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St. Isabella of Portugal

Isabella of Portugal was named after St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who was her great-aunt; Isabella is the Portuguese form of Elizabeth. Isabella, the daughter of Pedro III, the King of Argon and his wife, Constantia, was born in 1271. She was taught to be devout and prayerful from an early age. Her parents arranged for her to marry Diniz (Denis), the King of Portugal. Although Denis was a hard-working, effective leader, he had loose morals. When she moved to his royal court, Isabella had to exert all her patience to put up with the bad behavior of most of the people there. Through her gentleness, patience, charity, and prayers, Isabella eventually won the heart of Denis and the admiration of many around him. The couple had a daughter and a son. Their son Alfonso resented his father’s illegitimate sons and went to war against his father in 1323; Isabella reconciled her son and husband, riding between their armies on the battlefield. In 1325, when Diniz died, Alfonso succeeded his father to the throne. Isabella retired to a convent she had founded and became a Franciscan Tertiary, serving the sick and the poor. The remainder of Isabella’s life would not be entirely peaceful; Alfonso had married his daughter Maria to the King of Castile, but when he found out that she was being mistreated, Alfonso went to war against his son-in-law. Isabella again intervened, hurrying to the spot where the two armies were facing each other; she was able to get the two sides to agree to peace terms, but the exertion overtaxed her aging body. She fell ill and died a holy death in 1336. Many miracles were soon attributed to her intercession; she was canonized in 1625. Isabella of Portugal’s feast is July 8.

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