One of the most important and famous battles in the Iberian Peninsula took place in Aljubarrota. There were two main parties:

  • Castile (with Aragonese, French and Italian support)

  • Portugal (with English support)

According to Wikipedia, there were over 2,000 French heavy cavalry fighting for the Castilians. Their army had a total number of around 31,000 units. Portugal on the other hand had a total of 6,500 units. Only 100 of them being English.

Portugal had a decisive victory despite being heavily outnumbered. But that raises the question:

Even though Portugal won, why did Portugal and England cheap out on troops to fight against Castile?

Surely it couldn't be because they believed that one Lusitan > 2 Spaniards and a Frenchmaid

  • 5
    You got an upvote from me just for finding a reason to use the markdown "spoiler" tag on the History stack
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 21, 2016 at 17:47
  • 2
    @T.E.D. Arqade, Puzzle and Stackoverflow influences ^^
    – Oak
    Apr 21, 2016 at 17:56
  • 2
    What does "cheap out" mean in this context?
    – Steve Bird
    Apr 21, 2016 at 18:10
  • @SteveBird Number of troops mostly. The number of troops is ridiculously disporpotionate between the two sides. By cheaping out I mean why they didn't want to send more troops, or what prevented them from doing so.
    – Oak
    Apr 21, 2016 at 18:22
  • 2
    @Oak where there more troops at hand that they kept back? Perhaps not.... Perhaps they could only field 6500 men at that particular moment.
    – User999999
    Apr 22, 2016 at 13:32

2 Answers 2


England had won its big battles against France in the Hundred Years' War (Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt etc.), typically outnumbered 2 to 1 or even 3 to 1.

Likewise, Portugal had a lower population than Spain and was "always" outnumbered by Spain. This was particularly true in this battle because some of the Portuguese had defected to the Spanish side.

In those situations, you don't try to match the French or Spanish armies. Instead, you muster what men are available, try to make use of the terrain and better tactics, and hope that it is "enough" to win. In this case (and many others), it was.

  • Well 5:1 is a little worse but they still pulled it off
    – Ovi
    Aug 23, 2016 at 12:05
  • 3
    Spain didn't exist back then. Castile, not Spain. Oct 8, 2016 at 10:57
  • My bad. Forgot to accept the answer (despite having upvoted it). Sorry :/
    – Oak
    Nov 6, 2017 at 23:42

This article notes that most of the Portuguese nobility actually sided with King Juan I of Castile. (Juan had married the daughter of King Fernao of Portugal; when Fernao died without a son, Juan claimed the throne of Portugal on the basis of his marriage to Fernao's daughter.) So it seems likely that King Joao of Portugal -- whose base of support was primarily Lisbon -- was really limited in terms of how many Portuguese soldiers and knights he had on his side, since most of the nobility and their soldiers were either sitting it out or siding with the Castilian invaders.

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