ANTONIO, known as "The Prior of Crato" (1531-1595), claimant of the throne of Portugal, was the natural son of Louis (Luis), duke of Beja, by Yolande (Violante) Gomez, a Jewess, who is said to have died a nun. His father was a younger son of Emanuel, king of Portugal (1495-1521). Antonio was educated at Coimbra, and was placed in the order of St John. He was endowed with the wealthy priory of Crato. Little is known of his life till 1578. In that year he accompanied King Sebastian (1557-1578) in his invasion of Morocco, and was taken prisoner by the Moors at the battle of Alcazar-Kebir, in which the king was slain. Antonio is said to have secured his release on easy terms by a fiction. He was asked the meaning of the cross of St John which he wore on his doublet, and replied that it was the sign of a small benefice which he held from the pope, and would lose if he were not back by the 1st of January. His captor, believing him to be a poor man, allowed him to escape for a small ransom. On his return to Portugal he found that his uncle, the cardinal Henry, only surviving son of King John III. (1521-1557), had been recognized as king. The cardinal was old, and was the last legitimate male representative of the royal line (see Portugal: History). The succession was claimed by Philip II. of Spain. Antonio, relying on the popular hostility to a Spanish ruler, presented himself as a candidate. He had endeavoured to prove that his father and mother had been married after his birth. There was, however, no evidence of the marriage. Antonio's claim, which was inferior not only to that of Philip II., but to that of the duchess of Braganza, was not supported by the nobles or gentry. His partisans were drawn exclusively from the inferior clergy, the peasants and workmen. The prior endeavoured to resist the army which Philip II. marched into Portugal to enforce his pretensions, but was easily routed by the duke of Alva, the Spanish commander, at Alcantara, on the 25th of August 1580. At the close of the year, or in the first days of 1581, he fled to France carrying with him the crown jewels, which included many valuable diamonds. He was well received by Catherine de' Medici, who had a claim of her own on the crown of Portugal, and looked upon him as a convenient instrument to be used against Philip II. By promising to cede the Portuguese colony of Brazil to her, and by the sale of part of his jewels, Antonio secured means to fit out a fleet manned by Portuguese exiles and French and English adventurers. As the Spaniards had not yet occupied the Azores he sailed to them, but was utterly defeated at sea by the marquis of Santa Cruz off Saint Michael's on the 27th of July 1582. He now returned to France, and lived for a time at Ruel near Paris. Peril from the assassins employed by Philip II. to remove him drove Antonio from one refuge to another, and he finally came to England. Elizabeth favoured him for much the same reasons as Catherine de' Medici. In 1589, the year after the Armada, he accompanied an English expedition under the command of Drake and Norris to the coast of Spain and Portugal. The force consisted partly of the queen's ships, and in part of privateers who went in search of booty. Antonio, with all the credulity of an exile, believed that his presence would provoke a general rising against Philip II., but none took place, and the expedition was a costly failure. In 1590 the pretender left England and returned to France, where he fell into poverty. His remaining diamonds were disposed of by degrees. The last and finest was acquired by M. de Sancy, from whom it was purchased by Sully and included in the jewels of the crown. During his last days he lived as a private gentleman on a small pension given him by Henry IV., and he died in Paris on the 26th of August 1595. He left two illegitimate sons, and his descendants can be traced till 1687. In addition to papers published to defend his claims Antonio was the author of the Panegyrus Alphonsi Lusitanorum Regis (Coimbra, 1550), and of a cento of the Psalms, Psalmi Confessionales (Paris 1592), which was translated into English under the title of The Royal Penitent by Francis Chamberleyn (London, 1659), and into German as Heilige Betrachtungen (Marburg, 1677).
Authorities. - Antonio is frequently mentioned in the French, English, and Spanish state papers of the time. A life of him, attributed to Gomes Vasconcellos de Figueredo, was published in a French translation by Mme de Sainctonge at Amsterdam (1696). A modern account of him, Un prétendant portugais au XVI. siècle, by E. Fournier (Paris, 1852), is based on authentic sources. See also Dom Antonio Prior de Crato - notas de bibliographia, by J. de Aranjo (Lisbon, 1897).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)