António Campinas

António, Prior of Crato

António, Prior of Crato (Lisbon, 1531 – Paris, 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, King of Portugal as António I of Portugal during 33 days in 1580, and, after the crowning of Philip I of Portugal, claimant to the throne until 1583, in the Azores.


Early life

António was the illegitimate son (some argue his parents later married perhaps at Évora) of Prince Louis, Duke of Beja (1506–1555) and Violante Gomes (for long accused of being a Jewess or a New Christian, but in fact a member of the small Portuguese nobility, who died a nun in Almoster, Santarém, on 16 July 1568, daughter of Pedro Gomes, from Évora ). This made him the grandson of King Manuel I (1495–1521). Due to his illegitimate status, his claim to the throne was considered invalid; furthermore, his father was also Prior of Crato (that enabled him to marry without a Pope's dispensation). He was a disciple of Bartolomeu dos Mártires.

António was educated in Coimbra, and placed in the Order of St. John. He was endowed with the wealthy priory of Crato. In 1571 he was governor of the Portuguese North African fortification of Tangier. 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 was taken prisoner by the Moors in the Battle of Alcazarquivir, where the young King was slain. António is said to have secured his release on easy terms by a fiction. He was asked the meaning of the cross of St. John that he wore on his doublet, and replied that it was the sign of a small benefice which he held from the Pope, and would lose if he were not back by the 1st of January. His captor, believing him to be a poor man, allowed him to escape for a small ransom.

Claimant to the throne of Portugal

On his return to Portugal, António laid his claim to the throne. His pretensions were, however, denied. His uncle, Cardinal King Henry I of Portugal, the 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), the old Cardinal-King Henry died. The regency of the kingdom was assumed by a governing junta composed of five members. By this time, the Portuguese throne was disputed by several claimants. Among them were Catherine, Duchess of Braganza (1540–1614), her nephew the 11 years old Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma, King Philip II of Spain and the Prior of Crato himself. The Duchess was later named as the legitimate heir, after her descendants obtained the throne in 1640 (through King John IV of Portugal), but at that time, she was one of possible heirs. According to feudal custom, her late older sister's son Ranuccio, an Italian, was the closest heir, followed by the Duchess herself, and only after them, King Philip. Philip II descended from Manuel I through a female line. As for António, although King Manuel I's grandson in male line, he was an illegitimate grandson.

António, relying on the 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 at the time (and is still question of debate). António's claim, which was inferior to those of Philip II and the Duchess of Braganza, was not supported by the nobles or gentry. His partisans were drawn almost exclusively from the inferior clergy, the peasants and workmen. Moreover, Philip managed to bribe the upper classes of Portugal with gold from the Americas which ensured the success of his pursuit of the Portuguese crown. For them, the idea of a personal union of the crowns with Spain would be highly profitable for Portugal, which had been experiencing an economic downturn at the time, and would maintain formal independence as well as authonomous administration (in Europe and the 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

In 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 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 Terceira Island on July 26, and off São Miguel Island on July 27, 1582. He then returned to France and lived for a time in Ruel 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 Norris, 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. He left six illegitimate sons by two different women. 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 in December 1 1640.


António's ancestors in three generations
António, Prior of Crato Father:
Infante Luís, Duke of Beja
Father's father:
Manuel I of Portugal
Father's father's father:
Infante Fernando, Duke of Viseu
Father's father's mother:
Beatrice of Portugal
Father's mother:
Maria of Aragon
Father's mother's father:
Ferdinand II of Aragon
Father's mother's mother:
Isabella of Castile
Violante Gomes
Mother's father:
Pedro Gomes
Mother's father's father:
Mother's father's mother:
Mother's mother:
Mother's mother's father:
Mother's mother's mother:


António, being a religious man, 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).

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