Afonso, the first man who could claim to be king of Portugal, naturally had a lot of enemies. Lords, including his own mother and step-father, who preferred to rule themselves rather than let Afonso tell them what to do. In his constant battles he was aided by a young man who possessed both remarkable beauty and remarkable valour.
With his aid Afonso was able to crush the rebels and establish peace. It was inevitable, therefore, that the king loaded the young man with gifts and went out of his way to bestow all manner of favours on him. Equally inevitably this angered many of the other nobles, who were jealous of the young man for receiving riches that should have been theirs and that he excluded them from the rightful place as advisers to the king.
Maddened with envy, they plotted together on how they could best be rid of this cuckoo. They were too fearful of openly attacking him, so a more devious and deadly plot was hatched.
Mafada, the queen, was at this time with child. The nobles saw this as their great chance, for Afonso was known to be a very jealous man. They started whispers circulating about the court. How far gone was the queen? About six months? That was odd because that was the time that Afonso was away on campaign. That young man, he was lurking around the palace at the time, recovering from wounds. You don’t think…?
As was bound to happen in a court, the rumours soon reached the ears of the king. He flew into a rage and had to be comforted by his nobles. “Don’t worry,” they said. “We’ll sort it out for you.”
Previously they had shunned the young man’s company but now they went to him. “We should put our differences behind us.” they said. “For the good of the country.”
To cement the new friendship they all went on a hunting trip. When they reached the deepest part of the forest someone suggested they dismount for a rest. As the young man lifted his water skin to his lips to slake his thirst the nobles came up to him with their daggers drawn and stabbed him to death before he could defend himself and left his body for the wolves.
The king, meanwhile, could not put the horror out of his head. In the end, driven mad with thoughts of his cuckoldry, he burst into the queen’s bedchamber while she was still in bed, drove out her attendants and stabbed her with his sword, killing her and the unborn child.
Such was his madness that he boasted in the court of his act. The nobles, while outwardly congratulating him on his bold action, were inwardly appalled that their plan should have had wider consequences. They advised the king to keep the murder secret, merely saying that the queen had died.
But murder will out. The news of the king’s act reached the people, who were shocked and saddened. Saddened by the death of their queen, who had shown them only kindness, and shocked that they had such a monster for a king. A mob of common people appeared before the palace gates, demanding justice. The king sent out his knights to deal with them and threatened that anyone who spoke any more of this slander would be hanged from the castle walls.
But this only encouraged the whispers, for forbidden words travel faster than licensed ones and, in those whispers, Afonso’s deeds became even blacker and more horrible.
The king noticed the change that had come over the court. Once he had felt that he controlled it, his great deeds making him respected; now he saw fear and dislike in men’s eyes. In the city it was no better. The man who had been used to cheering crowds now found empty streets and a stone that would come out of nowhere and hit his horse so that he would have to fight to control it.
Before he had ignored the flock of gossip that flew around his court like black crows as beneath his dignity; now he listened, fearful of plots and whispers and what he did hear chilled him to the bone; how the youth and the queen had been innocent, the unborn child had been his all along, victims of a court faction that had been jockeying for control, nothing more. His anger was great but his grief was inconsolable.
He could at least slake his anger on the courtiers who had created his misery. He had them dragged before him and, in front of the whole court, blinded and castrated, so that they would endure a living death where it was perpetually night and they would be deprived of all bodily enjoyment. So he was revenged but he found it gave him little joy, for his own soul also seemed in everlasting night and he took little pleasure from the world.
Such is the life of the court. The names of the nobles who brought such horror onto themselves are forgotten, as is that of the brave knight who fought so hard for fame but whose reward was only an early death. So, all you young people who seek to earn fame in the courts of the great, remember this story. When you think you are in paradise you are really in hell.