John II of Portugal

John II of Portugal

Discussion
Ask a question about 'John II of Portugal'
Start a new discussion about 'John II of Portugal'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
John II (3 March 1455–25 October 1495), the Perfect Prince (Port.
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

 o Príncipe Perfeito), was the thirteenth king of Portugal and the Algarves. He is known for re-establishing the power of the Portuguese throne, reinvigorating its economy, and renewing its exploration of Africa and the Orient.

Early life


Born in Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

, the son of King Afonso V of Portugal
Afonso V of Portugal
Afonso V KG , called the African , was the twelfth King of Portugal and the Algarves. His sobriquet refers to his conquests in Northern Africa.-Early life:...

 by his wife, Isabella of Coimbra, princess of Portugal, John II succeeded his father in 1477 when the king retired to a monastery, but only became king in 1481, after the death of his father and predecessor.

As a prince, John II accompanied his father in the campaigns in northern Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 and was made a knight after the victory in the Conquest of Arzila
Conquest of Arzila
The Conquest of Asilah , took place in Morocco on 24 August, 1471, and opposed the Kingdom of Portugal and the Wattasid Morocco.Continuing with his policy of expansion of the Portuguese territories in Morocco, and with the spirit of Crusade against the muslims always present, King Afonso V of...

 in 1471. In 1473, he married Leonor of Viseu
Leonor of Viseu
Eleanor of Viseu was a Portuguese infanta and later queen consort of Portugal.To distinguish her from other infantas of the same name, she is commonly known as Eleanor of Viseu or Eleanor of Lancaster Eleanor of Viseu (2 May 1458–17 November 1525; ) was a Portuguese infanta (princess) and...

, Infanta of Portugal and his first cousin.

Even at a young age, John was not popular among the peers of the kingdom since he was immune to external influence and appeared to despise intrigue. The nobles (including particularly Ferdinand II
Fernando II, Duke of Braganza
Ferdinand II was the older son of Fernando I, 2nd Duke of Braganza and of his wife, Doña Joana de Castro....

, the Duke of Braganza
Duke of Braganza
The title Duke of Braganza in the House of Braganza is one of the most important titles in the peerage of Portugal. Since the House of Braganza acceded to the throne of Portugal in 1640, the male heir of the Portuguese Crown was known as the Duke of Braganza and Prince of Brazil until 1822, or...

), were afraid of his future policies as king.

Consolidation of Power



After his official accession to the throne in 1481, John II took a series of measures to curtail the overgrown power of his aristocracy and to concentrate power in himself. Immediately, the nobles started to conspire. Letters of complaint and pleas to intervene were exchanged between the Duke of Braganza and Queen Isabella I of Castile
Isabella I of Castile
Isabella I was Queen of Castile and León. She and her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon brought stability to both kingdoms that became the basis for the unification of Spain. Later the two laid the foundations for the political unification of Spain under their grandson, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor...

. In 1483, this correspondence was intercepted by royal spies. The House of Braganza was outlawed, their lands confiscated and the duke executed in Évora
Évora
Évora is a municipality in Portugal. It has total area of with a population of 55,619 inhabitants. It is the seat of the Évora District and capital of the Alentejo region. The municipality is composed of 19 civil parishes, and is located in Évora District....

.

In the following year, the Duke of Viseu
Diogo, Duke of Viseu
Infante Diogo of Viseu was the second son of Infante Fernando, Duke of Viseu, and his wife Beatriz of Portugal.In 1472, when his older brother John, Duke of Viseu, died without issue, Diogo inherited his titles and estates as 4th Duke of Viseu and 3rd Duke of Beja.Diogo was a popular personality...

, John's cousin and brother-in-law, was summoned to the palace and stabbed to death by the king himself for suspicion of a new conspiracy. Many other people were executed, murdered, or exiled to Castile including the bishop of Évora who was poisoned in prison.

Concerning the rebellious nobles, the king is reported to have said, "I'm the lord of lords, not the server of servants" . Following the crackdown, no one in the country dared to defy the king and John saw no further conspiracies during his reign. The nobles who sided with John II or surrendered were forced to make public pledges of loyalty; in return they were given certain privileges, yet they still had to pay taxes.

Economy


Facing a bankrupt kingdom, John II showed the initiative to solve the situation by creating an agile regime in which the Council of Scholars took a vital role. The king then conducted a search of the population and selected members of the Council according to their abilities, talents and credentials. Popular complaints on judicial acts normally had the sympathy of the king. John's exploration policies (see below) also paid great dividends. Even before the Tordesilhas Treaty, such was the profit coming from John II's investments in the overseas explorations and expansion that the Portuguese currency had become the soundest in Europe. The kingdom could finally collect taxes on its own as all of its debts had been paid off, mainly thanks to its main gold source at that time, the coast of Guinea.

Exploration


John II famously restored the policies of Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 exploration, reviving the work of his great-uncle, Henry the Navigator. The Portuguese explorations were his main priority in government, pushing south the known coast of Africa with the purpose of discovering the maritime route to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. During his reign, the following achievements were realized:
  • 1482 - Foundation of the coastal fortress and trade post of São Jorge da Mina ( Elmina
    Elmina
    Elmina, is a town in the Central Region, situated on a south-facing bay on the Atlantic Ocean coast of Ghana, about 12 km west of Cape Coast...

     ).
  • 1484 – Discovery of the Congo River
    Congo River
    The Congo River is a river in Africa, and is the deepest river in the world, with measured depths in excess of . It is the second largest river in the world by volume of water discharged, though it has only one-fifth the volume of the world's largest river, the Amazon...

     by Diogo Cão
    Diogo Cão
    Diogo Cão was a Portuguese explorer and one of the most remarkable navigators of the Age of Discovery, who made two voyages sailing along the west coast of Africa to Namibia in the 1480s.-Early life and family:...

  • 1488 - Arrival of Bartolomeu Dias
    Bartolomeu Dias
    Bartolomeu Dias , a nobleman of the Portuguese royal household, was a Portuguese explorer who sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa in 1488, the first European known to have done so.-Purposes of the Dias expedition:...

     in Mossel Bay
    Mossel Bay
    Mossel Bay is a harbour town of about 130,000 people on the Southern Cape of South Africa. It is an important tourism and farming region of the Western Cape Province...

  • 1493 – Start of the settlement of the São Tomé and Príncipe
    São Tomé and Príncipe
    São Tomé and Príncipe, officially the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, is a Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa. It consists of two islands: São Tomé and Príncipe, located about apart and about , respectively, off...

     islands by Álvaro Caminha
    Álvaro Caminha
    Álvaro Caminha was appointed by King John II of Portugal in 1492 Captain-major – apparently the second – of São Tomé and Príncipe which had been discovered 22 years earlier....

  • Funding of land expeditions by Afonso de Paiva
    Afonso de Paiva
    Afonso de Paiva was a Portuguese diplomat and explorer of Ethiopia and the Barbary Coast together with Pêro da Covilhã. According to James Bruce, Afonso left Pêro da Covilhã at Aden, and proceeded to Suakin where he hoped to join a caravan to his destination. The further details of his life are...

     and Pêro da Covilhã
    Pêro da Covilhã
    Pedro or Pêro da Covilhã was a Portuguese diplomat and explorer.He was a native of Covilhã in Beira. In his early life he had gone to Castile and entered the service of Alphonso, Duke of Seville...

     to India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

     and Ethiopia
    Ethiopia
    Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

     in search of Prester John
    Prester John
    The legends of Prester John were popular in Europe from the 12th through the 17th centuries, and told of a Christian patriarch and king said to rule over a Christian nation lost amidst the Muslims and pagans in the Orient. Written accounts of this kingdom are variegated collections of medieval...

     land.


Some historians argue about the real extent of Portuguese voyages of exploration during this period, claiming the king had a secrecy policy. According to this theory some navigations were kept secret for fear of competition by neighbouring Castile
Crown of Castile
The Crown of Castile was a medieval and modern state in the Iberian Peninsula that formed in 1230 as a result of the third and definitive union of the crowns and parliaments of the kingdoms of Castile and León upon the accession of the then King Ferdinand III of Castile to the vacant Leonese throne...

. The archives of this period were destroyed in the fire after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake
1755 Lisbon earthquake
The 1755 Lisbon earthquake, also known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake, was a megathrust earthquake that took place on Saturday 1 November 1755, at around 9:40 in the morning. The earthquake was followed by fires and a tsunami, which almost totally destroyed Lisbon in the Kingdom of Portugal, and...

, and what was not destroyed during the earthquake was either stolen or destroyed during the Peninsular War
Peninsular War
The Peninsular War was a war between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when French and Spanish armies crossed Spain and invaded Portugal in 1807. Then, in 1808, France turned on its...

 or otherwise lost. Their true extent has long been the subject of academic debate.

Conflict with Castile


When Columbus returned from his voyage he thought of first stopping in Lisbon to claim his victory in front of King John II. King John II's only response to this was that under the Treaty of Alcáçovas
Treaty of Alcaçovas
The Treaty of Alcáçovas put an end to the War of the Castilian Succession in favor of Isabella I of Castile, and confirmed Castilian control of the Canary Islands and Portuguese control of the Madeira , Azores and Cape Verde islands , all in the Atlantic Ocean The Treaty of Alcáçovas (also known...

 previously signed with Spain, Columbus's discoveries lay within Portugal's sphere of influence. Before Columbus even reached Isabella I of Castile
Isabella I of Castile
Isabella I was Queen of Castile and León. She and her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon brought stability to both kingdoms that became the basis for the unification of Spain. Later the two laid the foundations for the political unification of Spain under their grandson, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor...

, John II had already sent a letter to them threatening to send a fleet to claim it for Portugal. Spain quickly hastened to the negotiating table which took place in a small town near the Portuguese border named Tordesillas. There was also a papal representative during that occasion in order to act as mediator. The result of this would be the famous Treaty of Tordesillas
Treaty of Tordesillas
The Treaty of Tordesillas , signed at Tordesillas , , divided the newly discovered lands outside Europe between Spain and Portugal along a meridian 370 leagueswest of the Cape Verde islands...

.

But the division of the world was not the main issue between the Iberian kingdoms. Isabella I of Castile
Isabella I of Castile
Isabella I was Queen of Castile and León. She and her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon brought stability to both kingdoms that became the basis for the unification of Spain. Later the two laid the foundations for the political unification of Spain under their grandson, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor...

 and Ferdinand II of Aragon
Ferdinand II of Aragon
Ferdinand the Catholic was King of Aragon , Sicily , Naples , Valencia, Sardinia, and Navarre, Count of Barcelona, jure uxoris King of Castile and then regent of that country also from 1508 to his death, in the name of...

 had several daughters, but only one feeble male heir — Juan. The oldest daughter, Isabella of Aragon, had been married to Afonso, Prince of Portugal, since childhood. Afonso was John II's only son and beloved by the king. If Juan died without male heir, as was probable, Afonso would be heir not only of Portugal, but also of Castile and Aragon. This threat to Castilian and Aragonese independence was very real, and the Catholic Monarchs
Catholic Monarchs
The Catholic Monarchs is the collective title used in history for Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. They were both from the House of Trastámara and were second cousins, being both descended from John I of Castile; they were given a papal dispensation to deal with...

 tried every diplomatic trick to dissolve the wedding. Finally, in 1491, Afonso died in mysterious circumstances — a fall from a horse during a ride in the margin of the Tagus
Tagus
The Tagus is the longest river on the Iberian Peninsula. It is long, in Spain, along the border between Portugal and Spain and in Portugal, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean at Lisbon. It drains an area of . The Tagus is highly utilized for most of its course...

 river. The influence of the Catholic Monarchs in this accident was never proved, but the prince was an excellent rider, his Castilian valet fled never to be seen again, and after this, Isabella, the heiress, was no longer married to the enemy. John tried without success until the end of his life to legitimise Jorge, Duke of Coimbra, his illegitimate son.

Legacy


John II died at Alvor
Alvor
-Portugal:* Alvor , a civil parish in the municipality of Portimão* Alvor Castle, a castle in the parish of Alvor, district of Faro...

 without leaving a male heir apparent
Heir apparent
An heir apparent or heiress apparent is a person who is first in line of succession and cannot be displaced from inheriting, except by a change in the rules of succession....

, aged only 40 years old. He was succeeded by his first cousin Manuel I
Manuel I of Portugal
Manuel I , the Fortunate , 14th king of Portugal and the Algarves was the son of Infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, , by his wife, Infanta Beatrice of Portugal...

.

The nickname the Perfect Prince is a late description and refers to Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian historian, philosopher, humanist, and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. He is one of the main founders of modern political science. He was a diplomat, political philosopher, playwright, and a civil servant of the Florentine Republic...

's work The Prince
The Prince
The Prince is a political treatise by the Italian diplomat, historian and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. From correspondence a version appears to have been distributed in 1513, using a Latin title, De Principatibus . But the printed version was not published until 1532, five years after...

. John II is considered to have lived his life exactly according to the writer's idea of a perfect prince. Nevertheless, he was admired as one of the greatest European monarchs of his time. Isabella I of Castile
Isabella I of Castile
Isabella I was Queen of Castile and León. She and her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon brought stability to both kingdoms that became the basis for the unification of Spain. Later the two laid the foundations for the political unification of Spain under their grandson, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor...

 usually referred to him as El Hombre (The Man).

In popular culture

  • In the TV series Christopher Columbus
    Christopher Columbus (TV series)
    Christopher Columbus was a television mini-series broadcast in Italy and the United States in 1985.In six hours, the series told the story of the life of Christopher Columbus with Gabriel Byrne starring as the eponymous character....

     (1985) he was played by Max von Sydow
    Max von Sydow
    Max von Sydow is a Swedish actor. He has also held French citizenship since 2002. He has starred in many films and had supporting roles in dozens more...

    .
  • He appears in Civilization IV
    Civilization IV
    Sid Meier's Civilization IV is a turn-based strategy, 4X computer game released in 2005 and developed by lead designer Soren Johnson under the direction of Sid Meier and Meier's studio Firaxis Games. It is the fourth installment of the Civilization series...

     (as João II), leading the Portuguese.

Ancestry





Marriage and descendants


Of his wife, Leonor of Viseu
Leonor of Viseu
Eleanor of Viseu was a Portuguese infanta and later queen consort of Portugal.To distinguish her from other infantas of the same name, she is commonly known as Eleanor of Viseu or Eleanor of Lancaster Eleanor of Viseu (2 May 1458–17 November 1525; ) was a Portuguese infanta (princess) and...

, Infanta of Portugal John had two sons, but only one of them survived childhood.
NameBirthDeathNotes
By Leonor of Viseu
Leonor of Viseu
Eleanor of Viseu was a Portuguese infanta and later queen consort of Portugal.To distinguish her from other infantas of the same name, she is commonly known as Eleanor of Viseu or Eleanor of Lancaster Eleanor of Viseu (2 May 1458–17 November 1525; ) was a Portuguese infanta (princess) and...

( 2 May 1458 – 17 November 1525; married in January 1471)
Infante Afonso 18 May 1475 13 July 1491 Prince of Portugal. Died in a horse riding accident. Because of the premature death of the prince the throne was inherited by Manuel of Viseu, Duke of Beja
Manuel I of Portugal
Manuel I , the Fortunate , 14th king of Portugal and the Algarves was the son of Infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, , by his wife, Infanta Beatrice of Portugal...

, son of Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, who reigned as Manuel I, 14th King of Portugal.
Infante João (John) 1483 1483  
By Ana de Mendonça
Ana de Mendonça
Ana de Mendonça was a maid of the Queen regnant of Castile, Joanna la Beltraneja, and a mistress of King John II of Portugal. They had one son, George, Duke of Coimbra....

(c. 1460-?)
Jorge
George, Duke of Coimbra
Jorge de Lencastre was a Portuguese Prince, illegitimate son of King John II of Portugal and Ana de Mendonça, a maid of Joanna la Beltraneja. He became the second Duke of Coimbra in 1509...

21 August 1481 22 July 1550 Natural son known as Jorge de Lencastre. Duke of Coimbra
Duke of Coimbra
Duke of Coimbra was an aristocratic Portuguese title with the level of Royal Dukedom, that is, associated with the Portuguese Royal House, created in 1415, by King John I of Portugal to the his 2nd. male son, Infante Pedro...

.
By Brites Anes
Brites Anes
Brites Anes was a mistress of King John II of Portugal. They had one daughter, Brites Anes de Santarém born ca. 1485....

(c. 1460-?)
Brites Anes de Santarém c. 1485 ? Natural daughter.