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Literati in the Court of King Afonso III of Portugal (1248-1279)
By Armando Norte
Royal Studies Journal, Vol.2:1 (2015)
Abstract: Throughout the first dynasty, the literati at the service of the Portuguese Crown played an increasingly important role in the assertion of royal power. They can be found serving the royal house as officers, representing the Portuguese kings in political and diplomatic acts, and even playing a wide range of other functions in the central administration: legal, medical, economic, administrative, etc. The presence of these elements next to the monarchs was felt since the foundation of the kingdom, but the corollary of this process occurred with the arrival of King Afonso III to the throne of Portugal. Thus, his circle of scholars constitutes an interesting case study to understand the notion of an aulic circle, the light of European values of the thirteenth century. At the same time, illustrates the paradigm of a well-oiled bureaucratic machine in search for a strong political centralization.
Introduction: The main goal of this article is to identify every individual originating from a university background who rendered services in some capacity to the Portuguese kings of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, with special emphasis on King Afonso III. It seeks to explain the reasons behind the employment of such scholars and their usefulness as part of the complex environment surrounding the king, taking into account the dimensions of counselling, administrative service, jurisprudence and personal welfare.
The choice of the reign of Afonso III (1248-1279) as a case study is due mainly to the fact that his government corresponded to a peak in the recruitment of scholars for royal service in the context of the early years of Portugal as a kingdom. Not surprisingly, this coincided with an important phase of centralization and affirmation of royal power, which also saw a restructuring of the central administration.