Quinta das Lágrimas (the palace of tears) is a huge royal palace, now functioning as a five-star spa hotel, but peel back the skin and you will discover something altogether darker. Located on the edge of the city of Coimbra and likely built sometime in the 13th century, the palace played host to a number of monarchs of the Portuguese royal court. Things started to get creepy, however, in 1340.
A Galician noblewoman called Ines de Castro moved to the palace from Spain as lady-in-waiting to Princess Constance of Castille, recently married to the Portuguese crown prince, Pedro. Once there, the prince became smitten with Ines and an illicit affair began between them. Pedro’s father, the king of Portugal, strongly disagreed with the relationship. Then, during childbirth, the wife of the crown prince died and Prince Pedro arranged to be secretly married to Ines, without his father’s knowledge.
Things then took a dark turn, though. The King, still unaware of the secret union, feared that Ines and her family were plotting to take the throne, so in 1355 he had two of his henchmen follow her to the site on the estate now known as the ‘fountain of tears’ and stab her to death. Pedro was, understandably, devastated, but decided he would wait to have his revenge.
He would not have to wait long, for in 1357, his father, the king, died and he acceded to the throne. Once there, he took two rather grim actions. First, he had the two assassins arrested and sentenced to death. The punishment for them, though, was rather different from the usual hanging or beheading. He had the first man’s heart removed from the front and the second man’s heart moved from behind. While they were still alive.
Creepier still, he had the body of Ines – now dead for almost two years – exhumed and dressed in royal ceremonial attire. She was placed beside him on the queen’s throne and every member of the court was forced to approach the newly anointed queen and kiss her hand in a show of allegiance.
A visit to the palace today is full of reminders of the events, with paintings and sculptures dedicated to the tragic story covering the walls of corridors, dining rooms and hallways. It is also possible to visit the ‘fountain of lovers’ where the couple first secretly met while they were courting. A reminder of the age of the place comes in the form of a colossal Indian Chestnut tree which is more than seven hundred and fifty years old. Then of course, you can visit the ‘fountain of tears,’ where Ines de Castro’s murder began this course of stomach-churning acts.
According to the staff of the hotel it is not uncommon for the deceased bride to be seen by guests, wandering the halls at night, on her way to be crowned. One thing that is certain, is that the grim tale of Pedro and Ines is one fit for any horror story.