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The Battle of Aljubarrota 1385 AD

The Battle of Aljubarrota 1385 AD


It’s August of the year 1385. Willing to enforce his claim to the Portuguese crown, the King of Castile once again invades his neighbour with an army more than 30,000 men strong. Portuguese rebels united under John of Aviz gather the troops to repel the invaders and preserve their freedom. The opposing forces met on the hilly terrain near the town of Aljubarrota in a decisive battle for Portuguese independence. It is October of the year 1383. King Ferdinand of Portugal dies leaving no male heir, and dark clouds gather over Portuguese sovereignty. Yet some months prior to his death, he arranged the marriage of his sole daughter, under-aged Beatrice to Juan, king of neighbouring Castile. Serious turmoil arose among the majority of the Portuguese noble class, as the deceased king’s actions would essentially pass Portugal into Castillan hands. As soon as it became clear, that Juan of Castile was going to enforce his claim to the Portuguese throne by right of his wife, the upper class of Lisbon realised the urgent need of an organised opposition. There were two suitable candidates at least partially fitting the requirements to claim the throne, two illegitimate half-brothers of the deceased king. Both were named John, but we’ll focus on the more viable claimant. John, the Grandmaster of Aviz, a popular figure among the people of Portugal, was good material for a king in the eyes of the aristocracy. He took charge and began efforts to gain the necessary recognition. To be precise, all three characters were named John in English, but to distinguish each one, we’ll use the Spanish name for the King of Castile, and keep its English counterpart for the Master of Aviz, though his Portuguese name was João. So, let’s get back to the story. John’s first step to gain recognition was to organize the assassination of the dowager queen’s lover, Count of Andeiro, a detested figure in Portugal. Queen Leanor was quite literally a bad woman. Being a suspect for adultery and treason, she was even accused of poisoning her husband by some people, and eventually given the telling nickname „Leanor the Treacherous”. Anyway, the lover was killed, and John gained wide support across the Portugal, along with the title of „Protector of the Realm”. This was now an open, full-scale rebellion. Though the winter passed by with no major events, the armed reaction of the King of Castile seemed inevitable. And indeed, the Castillan punitive expedition entered Portuguese territory in the spring of 1384. The man in charge of the Alentejo perimeter was a young, but skilled commander – Nuno Alvares Pereira. Despite being outnumbered 3 to 1, he managed to inflict heavy damage to the invaders near Atoleiros and force them to retreat. He was soon recognized by John of Aviz and awarded the title, Constable of Portugal, becoming John’s second-in-command. Yet the Spaniards didn’t give up, and one month later a bigger and stronger army led by the King himself crossed the border and marched straight to the capital. It was a smart move from Juan, as Lisbon was crucial to the rebels, not only because it was a capital, but also as an important economic centre. The siege was laid in May, and all that the Portuguese could do, was to interrupt the invader’s supply lines and harass separated groups utilising guerrilla warfare. Two months had passed, and Lisbon was about to collapse due to famine and the bubonic plague, which still spread periodically across Europe. Portuguese rebels strived to maintain the capital at all cost, and launched a desperate naval attack from the sea. Despite the loss of some ships, they managed to temporarily break the siege and resupplied the city, relieving its defenders. Juan of Castile had his own problems too. An outbreak of the bubonic plague, supply shortages and constant harassment by the rebels forced him to lift the siege in the beginning of September. The threat was temporarily halted, yet John was aware, that the Castillan King had not given up his plans. Knowing that France was traditionally an ally of Castile, he sought the opportunity to ally himself with the English. The Hundred Years’ War between England and France was at its peak, yet the Portuguese managed to appoint several hundred English veteran longbowmen to reinforce their army. In the spring of 1385 John organized Cortes, an assembly of the kingdom, which cancelled the will of the deceased king and proclaimed John as the new king of Portugal. Upon hearing the news, the enraged Castillan king immediately decided to finish the job definitively, and called all his banners. He gathered around 30,000 men, with French heavy cavalry reinforcements of about 2,000 strong. Once again they headed straight to Lisbon, yet due to the huge size of their army, the column moved slowly, giving enough time for the Portuguese to react. John had less than 7,000 soldiers at his command, and knew, that Lisbon most probably would not survive another prolonged siege. Thus, he decided to encounter the Castillans in open battle, and moved his force north, beginning preparations on the supposed Castillan march route. The Portuguese occupied a hill bordered by creeks, a solid defensive position chosen by Nuno Alvares. It was probably their only way to diminish Castillan’s huge numerical advantage and maintain any hope of victory. They expected the enemy to attack from the north, so the slope was additionally reinforced with ditches, obstacles and caltrops. In the late morning of August 14th, the Castillan army arrived on the battlefield. Juan saw the Portuguese entrenchments, and decided to go around their positions, as attacking the northern slope was deemed too risky. He decided to attack from the south, where the hill was much easier to charge on. Yet again, due to the size of his army and questionable logistics, troop relocation took the better part of the day, which John effectively used to turn his units around and hastily strengthen the southern approach. The battle started with the charge of French heavy cavalry, rushing to break order in the Portuguese line. But the closer they got, the more disorganized their charge became. A heavy rain of bolts and arrows, combined with uneven terrain crossed with obstacles virtually mitigated the charge’s momentum. This was a poor decision by the King of Castile as the French knights, being stripped of their biggest advantage, had to then fight at unfavorable odds. Juan tried to fix his mistake and sent the main body of his infantry forward, to relieve the French cavalrymen. Seeing the mass of footmen pushing up the hill, John withdrew his ranged units from the flanks and advanced with the rearguard. Regular melee begun across the battlefield with significant casualties on both sides. Yet the Castillan units couldn’t use their full potential, as they lost much of their cohesion moving through ditches and pits, just like their French allies half an hour earlier. In comparison, Portuguese troops held the line firmly and dealt serious damage, slowly gaining an upper hand, despite the losses on their own side. When the demoralised rear units of the Castillan army saw that the royal banner at the front had fallen, they thought that the king was dead, and began fleeing the battlefied. This gradually triggered a massive retreat of Juan’s troops, and after barely two hours of fighting, the battle ended with a decisive Portuguese victory. John pursued the fleeing enemy and killed many more Castillans. During the night and next day, about 5000 more Castillans were killed by both royal troops, and Portuguese civilians. There’s even a story, that a humongous baker woman with six fingers on each hand killed eight Castillan soldiers hiding in Aljubarrota with her shovel. Whether it’s true or not, it certainly shows how hostile the Portuguese people were towards the Castillan invaders. The encounter near Aljubarrota essentially broke Juan’s ability to threaten Portuguese independence, and became one of the biggest victories in the history of Portugal. King John subjugated all of the remaining opposition in the following months and consolidated his rule, establishing the dynasty of House of Aviz and laying the foundations for a future Portuguese Empire.

100 thoughts on “The Battle of Aljubarrota 1385 AD

  1. DO BETTER RESEARCH: No mention of the Square Tatics used by the Portuguese. It was not a "one line" battle. The Castela forces charged into the portuguese front line but once they got there the front line opened and they found themselves inside a square, completely out flanked. The wing of portuguese Archers (not the english) was called Wing of the Boyfriends (Ala dos Namorados) because they were almost all young men, not yet married. Monastery of Batalha was a monastery built to honor God in favor of the portuguese victory. Fun fact: Legends has it, the Monastery location was decided by shooting an arrow into the sky, wherever it landed would be the site for the monastery. Another fun fact: The Monastery was never completed, the project was so huge it took several hundred years to build, and then the project was abandoned. The Baker Woman of Aljusbarrota "killed" the soldiers with a wooden peel (A peel is a shovel-like tool used by bakers to slide loaves of bread and other baked goods into and out of an oven), not a normal shovel. And the soldiers she killed were actually hidding inside of her oven.

  2. Portuguese people have always been so brave, we as brothers are very proud of them! It's so sad that politics separated us.
    With love from Spain!

  3. Hi..
    Please create a Didgori battle 50 000 georgians against 400 000 turkey..

    It was a great fight 1125 AC

  4. And in the present time past "7 centuries" what won the Portuguese people with this when compared with the Spanish people? The Portuguese gained a socialist regime and the Spanish gained a constitutional monarchy. The Portuguese have a minimum wage of 600 euros and the Spanish have a minimum wage of 1050 euros. This and other battles did not offer anything positive to the current Portuguese society, in fact.

  5. This video was amazing. Still, I ask you, if there is a next time on which you speak about Portugal, to pronounce Portuguese names and locations with a more accurate accent. I know it's hard but the way you read gave the impression that Portugal is a broken Spanish or something along those lines. Thank you in advance.

  6. Loved the video.
    Now, being Portuguese and working a lot on the history of our country, allow me to contribute.

    At Atoleiros, Trancoso (Where Juan fought the forces of people loyal to João de Castro son of Pedro I and Inês de Castro), as well as Aljubarrota, there were Portuguese people on both sides both because of oaths and promised perks. However, at Atoleiros not one fighter for the ones you call rebels died at Atoleiros. Not sure rebels is accurate, all three John had legitimate claims to the throne.

    At Aljubarrota the Castilian king was sick and not in very good conditions to study the terrain and command. Still he didn't want to charge with the cavalry, but many of the knight present there were young man, eager to prove themselves (a lot of the more experienced Portuguese and Castilian knights that supported him had died at Atoleiros) and charged against his will, forcing him to send the infantry to help them when they got caught in the traps set by the Portuguese.

    The Portuguese at Aljubarrota used the terrain irregularities and also dug lots of holes, places stakes in them and covered them, they dug "covas de lobo" and also used a tactic call "do quadrado" of the square, in which the front line sometimes appeared to break and then the enemy would be met by the rear and the "alas" which were mobile. Openings were left so that the enemy could escape when trapped, because it is easier to kill a fleeing enemy than one fight for its life.

    The actual tactic of choosing a good terrain and fighting on foot was of british influence and was adapted to the local reality by Nuno Álvares Pereira; that as well as the moving version of fighting on foot.

    There were about 30000 on Juan side, mostly Castilian and Frensh at this point, and 200 British and 6000 Portuguese. Some of the 30000 were killed by their own man trampled under their feet.

    As for the Padeira de Aljubarrota there are many versions of the story, which ilustrated the will and actions of the people at that time. Usually it is said she killed 7 Castilians. :p

    Thanks for taking the time to make this video.

    There is also a story, a few centuries later, in India where 150 Portuguese led by Duarte Pacheco Pereira, with three ships and a fortress manage to stop an army of 50000 with 300 elephants and 150 ships led by the Samorim of Calcutta who was after the Rajá of Cochim for joining with the Portuguese, at the river Cambalam.

    Or the time where the Spanish, in 1580 try to take Ilha Terceira and are beaten by cows.

  7. I think you got the portrait of Queen Leonor wrong. The woman in the picture was Eleanor of Viseu
    https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonor_de_Avis,_Rainha_de_Portugal

  8. you forget to talk about the genius of Nuno Alvares Pereira in more depth and his use of pikemen against the heavy cavalry, that was the second time in human history someone did so.

  9. If you're going to use the portuguese word "Cortes", at least try no to read the Spanish way.

    Specially, considering the theme of this video.

  10. The picture used on 2:28 of queen leanor isn't her that's leanor of avis which became queen 100 years later.

  11. I'm surprised that some idiot catalonian jerk has not commented that it's not the Kingdom of Aragon, but the so-called (and recently invented) "Kingdom of Catalonia & Aragon".

  12. It was a litle bit like in Azincourt, but 30 years before. We, Portuguese, are grateful to the English archers for their assistance.

  13. Wow.. soooooooo many things wrong.. I mean .. almost everything is wrong… exept the outcome of the battle….

  14. 1385 Portugal: Ha we will be Independent

    1516 Castile: Hmmm hold my beer *BEcomes Spain*

    1589 Spain, heya Portugal, remember that union our ancestors fiddled with 200 years ago?

    Portugal: Why I nev…. *IBERIAN UNION IS FORMED*

  15. * 200 years later *

    Revenge at Battle of Ponta Delgada/Terceira (decisive Spanish victory over the portuguese, french and english 😂)

  16. Portugal with good and competent leaders can turn the impossible to possible. If only after the Revolution of 25th April of 1974 we had good leaders we could have been in a better state now.

  17. "Cortes de Coimbra" <> "Courts of Coimbra" – http://www.conventocristo.gov.pt/en/index.php?s=white&pid=214&identificador=ct143_pt

  18. This was the last fight for Portugal, you can invade now, he lost our balls!

    We vote in aminal parties XD XD

  19. Em tempos Portugal foi um grande país, senão um dos melhores naquele tempo. Mas agora está uma merda….

  20. John Aviz, the first of his name, the terror of the Castilians, King of the Lusitanians and the First celts, Lord of Portugal and Protector of the Realm.

  21. You translated João to John, but at the same time you didn't translate Juan to John, that's when the inequality begins 🙁

  22. John of Portugal against Juan of Spain? Then they should both be named John 🙂 Why not just write João – no matter if you struggled to say it. Just choose one way, and keep saying that systematically, it'll do.

  23. Thank you for mentioning the civillians taking up arms and kicking ass. Battles are fought by soldiers but when your home and your family is being threatened you don't just stand back and watch.
    On another note, something that's very interesting is how this battle ended up changing the political landscape of France. A significant amount of French nobles died in this battle, meaning several French houses lost their heirs. That had serious consequences on its social structure.

  24. A quien le interesa las mentiras y las patrañas inglesas si siempre habéis sido unos cobardes piratas solo vais a la guerra cuando sabeis que sois mas de otra forma os limitáis a lamer culos

  25. As portuguese i can tell this is one of our most famous wars. It was a glorious. We were many times the underdog but we never lost our country. Nuno Alvares Pereira is one of my heroes. What a commander.

  26. Longa vida a Portugal que deu mundos novos ao mundo! E à igreja catolicia que deu origem ao mundo ocidental!

  27. All of you remember that this battle was between Portugal and Castile , not Portugal against a united Spain.

  28. When I read "John" I was so confused because no Portuguese at that time was named John lololol. I never quite understood why names are often translated. I mean, it's a NAME.

  29. " Damn it could stop naming all your nobles John? It would be really convenient if you guys be more creative with the names"

    -Guy who just Got into History

  30. t is not true that there was a participation of such large armies, since excavations have recently been carried out in the San Jorge field and the remains of about 400 individuals have been buried there, which finally showed the exaggerated results of the Portuguese studies. We have to be more realistic and guided by science, not by legends

  31. Portuguese here, andjust a correction:

    The myth says that the baker woman killed the spanish soldiers with a baker paddle, not a shovel. But i understand your mistake. Both words, "paddle" (the ones used by bakers) and "shovel", have the same translation: "pá", although the bakers paddle also have the "baker" prefix translation, "padeiro", has a sufix. So, "shovel" is "pá" and baker paddle is "pá de padeiro". your confusion and error must have come from this peculiar example of the portuguese language. But its minor, so its ok.

    Love your videos and do more about portuguese

  32. And that, kids, is one of the origins of the portuguese saying: "De Espanha, nem bom vento nem bom casamento." which rougthly translates into "From Spain, neither a good wind nor a good marriage."

  33. I love it
    1st: Its a proud battle for Portygal
    2nd: the way that ebglis pronounces the ames in portuguese are funny to ear (no joking and no mean to insult anyone, because everyone pronounces tings in oter languages differently)
    3rd: its good to see that even today there are people who talks about of some part of Portugal history

  34. Please consider doing the relatively unknown first battle of Khotyn from year 1621: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Khotyn_(1621)

  35. During the last year of his life, King John I went to visit and embrace him for the last time. He wept for he considered Nuno Álvares Pereira his closest friend, the one who had put him on the throne and saved his country's independence.

    Nuno Álvares Pereira's tomb was lost in the famous 1755 Lisbon earthquake. His epitaph read:
    "Here lies that famous Nuno, the Constable, founder of the House of Bragança, excellent general, blessed monk, who during his life on earth so ardently desired the Kingdom of Heaven that after his death, he merited the eternal company of the Saints. His worldly honors were countless, but he turned his back on them. He was a great Prince, but he made himself a humble monk. He founded, built and endowed this church in which his body rests."

    There is an apocryphal story in which the Castilian ambassador went to the Carmelite Convent to meet Nun'Alvares, and he would have asked him what his position would be if Castile again invaded Portugal. Nuno will have raised his habit, and shown below his mesh mail, indicating his willingness to serve his country whenever necessary and declaring that "if the king of Castile again moved war to Portugal, it would serve at the same time the religion he professed and the land that had given him being. "

    It is also said that at the beginning of his monastic life, in 1425 the rumor had run that Ceuta was in danger of being captured by the Moors. Immediately Frei Nuno expresses his desire to be part of the expedition that would go to Ceuta. When they tried to dissuade him, pointing to his broken figure for years and for so much fatigue, he took a spear and said: "I can put it in Africa, if it be so great!" (hence the expression "to throw a spear in Africa," in the sense of conquering a great difficulty). He threw the spear from the balcony of the convent, which crossed the entire Vale da Baixa of Lisbon, and went into a door on the other side of the Rossio.

  36. Anyone knows the software that is used in these videos? Adobe after effets maybe? it would be great another Portuguese battle on the screen, there are so many! btw great videos, love it

  37. What Juan should have done… since he had more soldiers was send the cavalry around to the back send arrow men to the front. And split all the foot soldiers on all 4 sides to surround them. But hind sight is 20/20.

  38. King of Castille: <Plays his charging French Knights card>

    King of Portugal: <Counters with his English Longbowman card>

    King of Castille: ….dude….. that's not fair …

  39. Lol the spaniards were both stupid and they were cowards😂 they could easely have crushed the portuguese

  40. O lado Português estava lutando pela liberdade de sua nação; já o lado Castelhano, lutou por uma ambição expansionista de seu Rei… Talvez por isso os soldados portugueses, mesmo com tanta inferioridade numérica, lutaram com exemplar bravura e coesão.
    É um grande exemplo de como a moral dos soldados pode ser essencial numa batalha.

  41. It just struck me that the image used at around 2:20 is for the wrong Leonor. The image which appears is not of Leonor Teles, but rather that of Leonor de Viseu, a queen from about a century later.

  42. As far as I know, King Juan of Castille was just watching the battle from a hill, because he was reportedly sick. I've even been in this battle's historical reconstituiton two or three times, as I live near the place

  43. https://youtu.be/jowtiKZ2Qnw?t=537 she didn´t have six fingers. Padeira de Aljubarrota was a big woman, not only that she is also depicted (historically) as being beautiful. She "lured" not only 6..but many more, to just shovel them with her baking shovel. Now that´s some next level Black Widow shit in 1385.

  44. It's funny to think about Portugal being able to defeat anyone these days, but history shows that nations were not always as they are now. Another perfect example of this, even more striking, is Greece.

  45. I always find it funny when serfs "fight for their freedom." They fought or the freedom of the nobility, everyone else would just send their taxes to someone else.

  46. I commend your pronunciation of my given name. Not bad at all. You made it sound a bit French, but all in all, well above average

  47. There's an interpretation center near the place where the battle took place. https://www.fundacao-aljubarrota.pt/en

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