Treaty of Alcáçovas

The Treaty of Alcáçovas (also known as Treaty or Peace of Alcáçovas-Toledo) was signed on 4 September 1479 between the Catholic Monarchs of Castile and Aragon on one side and Afonso V and his son, Prince John of Portugal, on the other side. It put an end to the War of the Castilian Succession, which ended with a victory of the Catholic Monarchs on land[1] and a Portuguese victory on the sea.[2] [1] The four peace treaties signed at Alcáçovas reflected that outcome: Isabella was recognized as Queen of Castile while Portugal reached hegemony in the Atlantic Ocean.

The treaty intended to regulate:

  • The renunciation of Afonso V and Catholic Monarchs to the Castilian throne and Portuguese throne, respectively
  • The division of the Atlantic Ocean and overseas territories into two zones of influence
  • The destiny of Juana de Trastámara
  • The contract of marriage between Isabella, the eldest daughter of the Catholic Monarchs, with Afonso, heir of Prince John. This was known as Tercerias de Moura, and included the payment to Portugal of a war compensation by the Catholic Monarchs in the form of marriage dowry.[3]
  • The pardon of the Castilian supporters of Juana

War of the Castilian Succession

Ferdinand of Aragon, Isabella of Castile
Ferdinand and Isabella

After Henry's IV death in 1474, the Castilian crown was disputed between the half-sister of the king, Isabella I of Castile, married to Prince Ferdinand II of Aragon, and the king's daughter, Juana de Trastámara, popularly known as la Beltraneja – because her father was alleged to be Beltrán de la Cueva. In the subsequent civil war, Afonso V of Portugal married Juana and invaded Castile (May 1475), defending her rights.[4]

Parallel to the dynastic struggle, there was a fierce naval war between the fleets of Portugal and Castile to access and control overseas territories − especially Guinea – whose gold and slaves were the heart of the Portuguese power. The main events of this war were the indecisive[5][6] battle of Toro (1 March 1476), transformed[7] in a strategic victory by the Catholic Monarchs and the battle of Guinea[8] (1478), which granted Portugal the hegemony in the Atlantic Ocean and disputed territories.

Historian Stephen R. Bown wrote:[9]

When Ferdinand an Isabella secured their rule after the Battle of Toro on 1 March 1476- effectively eliminating the threat of Portuguese invasion but not officially ending the war- they renewed the twenty-year-old Castilian claim to their "ancient and exclusive" rights to the Canary Islands and the Guinea coast .... They encouraged Spanish merchant ships to take advantage of the political disruption and considered making direct attacks on Portuguese vessels returning from Guinea, with the objective of seizing the monopoly.... In 1478 a Spanish fleet of thirty-five caravels was intercepted by an armed Portuguese squadron. Most of the fleet was captured and taken to Lisbon. [I]n 1479 ... the two nations concluded terms for peace with the treaty of Alcáçovas, ending the struggle for the succession as well as their battle at sea.

Treaty outcomes

  • Juana de Trastamara and Afonso V waived their rights to the Castilian throne in favour of the Catholic Monarchs, who gave up their claims over the throne of Portugal.
  • There was a sharing of the Atlantic territories between both countries and a delimitation of the respective spheres of influence.
  • With the exception of the Canary Islands, all territories and shores disputed between Portugal and Castile stayed under Portuguese control; Guinea with its gold mines, Madeira (discovered in 1419), the Azores (discovered about 1427) and Cape Verde (discovered about 1456). Portugal also won the exclusive right of conquering the Kingdom of Fez.
  • Castile's rights over the Canary Islands were recognised while Portugal won the exclusive right of navigating, conquering and trading in all the Atlantic Ocean south of the Canary Islands. Thus, Portugal attained hegemony in the Atlantic not only for its known territories but also for those discovered in the future. Castile was restricted to the Canaries.
  • Portugal gained a war compensation of 106,676 dobles of gold in the form of Isabella's dowry.[3]
  • Both infants (Isabella and Afonso) stayed in Portugal under the regiment of Tercerias, at the village of Moura, waiting for the appropriate age. The Catholic Monarchs were responsible for all costs of maintaining the Tercerias.
  • Juana had to choose between staying in Portugal and entering a religious order or marrying Prince Juan, son of the Catholic Monarchs: she chose the former.
  • The Castilian supporters of Juana and Afonso were pardoned.


Afonso V of Portugal

This treaty, ratified later by the Papal bull Aeterni regis in 1481, essentially gave the Portuguese free rein to continue their exploration along the African coast while guaranteeing Castilian sovereignty in the Canaries. It also prohibited Castilians from sailing to the Portuguese possessions without Portuguese licence. The Treaty of Alcáçovas, establishing Castilian and Portuguese spheres of control in the Atlantic, settled a period of open hostility, but it also laid the basis for future claims and conflict.

Portugal's rival Castile had been somewhat slower than its neighbour to begin exploring the Atlantic, and it was not until late in the fifteenth century that Castilian sailors began to compete with their Iberian neighbours. The first contest was for control of the Canary Islands, which Castile won. It was not until the union of Aragon and Castile and the completion of the Reconquista that the larger country became fully committed to looking for new trade routes and colonies overseas. In 1492, the joint rulers of the country decided to fund Christopher Columbus' expedition that they hoped would bypass Portugal's lock on Africa and the Indian Ocean, and instead, reach Asia by travelling west over the Atlantic.


The Treaty of Alcáçovas can be considered a landmark in the history of colonialism. It is one of the first international documents formally outlining the principle that European powers are empowered to divide the rest of the world into "spheres of influence" and colonise the territories located within such spheres, and that any indigenous peoples living there need not be asked for consent. This remained a generally accepted principle in the ideology and practice of European powers up to the 20th century decolonization. The Treaty of Alcáçovas could be regarded as the ancestor of many later international treaties and instruments based on the same basic principle. These include the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, which further codified the positions of Spain and Portugal in world exploration, and the resolutions of the 1884 Conference of Berlin, four centuries later, which in much the same way divided Africa into colonial spheres of influence.

See also


  1. ^ a b Bailey W. Diffie and George D. Winius “In a war in which the Castilians were victorious on land and the Portuguese at sea, ...” in Foundations of the Portuguese empire 1415–1580, volume I, University of Minnesota Press, 1985, p.152.
  2. ^ Historian Malyn Newitt: “All things considered, it is not surprising that the Portuguese emerged victorious from this first maritime colonial war. They were far better organised than the Castilians, were able to raise money for the preparation and supply of their fleets and had clear central direction from ... [Prince] John.” In A history of Portuguese overseas expansion, 1400–1668, Routledge, New York, 2005, p.39,40.
  3. ^ a b Mendonça, 2007, p. 102,103.
  4. ^ European Treaties Bearing on the History of the United States and Its Dependencies to 1648, p.33, Washington, D.C., Frances Gardiner Davenport, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1917–37 – Google Books. Reprint edition, 4 vols., (October 2004), Lawbook Exchange, ISBN 1-58477-422-3
  5. ^ British historian Ian Robertson: “Civil war, however, was immediately provoked by the partisans of "la Beltraneja", whose claim was supported by the king of Portugal, but after the indecisive battle of Toro (1476) the Portuguese withdrew leaving Fernando and Isabel firmly established” in Spain, the mainland, E. Benn, 1975, p.18.
  6. ^ Historian Carl hanson: “In March 1476, the Portuguese and Castilian armies met at Toro. Thanks largely to [Prince] João`s battlefield skills, the Portuguese managed to fight Fernando`s forces to a near draw. But the battle nonetheless effectively ended Afonso`s chances of ruling Castile. His Castilian partisans threw their support to Fernando and Isabella, rather than stick with a lost cause.” in Atlantic emporium: Portugal and the wider world, 1147–1497, volume 47 de Iberian studies, University press of the South, 2002, p.128.
  7. ^ Historian Marvin Lunenfeld: “. In 1476, immediately after the indecisive battle of Peleagonzalo, Ferdinand and Isabella hailed the result as a great victory and called a cortes at Madrigal. The newly created prestige was used to gain municipal support (...)” in The council of the Santa Hermandad: a study of the pacification forces of Ferdinand and Isabella, University of Miami Press, 1970, p.27.
  8. ^ Battle of Guinea: Alonso de Palencia, Década IV, Book XXXIII, Chapter V ( “Disaster among those sent to the mines of gold [Guinea]. Charges against the King...”), p.91-94.
  9. ^ Stephen R. Bown- 1494: How a family feud in Medieval Spain divided the world in half, D and M publishers inc., Canada, 2011, p.76.




  • PALENCIA, Alfonso de- Gesta Hispaniensia ex annalibus suorum diebus colligentis, Década III and IV (the three first Décadas were edited as Cronica del rey Enrique IV by Antonio Paz y Meliá in 1904 and the fourth as Cuarta Década by José Lopes de Toro in 1970).

External links


Year 1479 (MCDLXXIX) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar).


Year 1480 (MCDLXXX) was a leap year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.

Aeterni regis

The papal bull Aeterni regis [English: "Eternal king's"] was issued on 21 June 1481 by Pope Sixtus IV. It confirmed the substance of the Treaty of Alcáçovas, reiterating that treaty's confirmation of Castile in its possession of the Canary Islands and its granting to Portugal all further territorial acquisitions made by Christian powers in Africa and eastward to the Indies.

Alfonso de Palencia

Alfonso Fernández de Palencia (1423 in El Burgo de Osma?, Soria – 1492 in Seville), was a Castilian pre-Renaissance historiographer, lexicographer, and humanist.

Battle of Guinea

The Battle of Guinea took place on the Gulf of Guinea, in western Africa, 1478, between a Portuguese fleet and a Castilian fleet in the context of the War of the Castilian Succession.

The outcome of the battle of Guinea was probably decisive for Portugal reaching a very favourable sharing of the Atlantic and territories disputed with Castile in the Peace of Alcáçovas (1479). All with the exception of the Canary Islands stayed under Portuguese control: Guinea, Cape Verde, Madeira, Azores and the exclusive right of conquering the Kingdom of Fez. Portugal also won exclusive rights over the lands discovered or that were to be discovered south of the Canary Islands.

Beatriz, Duchess of Viseu

Infanta Beatriz of Portugal (13 June 1430 – 30 September 1506) was a Portuguese infanta, daughter of John, Constable of Portugal (fourth son of King John I of Portugal and his wife Philippa of Lancaster) and Isabella of Barcelos a daughter of Afonso I, Duke of Braganza.

Capitulations of Santa Fe

The Capitulations of Santa Fe between Christopher Columbus and the Catholic Monarchs were signed in Santa Fe, Granada on April 17, 1492. They granted Columbus the titles of Admiral of the Ocean Sea, the Viceroy, the Governor-General and honorific Don, and also the tenth part of all riches to be obtained from his intended voyage. The document followed a standard form in 15th-century Castile with specific points arranged in chapters (capítulos). Although not a formal agreement, the capitulations resulted from negotiation.

When Columbus's proposal was initially rejected, Isabella I of Castile convoked another assembly, made up from sailors, philosophers, astrologers and others to reexamine the project. The experts considered absurd the distances between Spain and the Indies that Columbus calculated. The monarchs also became doubting, but a group of influential courtiers convinced them that they would lose little if the project failed and would gain much if it succeeded. Among those advisors were the Archbishop of Toledo Hernando de Talavera, the notary Luis de Santángel and the chamberlain Juan Cabrero. The royal secretary Juan II Coloma was ordered to formulate the capitulations. The agreement took three months to prepare because the monarchs were busy with other matters. The capitulations were sealed at the Santa Fe encampment, on the outskirts of a besieged Granada.The original version has not survived. The earliest surviving copy is contained in the confirmations issued by the Crown in Barcelona in 1493. The omission of the word 'Asia' has led some historians to suggest that Columbus never intended to go there, but only to discover the new lands. In 2009 the Santa Fe Capitulations were inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

Conquest of Ceuta

The conquest of Ceuta (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈθeuta]) by the Portuguese on 21 August 1415 marks an important step in the beginning of the Portuguese Empire in Africa.


Elmina, also known as Edina by the local Fante, is a town and the capital of the Komenda/Edina/Eguafo/Abirem District on the south coast of Ghana in the Central Region, situated on a bay on the Atlantic Ocean, 12 km (7.5 mi) west of Cape Coast. Elmina was the first European settlement in West Africa and it has a population of 33,576 people.

Guinea (region)

Guinea is a traditional name for the region of the African coast of West Africa which lies along the Gulf of Guinea. It is a naturally moist tropical forest or savanna that stretches along the coast and borders the Sahel belt in the north.

Inter caetera

Inter caetera ("Among other [works]") was a papal bull issued by Pope Alexander VI on the fourth of May (quarto nonas maii) 1493, which granted to the Catholic Majesties of Ferdinand and Isabella (as sovereigns of Castile) all lands to the "west and south" of a pole-to-pole line 100 leagues west and south of any of the islands of the Azores or the Cape Verde islands.It remains unclear to the present whether the pope was issuing a "donation" of sovereignty or a feudal infeodation or investiture. Differing interpretations have been argued since the bull was issued, with some arguing that it was only meant to transform the possession and occupation of land into lawful sovereignty. Others, including the Spanish crown and the conquistadors, interpreted it in the widest possible sense, deducing that it gave Spain full political sovereignty.The Inter caetera bull and others similar to it, particularly Dudum siquidem, made up the Bulls of Donation.

Isabella of Aragon, Queen of Portugal

Isabella, Princess of Asturias (2 October 1470 – 23 August 1498) was a Queen consort of Portugal and heir presumptive of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, as their eldest daughter. Her younger siblings were John, Prince of Asturias, Queen Joanna I of Castile, Maria, Queen of Portugal and Catherine, Queen of England.

Kingdom of the Canary Islands

The Kingdom of the Canary Islands was founded in 1404, although it had always recognized another country as their overlord. Its purpose was probably entirely to conquer the Canaries, and to eventually be fully incorporated into the Crown of Castile when complete.

Mare clausum

Mare clausum (legal Latin meaning "closed sea") is a term used in international law to mention a sea, ocean or other navigable body of water under the jurisdiction of a state that is closed or not accessible to other states. Mare clausum is an exception to mare liberum (Latin for "free sea"), meaning a sea that is open to navigation to ships of all nations. In the generally accepted principle of International waters, oceans, seas, and waters outside national jurisdiction are open to navigation by all and referred to as "high seas" or mare liberum. Portugal and Spain defended a Mare clausum policy during the age of discovery. This was soon challenged by other European nations.

Spanish Empire

The Spanish Empire (Spanish: Imperio Español; Latin: Imperium Hispanicum), historically known as the Hispanic Monarchy (Spanish: Monarquía Hispánica) and as the Catholic Monarchy (Spanish: Monarquía Católica), was one of the largest empires in history. From the late 15th century to the early 19th, Spain controlled a huge overseas territory in the New World, the Asian archipelago of the Philippines, what they called "The Indies" (Spanish: Las Indias) and territories in Europe, Africa and Oceania. The Spanish Empire has been described as the first global empire in history, a description also given to the Portuguese Empire. It was one of the empires described as the most powerful of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Spanish Empire became known as "the empire on which the sun never sets" and reached its maximum extension in the 18th century.Castile became the dominant kingdom in Iberia because of its jurisdiction over the overseas empire in the Americas and the Philippines. The structure of empire was established under the Spanish Habsburgs (1516–1700), and under the Spanish Bourbon monarchs the empire was brought under greater crown control and increased its revenues from the Indies. The crown's authority in The Indies was enlarged by the papal grant of powers of patronage, giving it power in the religious sphere. An important element in the formation of Spain's empire was the dynastic union between Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, known as the Catholic Monarchs, which initiated political, religious and social cohesion but not political unification. Iberian kingdoms retained their political identities, with particular administration and juridical configurations.

Although the power of the Spanish sovereign as monarch varied from one territory to another, the monarch acted as such in a unitary manner over all the ruler's territories through a system of councils: the unity did not mean uniformity. In 1580, when Philip II of Spain succeeded to the throne of Portugal (as Philip I), he established the Council of Portugal, which oversaw Portugal and its empire and "preserv[ed] its own laws, institutions, and monetary system, and united only in sharing a common sovereign." The Iberian Union remained in place until in 1640, when Portugal reestablished the independence under the House of Braganza.Under Philip II (1556–98), Spain, rather than the Habsburg empire, was identified as the most powerful nation in the world, easily eclipsing France and England. Furthermore, despite attacks from Northern European states, Spain retained its position of dominance with apparent ease. Philip II ruled over the greatest maritime powers (Spain, Portugal, and the Low Countries), Sicily and Naples, Franche-Comté in France, the Rhineland in Germany, an uninterrupted tract of the Americas from the viceroyalty of New Spain bordering modern-day Canada all the way down to Patagonia, trading ports throughout India and South Asia, the Spanish East Indies, and select holdings in Guinea and North Africa. He also had a claim on England by marriage.The Spanish empire in the Americas was formed after conquering indigenous empires and claiming large stretches of land, beginning with Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean Islands. In the early 16th century, it conquered and incorporated the Aztec and Inca empires, retaining indigenous elites loyal to the Spanish crown and converts to Christianity as intermediaries between their communities and royal government. After a short period of delegation of authority by the crown in the Americas, the crown asserted control over those territories and established the Council of the Indies to oversee rule there. The crown then established viceroyalties in the two main areas of settlement, New Spain (Mexico) and Peru, both regions of dense indigenous populations and mineral wealth. The Spanish Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation — the first circumnavigation of the Earth — laid the foundation for the Pacific oceanic empire of Spain and began the Spanish colonization of the Philippines.

The structure of governance of its overseas empire was significantly reformed in the late 18th century by the Bourbon monarchs. The crown's trade monopoly was broken early in the seventeenth century, with the crown colluding with the merchant guild for fiscal reasons in circumventing the supposedly closed system. In the seventeenth century, the diversion of silver revenue to pay for European consumer goods and the rising costs of defense of its empire meant that "tangible benefits of America to Spain were a moment when the costs of empire were climbing sharply."The Bourbon monarchy attempted to expand the possibilities for trade within the empire, by allowing commerce between all ports in the empire, and took other measures to revive economic activity to the benefit of Spain. The Bourbons had inherited "an empire invaded by rivals, an economy shorn of manufactures, a crown deprived of revenue... [and tried to reverse the situation by] taxing colonists, tightening control, and fighting off foreigners. In the process, they gained a revenue and lost an empire." The Napoleonic invasion of the Iberian peninsula precipitated the Spanish American wars of independence (1808–1826), resulting in the loss of its most valuable colonies. In its former colonies in the Americas, Spanish is the dominant language and Catholicism the main religion, enduring cultural legacies of the Spanish Empire.

Style of the Portuguese sovereign

The style of Portuguese sovereign has varied over the years. Currently, there is no Portuguese monarch but there is a pretender: Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza. He styles himself following some of the ancient traditions of the Portuguese monarchy.

Treaty of El Pardo (1778)

The Treaty of El Pardo signed on 11 March 1778 finalised colonial borders between Spain and Portugal in the Río de la Plata region of South America. Portugal acquired Spanish territories in South America (deep into the continent), later on given to Brazil, Spain acquired Portuguese territories in Africa, today known as the independent state of Equatorial Guinea.

War of the Castilian Succession

The War of the Castilian Succession, more accurately referred to as "Second War of Castilian Succession" or simply "War of Henry IV's Succession" to avoid confusion with other Castilian succession wars, was the military conflict contested from 1475 to 1479 for the succession of the Crown of Castile fought between the supporters of Joanna 'la Beltraneja', reputed daughter of the late monarch Henry IV of Castile, and those of Henry's half-sister, Isabella, who was ultimately successful.

The war had a marked international character, as Isabella was married to Ferdinand, heir to the Crown of Aragon, while Joanna was strategically married to King Afonso V of Portugal, her uncle, after the suggestion of her supporters. France intervened in support of Portugal, as they were rivals with Aragon for territory in Italy and Roussillon.

Despite a few initial successes by the supporters of Joanna, a lack of military aggressiveness by Afonso V and the stalemate in the Battle of Toro (1476) led to the disintegration of Joanna's alliance and the recognition of Isabella in the Courts of Madrigal-Segovia (April–October 1476):

"In 1476, immediately after the indecisive battle of Peleagonzalo [near Toro], Ferdinand and Isabella hailed the result as a great victory and called Courts at Madrigal. The newly gained prestige was used to win municipal support from their allies ..." (Marvin Lunenfeld).The war between Castile and Portugal alone continued. This included naval warfare in the Atlantic, which became more important: a struggle for maritime access to the wealth of Guinea (gold and slaves). In 1478, the Portuguese navy defeated the Castilians in the decisive Battle of Guinea.The war concluded in 1479 with the Treaty of Alcáçovas, which recognized Isabella and Ferdinand as sovereigns of Castile and granted Portugal hegemony in the Atlantic, with the exception of the Canary Islands. Joanna lost her right to the throne of Castile and remained in Portugal until her death.

This conflict has also been called the Second Castilian Civil War, but this name may lead to confusion with the other civil wars that involved Castile in the 14th and 15th centuries. Some authors refer to it as the War of Portugal; however, this name clearly represents a Castilian point of view and implicitly denies Juana's claim. At other times the term Peninsular War has been used, but it is easily confused with the Peninsular War of 1808–1814, part of the Napoleonic Wars. Some authors prefer the neutral expression War of 1475–1479.

Wattasid dynasty

The Wattasid dynasty (Berber languages: ⵉⵡⴻⵟⵟⴰⵙⴻⵏ, Iweṭṭasen; Arabic: الوطاسيون‎, al-waṭṭāsīyūn) was a ruling dynasty of Morocco. Like the Marinid dynasty, its rulers were of Zenata Berber descent. The two families were related, and the Marinids recruited many viziers from the Wattasids. These viziers assumed the powers of the Sultans, seizing control of the Marinid dynasty's realm when the last Marinid, Abu Muhammad Abd al-Haqq, who had massacred many of the Wattasids in 1459, was murdered during a popular revolt in Fez in 1465.

Abu Abd Allah al-Sheikh Muhammad ibn Yahya was the first Sultan of the Wattasid Dynasty. He controlled only the northern part of Morocco, the south being divided into several principalities. The Wattasids were finally supplanted in 1554, after the Battle of Tadla, by the Saadi dynasty princes of Tagmadert who had ruled all of southern Morocco since 1511.

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