A reanalysis of the role of Philippa of Lancaster, queen of Portugal in the expedition to Ceuta, 1415


Philippa of Lancaster (1360-1415), Queen of Portugal is largely remembered by the men who surrounded her, rather than her actual accomplishments: John of Gaunt was her father, Joao I of Portugal was her husband, and lastly, Prince Henry (Henrique) the Navigator was her son. However, modem studies of her indicate that she was more than simply an iconographic queen. She was responsible for introducing French to the Portuguese court and was responsible for translating John Gower's Confessio Amatis into Portuguese. Furthermore, Chaucer had been one of her tutors, and had taught her how to use an astrolabe. This last point is very important, for it supports the idea that Philippa was behind the 1415 expedition to Ceuta, the first of Western European voyages into Africa. Charles McKew Parr in his study on Ferdinand Magellan claims that the voyage to Ceuta was Philippa's idea and that she was the one responsible for organizing and supplying the endeavor. However, this revolutionary idea goes in the face of all contemporary primary sources, and all subsequent secondary sources. This thesis will further investigate the claims that Philippa was instrumental in this inaugural expedition and reconcile that concept to its absence in contemporary sources. In addition, this thesis will discuss the direct vs. indirect influence of the Queen, comparisons with three other queens (Leonor Telles de Meneses, her predecessor, Leonor of Aragon, her successor, and Riccafoma, Queen of Granada), and finally evaluating how well traditional arguments hold up against recent ones. Ultimately, while it can not be proven that the voyage was her idea, there are several external factors that point to her aid in organizing and supplying this voyage, a rarity in those days for any queen consort.


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Thesis Completion





Larson, Peter


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities

Degree Program



Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic;Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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