Philippa of Lancaster is the only female figure in Monument to Discoveries. Navigation voyages in the 15th and 16th centuries were essentially a male subject, but the authors of the Monument to the Discoveries in Belem also wanted to choose a figure to honor the female universe and they could not have chosen better.
Philippa of Lancaster (1360-1415) was one of the most influential women of her time. Queen of Portugal, granddaughter of Edward III of England, daughter of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster, mother of Prince Henry the navigator and great-grandmother of Emperor Maximilian of the Holy Roman Empire, she has in her descendants all the royal houses in Europe. Philipa of Lancaster, who was said to “gave birth with British punctuality” was the mother of an extraordinary generation of princes and princesses, whom Camões called “outstanding offspring“.
At a time when queens were expected to be little interventionist and die young, Philippa began as a patron of the arts, founded a literary circle and maintained correspondence with important figures in Portuguese and English societies. When she was 38 years old, on the occasion of her father’s death, she headed the Portuguese delegation to the funeral ceremonies, taking advantage of the occasion to maintain important contacts that led to the deepening of the Treaty of Windsor (1386), the oldest agreement of friendship and mutual aid between sovereign nations, still in force.
Despite not having been born in Portugal, the Portuguese see her as one of the greatest figures in their history and are proud that her mortal remains have found eternal rest in the founder’s chapel in the monastery of Batalha, next to João I.