Philippa of Lancaster Biography

Philippa of Lancaster, the Queen of Portugal in the late 14th and early 15th century, was a remarkable and influential figure. As the first and only English Queen of Portugal, her marriage to King John I solidified the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance. Not only did she take on the role of a devoted wife and mother, but she also played a crucial role in improving internal relations within her kingdom and strengthening diplomatic and commercial bonds between Portugal and England. Her dedication to her family and her kingdom left a lasting legacy, as her children, known as ‘The Illustrious Generation,’ went on to make significant contributions in their own right.

Quick Facts

  • British Celebrities Born In March
  • Also Known As: Filipa de Lencastre
  • Died At Age: 55
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: John I of Portugal
    • Father: John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster
    • Mother: Blanche of Lancaster
    • Siblings: Duchess of Exeter, Elizabeth of Lancaster, Henry IV of England
    • Children: 1400–1600, Constable of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy, Duke of Coimbra, Edward, Ferdinand the Holy Prince, Henry the Navigator, Iberian nautical sciences, Infanta Blanche, Infanta Blanche II, Infante Afonso, Isabella of Portugal, John, King of Portugal, Peter
  • Empresses & Queens
  • British Women
  • Died on: July 19, 1415
  • Place of death: Sacavém, Portugal
  • Cause of Death: Plague
  • City: Leicester, England

Childhood & Early Life

Philippa was born on 31 March, 1359, to John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster and his wife, Blanche of Lancaster. She spent her infancy moving around the various properties owned by her family. She had younger siblings: Elizabeth and Henry. Henry went on to become the King of England and was known as King Henry IV. Her mother died of plague in 1369. In 1371 her father remarried Infanta Constance of Castile, daughter of King Peter of Castile. Upon Constance’s death in 1394, he married his former mistress, Katherine Swynford. Katherine had close ties with Geoffrey Chaucer who spent much time with the family as one of Philippa’s teachers. Philippa studied science, poetry, philosophy and theology, and was also well read in the works of Greek and Roman scholars such as, Pliny and Herodotus.

Later Life

In 1387, Philippa married King John I of Portugal and became the first English woman to be crowned as the Queen consort of Portugal. This marriage served as a major agreement in procuring the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance against the France-Castile axis. By marrying Philippa, John I established a political and personal alliance with her father, John of Gaunt. Philippa had nine children with King John I, of whom three died in infancy. Her eldest surviving child was Edward, born in 1391, who grew up to become a writer and succeeded his father as King of Portugal in 1433. Philippa wielded enormous influence in both the Portuguese and English courts and was actively involved in political affairs. She often wrote to the English court from Portugal and stayed involved in English politics. She was also able to improve the diplomatic and commercial bonds between the two kingdoms.

Major Works

Her political contribution to her own court was immense. Because of the Portuguese involvement in several wars, the Portuguese economy was deteriorating. Therefore, she arranged to send an expedition for the conquest and control of Ceuta which proved to be quite lucrative for Portugal as it gained control of the African and Indian spice trade.

Personal Life & Legacy

At the age of 53, she contracted plague and was moved from Lisbon to Sacavém. She called her sons to her bedside so that she could give them her blessing. Philippa died peacefully on July 19, 1415, in Sacavém, Portugal, at the age of 55, and was buried in the Batalha Monastery, Leiria, Portugal. She was said to be lucid and without pain during the final hours of her life.

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