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Manuel I of Portugal

Manuel I of Portugal, the Fortunate, fourteenth king of Portugal, was born in Alcochete in May 31 1469 and died in Lisbon in December 13 1521. He was the son of prince Fernando of Portugal, duke of Viseu, by his wife, Beatrice of Aveiro, princess of Portugal. Manuel succeeded his first cousin John II of Portugal in 1495.

Manuel grew up among the conspiracies of the aristocratic high nobility against king John II. He watched many people being killed and exiled, including his older brother Diogo, the duke of Viseu, murdered by the king himself. Thus, when receiving a royal order in 1493 to present himself to the king, Manuel had every reason to worry. Without reason: John II wanted to name him heir to the throne, after the death of his son prince Afonso of Portugal and the failed attempts to legitimise George, the illegitimate son. This lucky event granted him the nickname the Fortunate.

Manuel would prove a worthy successor of John II, supporting the Portuguese exploration of the Atlantic ocean and the development of Portuguese commerce. During his kingdom, the following was achieved:

All these events turned Portugal grew rich on foreign trade whilst formally establishing its empire. Manuel used the wealth to build a number of royal buildings (in the manueline style) and to attract scientists and artists to his court. Commercial treatises and diplomatic alliances were forged with China and the Persian Empire. The pope received a monumental embassy from Portugal during his reign, designed to be a show of the newly acquired riches to all Europe.

In Manuel's reign, the state internal life tended to absolute power of the king. The cortes (kingdom's assembly) only met three times during his reign, always in Lisbon, the king's address. He reformed the courts of justice and the towns agreements with the crown, modernizing the taxes and the concepts of tributes and rights.

Manuel was a very religious men and invested an important amount of the Portuguese income to sponsor missionaries in their way to the new colonies, such as Francisco Alvarez, and the construction of religious buildings, like the Monastery of Jerónimos. Manuel also endeavoured to promote another crusade, against the Turks. He persecuted the Jews of Portugal, driving them from the country or forcibly converting them, notably in the period 14961498. These actions were meant to please the catholic kings and were taken as a clause of his marriage to princess Isabella of Aragon, then heiress of the united crown of Spain. Nevertheless, Manuel ended the juridical distinction between Catholics and conversed Jews and the ones who decided to be baptized were protected from further abuse. However, a massacre of Jews in Lisbon occurred in 1506.

Isabella died in childbirth in 1498, putting an end to the Portuguese ambitions to rule in Spain, which had started in John II reign. Manuel next wife, Maria of Aragon, was also a Spanish princess, but not the oldest. This was Joan of Castile, the mad queen.

The Monastery of Jerónimos in Lisbon houses Manuel's tomb. His son João succeeded him as king.

Manuel's marriages and descendants

See also: Kings of Portugal family tree

Preceded by:
D. João II
List of Portuguese monarchs Succeeded by:
João III