According to maternitytips, the Portuguese institutions developed in parallel to that of the other monarchies of the Iberian Peninsula. Common was the tradition, founded on the written law and on the customary law of the Visigothic monarchy. The king, as supreme head, freely exercises all the powers of the state, although these are in a certain way limited by the privileges of the nobility and the clergy, which find their expression in the common action of the Côrtes. In the succession to the throne the hereditary principle prevails, although the old Visigothic custom of election still has a survival in the confirmation, by the Côrtes, of the king assumed to the throne (acclamation). The situation of social classes is no different from the rest of the European West: the clergy, due to the vast extent of their assets, due to the judicial and tax immunities it enjoys, it has a predominant position. The nobility is mistress of the lands, in which it levies taxes and administers justice. The rico– homem, while at the highest rank of the social ladder, is at the same time the highest royal official, military leader of his land or district, with the obligation to serve at a specific time of the year and to remove for the war a determined number of men-at-arms. The military class includes the cavaleiros – vilãos, restricted to military service with weapons and horses; the peões (pedestrians), also owners, but without sufficient goods to serve on horseback; the malados, individuals who work on behalf of others; the serfs.
The free population belonging to the popular class is grouped into nuclei independent of the lords, and partly of the king himself, who grants to these groups (concelhos) privilege cards, establishing collective rights and duties. Each council has its own judiciary, both administrative and judicial, appointed by election. Such municipalities existed in the Portuguese territory even before the foundation of the monarchy by Alfonso Henriques: but he provided to create new ones, especially in the territories conquered from the Moors, where many colonies flowed, some also foreign and in particular of French: these colonies they called “free colonies”, and hence the fact of the frequency of the toponym “Vila Franca”. This work of colonization and the establishment of municipalities was intensely continued by Sancho I, who repopulated the wastelands of the war, attracted Frankish (foreign) settlers, restored the dismantled castles.
Agriculture, the only source of public wealth in those days, was promoted by kings; but, during the first reigns, the clearing and cultivation of the conquered area was mainly the work of the military orders (Templarî, Ospitalieri, Calatrava and Spatarî) and some religious orders, such as the Cistercians of the famous monastery of Alcobaça, where many are buried kings and princes of the first dynasty, and the canons regular of S. Augustine, who owned the convent of Santa Cruz in Coimbra and that of S. Vicente de Fora in Lisbon.
The king’s assets merged with that of the state and the main asset of finance was provided by his income. Sometimes the king alienated, by means of land donations and royal rights, part of his assets in favor of the nobles or the Church. The immunities created by these donations, the restriction of the king’s incomes that they determined, the conflicts that arose between the royal jurisdiction and that of the donatari constituted in the early days of the Portuguese state a serious obstacle to the action of the kings and a source of strife between them. and the privileged classes. If Alfonso I and Sancho I were generous with donations, Alfonso II was instead a jealous defender of the royal heritage. He refused to hand over to his sisters Sancia, Teresa and Mafalda (later beatified by the Church) the lands that his father had left them by testament, and he only executed the legacies in money. He promulgated a law forbidding the ecclesiastical, secular and regular order, the purchase of real estate, which, by the mere fact of belonging to the clergy, ceased to produce income for the crown; began the system of confirmations by the new king of the donations made by his predecessors, and of inquisitions aimed at verifying which lands of the royal patrimony were unduly in the power of the clergy and nobles.
Alfonso II, passionate about law and legalism, was the first Portuguese monarch who summoned the Côrtes, in Coimbra in 1211: from the resolutions adopted there, the first nucleus of a general legislation arose. Disciple of a skilled lawyer, Giuliano, former chancellor of his father and defender of the personal power of the sovereigns, Alfonso II was in the century. XIII a precursor of the principles of the Renaissance. Not so his son Sancho II, who, of a warrior nature, was little shrewd in the government: under him, due to the work of turbulent nobles, the kingdom fell into anarchy, the tax officers were soon rejected, gang wars broke out, without the king being able to put an end to the disorder. Discontent spread among the clergy and the bourgeoisie, who with the help of some nobles, gave work to the deposition of the king, proposing to replace him with his brother Alfonso, who, married to the Countess of Boulogne, lived at the French court. The archbishop of Braga Giovanni Egas and the bishops of Oporto and Coimbra, present at the council of Lyon, obtained from Innocent IV that, shortly after having proclaimed the deposition of Emperor Frederick II, proclaimed that of Sancho II (bull Grandi not undeserved of July 24, 1245). In an assembly of nobles and clergymen held in Paris, Alfonso swore to respect the Church and to consult the council of prelates in all important circumstances (Paris pact); arrived in Lisbon, he was enthusiastically welcomed by the bourgeoisie and assumed power with the title of “defender of the kingdom”, which he maintained as long as Sancho lived. In the struggle between Alfonso, master of Lisbon and the south of the country, and Sancho, who held the north, the latter, defeated, invoked the help of Castile (1246); but the fate of arms favored Alfonso, and Sancho was forced to take refuge in Toledo, where he died two years later; Alfonso then assumed the title of king.
The internal politics of Alfonso III was similar to that of Alfonso II. He too ordered inquisitions, restricted the clergy’s right to purchase goods and summoned the first Côrtes in Leiria in which the prosecutors of the councils participated (1254); without taking into account the oath of Paris, he took measures that displeased the clergy, so that he was excommunicated, like his predecessors Sancho I, Alfonso II and Sancho II.
His son Dionysius (1279-1325), of vast culture and one of the most famous troubadours of his time, founded the Portuguese university (Estudio Real of Lisbon, 1290). When Clement V suppressed the Templar order, he transferred their assets to a new purely Portuguese military order, the Order of Christ (1319).
Justice was organized in Portugal by Alfonso IV (1325-1357), the hero of the battle of Tarifa (Salado), in which he was allied with Alfonso XI of Castile against the Muslims. He instituted the juizes de fora, that is, not natives of the countries in which they exercised their office. His son Peter I (1357-1367), whose popular fame is linked to his love affairs with Ines de Castro, sung by Camões in the Lusiadas, reformed justice, extending its jurisdiction also to the nobles, and, to restrict the power of the clergy, he instituted the royal placet for papal briefs and rescripts.