António Ferreira was born in 1528 in Lisbon, a city he would soon come to love above all others and about which he would frequently write flowery and often majestic verses that reveal an innate sincerity. Ferreira was proud of his family name, and with ample reason. His was a noble family of ancient origin going as far back as King Arthur, from whom it was claimed that they were descended, as well as from Ferrabac, the first Norman king. The Ferreira name probably was associated with the craft of ironworking—one of the few trades that the nobility was allowed to practice in the Middle Ages. The poet’s father, Martim Ferreira, was a Knight of the Order of Saint James and was attached to the household of the duke of Coimbra; his mother, Mexia Froes Varella, who was descended from the first kings and queens of Castile, probably died when Ferreira was a child. He had one brother, Garcia Fróis, who at one time was in the service of the queen of Portugal, Catherine of Austria, in the middle of the sixteenth century.
Ferreira spent his childhood and part of his adolescence in Lisbon, but when it came time to take up his studies, he moved to Coimbra, where the king, John III, had transferred the university in 1537. The period from 1543 to 1556, which he spent almost entirely in Coimbra, was the most prolific period of his life. It was during this time that he accomplished his extensive studies, discovered love, and wrote most of his works. On July 16, 1551, Ferreira received his first diploma, or “bachelor’s” degree; some four years later, on July 14, 1555, he was awarded the doctorate. Comfortable but by no means wealthy, Ferreira was apparently well liked by his fellow students. It was during this period also that he became...
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