family with her mother and her wet-nurse, Maud.[2] Here, she was raised and educated alongside her two younger siblings, Elizabeth, who was three years younger, and Henry, seven years younger, who would later become King Henry IV. Philippa's mother, Blanche, died in 1368. Her father remarried in 1371 to Infanta Constance of Castile, daughter of King Peter of Castile and on Constance's death in 1394, he married his former mistress, Katherine Swynford, who had been Philippa's governess. The affair and eventual marriage was considered scandalous, and in the future Philippa would protect herself against such embarrassment.[3]

Katherine seems to have been well liked by Philippa and her Lancastrian siblings and played an important role in Philippa's education. Katherine had close ties with Geoffrey Chaucer, since her sister, Philippa Roet, was Chaucer's wife. John of Gaunt became Chaucer's patron, and Chaucer spent much time with the family as one of Philippa's many mentors and teachers. She was remarkably well educated for a woman at the time and studied science under Friar John, poetry under Jean Froissart, and philosophy and theology under John Wycliffe.[2] She was well read in the works of Greek and Roman scholars such as Pliny and Herodotus and was diligent in her study of religion.[2]

Queen of Portugal


Philippa became Queen consort of Portugal through her marriage to King John I. This marriage was the final step in the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance against the Franco-Castillian axis. The couple were blessed by the church in the Cathedral of Porto on 2 February 1387 and their marriage was on 14 February 1387. The Portuguese court celebrated the union for fifteen days.[4] Philippa married King John I by proxy, and in keeping with a unique Portuguese tradition, the stand-in bridegroom pretended to bed the bride. The stand-in for King John I was João Rodrigues de Sá.[5]

The marriage itself, as was usually the case for the nobility in the Middle Ages, was a matter of state and political alliance, and the couple did not meet until twelve days after they were legally married. Philippa was considered to be rather plain, and King João I (John I) already had a mistress, Inês Peres Esteves, by whom he had three children.[6][7] Their son Afonso was ten when Philippa and John married. Philippa allowed Afonso and his sister Beatrice to be raised in the Portuguese court (the third child, Branca, died in infancy). Their mother left the court at Philippa's command to live in a convent, and under Philippa's patronage, she became the Prioress.[7]

In marrying Philippa, John I established a political and personal alliance with John of Gaunt, initially because it was rumoured that John of Gaunt would claim the Kingdom of Castile through Catherine of Lancaster, his daughter by his second wife Constance of Castile.[8][better source needed] As the "de facto King of Castile," it was feared that John of Gaunt could challenge King John's claim to the newly installed dynasty.[4] Instead, at Windsor in 1386, John I of Portugal signed the remarkably long-lasting Portuguese–English Alliance, which continued through the Napoleonic Wars and ensured Portugal's tenuous neutrality in World War II.[9][page needed][10]

Philippa, at the age of 27, was thought to be too old to become a bride for the first time, and the court questioned her ability to bear the King's children; however, Philippa bore nine children, six of whom survived into adulthood.[citation needed]

Influence at court

The wedding of Philippa and John

Though Philippa was seen to present a demeanour of queenly piety,[11] commenting that "it would be regarded as an indecent thing for a wife to interfere in her husband's affairs",[11] she wielded significant influence in both the Portuguese and English courts and was "actively involved in world affairs".[11] Surviving letters show that Philippa often wrote to the English court from Portugal and stayed involved in English politics. In one instance, Philippa intervened in court politics on "behalf of followers of the dethroned Richard II when they appealed for her help after her brother, Henry IV, had usurped the English throne".[11] On another occasion, she persuaded the reluctant Earl of Arundel to marry her husband's illegitimate daughter Beatrice,[11] further cementing the alliance between Portugal and England.

Philippa's main political contribution, however, was in her own court. Upon the end of the Portuguese involvement in several wars with Castile and the Moors, the Portuguese economy was failing, and many soldiers now unemployed. Philippa knew that the conquest and control of Ceuta would be quite lucrative for Portugal with the control of the African and Indian spice trade. Though Philippa died before her plan was realised, Portugal did send an expedition to conquer the city, a goal that was realised on 14 August 1415 in the Conquest of Ceuta.[2]


The Effigies of King John the First and Queen Philippa in their tombs at the Batalha Monastery.

At the age of 55, Philippa fell ill with the plague. She moved from Lisbon to Sacavém and called her sons to her bedside so that she could give them her blessing.[citation needed] Philippa presented her three eldest sons with jewel-encrusted swords, which they would use in their impending knighthoods, and gave each a portion of the True Cross, "enjoining them to preserve their faith and to fulfil the duties of their rank".[12]

Though he had been reluctant to marry her, the king had grown quite fond of his wife, and it is said that he was "so grieved by [her] mortal illness… that he could neither eat nor sleep".[12] In her final hours, Philippa was said to be lucid and without pain. According to legend she was roused by a wind which blew strongly against the house and asked what wind it was, upon hearing it was the north wind, she claimed it quite beneficial for her son's and husband's voyage to Africa, which she had coordinated.[13] At her death she prayed with several priests and, "without any toil or suffering, gave her soul into the hands of Him who created her, a smile appearing on her mouth as though she disdained the life of this world".[12]



Philippa was apparently a generous and loving queen, the mother of the "Illustrious Generation" (in Portuguese, Ínclita Geração) of infantes (princes) and infantas (princesses). Her children were:[14][15]



Philippa and King John's union was praised for establishing purity and virtue in a court that was regarded as particularly corrupt.[17] Philippa is remembered as the mother of "The Illustrious Generation" (Portuguese: Ínclita Geração). Her surviving children went on to make historically significant contributions in their own right. Edward became the eleventh King of Portugal, and was known as, "The Philosopher," or the "Eloquent". Henry the Navigator sponsored expeditions to Africa.

Philippa's influence was documented in literary works. The medieval French poet Eustache Deschamps dedicated one of his ballads to "Phelippe en Lancastre," as a partisan of the Order of the Flower.[18] It has also been speculated that Geoffrey Chaucer may have alluded to Philippa in his poem, "The Legend of Good Women," through the character Alceste.[19]




  1. ^ Bouza Serrano 2009, p. 15.
  2. ^ a b c d "European Voyages of Exploration: Philippa of Lancaster." Archived 19 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine Home | Welcome to the University of Calgary. University of Calgary. 30 March 2009
  3. ^ Beazley 1923, p. 9
  4. ^ a b Armitage-Smith 1905, p. 318
  5. ^ Marques 1971, p. 167
  6. ^ Major 1967, p. 8
  7. ^ a b Sanceau 1945, p. 9
  8. ^ (Philippa of Lancaster 2)
  9. ^ de Oliveira 1955
  10. ^ Birmingham 2003, p. 24
  11. ^ a b c d e Russell 2000, p. 23
  12. ^ a b c Prestage 1966, p. 22
  13. ^ Lee, Sidney, ed. (1896). "Philippa of Lancaster" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 45. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 167.
  14. ^ Stephens 1903, p. 139
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i Oliveira 2010, pp. 406–409
  16. ^ a b von Barghahn 2013, p. 141.
  17. ^ Major 1967, p. 11
  18. ^ Jambeck 1996, pp. 235–236
  19. ^ Marques 1971, p. 536
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i Armitage-Smith 1905, p. 21
  21. ^ a b von Redlich 1941, p. 64
  22. ^ Mosley 1999, pp. 227–228


  • Armitage-Smith, Sydney (1905). John of Gaunt: King of Castile and Leon, Duke of Aquitaine and Lancaster, Earl of Derby, Lincoln, and Leicester, Seneschal of England. Charles Scribner's Sons. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  • von Barghahn, Barbara (2013). Jan Van Eyck and Portugal's 'Illustrious Generation'. Vol. I: Text. Pindar Press.
  • Beazley, Raymond C. (1923). Prince Henry the Navigator. New York: G.P Putnam's Sons.
  • Birmingham, David (2003). A Concise History of Portugal (Second ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bouza Serrano, Joana (2009). As Avis: As Grandes Rainhas que Partilharam o Trono de Portugal na Segunda Dinastia (in Portuguese). Lisbon: A Esfera dos Livros.
  • Major, Richard H. (1967). The Life of Prince Henry the Navigator. London: Frank Cass & Co.
  • Marques, Oliveira (1971). Daily Life in Portugal in the Late Middle Ages. Madison: University of Wisconsin.
  • Jambeck, Karen K. (1996). "Patterns of Women's Literary Patronage: England, 1200 - ca. 1475". In McCash, June H. (ed.). The Cultural Patronage of Medieval Women. Athens: University of Georgia.
  • Mosley, Charles, ed. (1999). Burke's Peerage and Baronetage. Vol. I (106th ed.). Crans, Switzerland: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd.
  • de Oliveira, A. Coreira (1955). Dom João I. e o Condes Tável: Livro de Leitura da 3a Classe. Lisboa: Ministro da Educação Nacional.
  • Oliveira, Ana Rodrigues (2010). Rainhas Medievais de Portugal. A Esfera dos Livros.
  • Prestage, Edgar (1966). The Portuguese pioneers. London: Adam & Charles Black.
  • von Redlich, Marcellus Donald R. (1941). Pedigrees of Some of the Emperor Charlemagne's Descendants. Vol. I.
  • Russell, Peter E. (2000). Prince Henry "the Navigator": a life. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Sanceau, Elaine (1945). Henry the Navigator; the story of a great prince and his times. New York: Hytchinson & Co.
  • Stephens, Henry Morse (1903). The story of Portugal. G.P. Putnam's Sons. p. 139. ISBN 9780722224731. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
Philippa of Lancaster
Cadet branch of the House of Plantagenet
Born: 31 March 1360 Died: 19 July 1415
Portuguese royalty
Title last held by
Leonor Teles
Queen consort of Portugal
11 February 1387 – 19 July 1415
Title next held by
Eleanor of Aragon