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King João II


13th Monarch of Portugal. Born in Lisbon on 4 1455, and died in Alvor on 25 October 1495.

He was the son of King Afonso V and Queen Isabel.

He ascended to the throne on 29 August 1481, already with some experience in governance.

When Afonso V participated in the Moroccan campaign João received the title of Regent, despite being quite young. Seven years later, he was at his father’s side in the conquest of Asilah.

From 1474 onwards he was in charge of policies in the Atlantic, being a great defenderof exploration in that area.

João II sponsored the voyages of Diogo Cão, who reached Serra Parda/Cross Point, discovered the mouth of the River Congo and explored the coast of Namibia in 1484;  the expedition of Bartolomeu Dias, who reached the south of the African continent and passed the Cape of Good Hope in 1488; that of Álvaro de Caminha, who began the colonisation of the islands of Sao Tomé and Príncipe in 1493; and the voyage of Pêro da Covilhã and Afonso Paiva, through the Mediterranean to Egypt and Ethiopia, with the intention of ‘opening the doorway’ to India to Christopher Columbus, thus convincing the monarch that it was possible to reach that land by sea.

On 7 June 1494 the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed.

In terms of domestic politics, João tried to reduce the power that the nobility had meanwhile acquired during his father’s reign, in order to concentrate all power in his hands and impose the authority of the crown. An authority that implied complete obedience by his people.

João married Leonor, his first cousin and daughter of the Infante Fernando, on 16 September 1473. They had 2 sons:

A boy, stillborn
Afonso, in 1475 (prince and heir)

He also had an adulterous relationship with Ana Furtado de Mendonça, with whom he had an illegitimate child:

Jorge, in 1481

After the death of his son, Afonso, in 1491, as a result of a mysterious fall from a horse, the line of succession became a major concern of his, reflecting a profound agony which would accompany the monarch until his death.

On 29 September 1495 João II wrote his will in Alcáçovas and named Manuel as heir to the throne.

On his death, he became legend, and earned the cognomen The Perfect Prince, due to the sheer worth of his achievements.

He was buried in the Monastery of Batalha. Firstly, in a lateral Chapel of the Church, as the pantheon being built for him had yet to be completed. Later in around 1901, his remains were placed in the Founder’s Chapel, where they are still found to this day.

He became known for the motto Pela Ley e Pela Grey (‘For the Law and for the People’)