John II of Portugal

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John II (Portuguese pronunciation: [ʒuˈɐ̃w̃]; Portuguese: João II) (3 March 1455 – 25 October 1495), the Perfect Prince (Port. o Príncipe Perfeito), was the thirteenth king of Portugal and the Algarves. He is known for reestablishing the power of the Portuguese throne, reinvigorating its economy, and renewing its exploration of Africa and the Orient.


Early life

Born in Lisbon, the son of King Afonso V of Portugal 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 and was made a knight by him after the victory in the Conquest of Arzila in 1471. In 1473, he married Leonor of Viseu, Infanta of Portugal and his first cousin.

Even at a young age, he 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, the Duke of Braganza) were afraid of his future policies as king.

Consolidation of Power

After the 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. In 1483, this correspondence was intercepted by royal spies. The House of Braganza was outlawed, their lands confiscated and the duke executed in Évora.

In the following year, the Duke of Viseu, 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.

The king is reported to have said, concerning the rebellious nobles: "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.

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