31 Days of Halloween: On Atlas Obscura this month, every day is Halloween. Stop by the blog every day this month for true tales of the unquiet dead. Come for the severed heads, stay for the book bound in human skin. Every story is true, and each one is a real place you can visit. We dare you.
It may be awkward, but when the kings tells you to kiss the hand of his dead mistress, you damn well kiss that cold, dead hand.
When the fifteen year old Ines de Castro arrived at court as part of his new wife’s entourage, Pedro, crown prince of Portugal, fell in love. That love blossomed into an illicit affair that scandalized the court and threatened the international relations secured by the prince’s legitimate marriage. Despite his father’s overt disapproval, Pedro and Ines continued the affair, their union producing four illegitimate children.
When Pedro’s wife died unexpectedly in childbirth, the King saw to it that Ines was removed from court and sent into isolation in a monastery to prevent any further trouble - but that still did not keep the lovers apart. Pedro followed Ines, and the two lived openly as a couple, to the horror of the King.
Finally, he could take it no more, and the King dispatched assassins to kill Ines, and she was captured and decapitated before the eyes of her horrified children.
Two years later the heartbroken prince ascended the throne, and, in an act that may indicate just how unhinged he became as a result of her death, Pedro has Ines’ body exhumed, dressed, and placed in the queen’s throne. Allegedly, he then required all of the members of his court to address Ines as his wife, kiss her skeletal hand, and declare their allegiance to the happy couple. Unsurprisingly, the court obeyed.
This charming moment is captured in a painting by Pierre-Charles Comte, and hangs in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon. Not pictured is the scene of Pedro ripping the still beating hearts from the chests of two of Ines’ assassins, but we are frankly just fine with that.
Pedro and Ines rest hopefully in peace in the beautiful Monastery of Alcobaca, their matched tombs inscribed with the words “Até o fim do mundo…” or “Until the end of the world…”