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Manuel I

Manuel I

Manuel I (1469-1521) was king of Portugal from 1495 to 1521. Known as "the Fortunate," he oversaw the formation of the Portuguese Empire and strengthened the position of the monarchy.

The son of the Duke of Viseu, Manuel was born on May 31, 1469, at Alcochete. He was the cousin and brother-in-law of King John II of Portugal. The heir to the throne, Prince Afonso, was killed in an accident in 1491, and thereafter the royal succession devolved upon Manuel.

Manuel married in turn two daughters of the joint rulers of Castile and Aragon, Ferdinand and Isabella; his third marriage was to their granddaughter Leonor, sister of the emperor Charles V. Manuel's Spanish marriages extracted from him a reluctant promise to Ferdinand and Isabella to expel all Portuguese Jews. Himself unmoved by anti-Semitic passions, he accepted the "technical conversion" of the Jews, granting them a 20-year period of grace before allowing inquiries to be made into the character of their actual beliefs.

In other ways Manuel's policies more closely paralleled the centralizing measures of his Spanish in-laws. He restored the powerful Braganza faction, exiled under his predecessor. But he also turned the nobility into a pensioned clientele of the monarchy, and he ordered a revision of the legal code to bolster the royal supremacy. The government now passed under the control of administrative professionals, and the Cortes (Parliament) gave up its legislative initiative. He further reduced municipal liberties and suppressed the autonomous governing functions of the Lisbon guilds.

Abroad, although there was a decisive setback in the Portuguese effort to conquer North Africa, Manuel bolstered the Portuguese presence in Morocco. Under royal control, small-scale sugar production in Madeira was expanded to reach markets all over Europe. In West Africa the slave and gold trades increased their profitability, and the Portuguese expanded their influence in the Congo.

But the greatest achievements of Manuel's reign were the completion of the oceanic link with East Africa and India begun by Prince Henry the Navigator's captains; the discovery of Brazil; and the laying of the foundations of the Portuguese commercial empire in the East. The first of these tasks was entrusted to Vasco da Gama, whose epochal voyage (1497-1499) established direct contact with an Indian center of the spice trade, Calicut. On a second voyage to India, Pedro Álvares Cabral sailed far to the southwest and landed on a strip of Brazilian coast (April 1500) before heading eastward for the Cape of Good Hope.

Under two viceregal agents, Francisco de Almeida and Afonso de Albuquerque, the Portuguese made a dramatic, if not wholly successful, attempt to drive the Moslems from the Indian Ocean and to replace them and their Venetian commercial allies as spice merchants to Europe. Albuquerque acquired a permanent base of Portuguese power in Goa; and he pursued the retreating Moslems even farther east, to the Malay spice port of Malacca.

Yet, although these accomplishments brought in an immediate flow of treasure to the royal coffers, the Portuguese found their resources insufficient to complete their strategy of gaining total military-commercial control of Eastern waters. The Venetians were later to regain an important share of the Oriental spice trade, and the costs of covering the long Portuguese voyages, combined with falling prices based on the increased influx of spices, were to greatly reduce the profitability of the Eastern commercial empire to the Crown. Manuel died on Dec. 13, 1521.

Further Reading

An account of Manuel's reign is in H. V. Livermore, A New History of Portugal (1966). There is a vast literature in Portuguese and a growing number of studies in English concerned with Portuguese power in the East. A brief account of the concluding voyages of exploration and the first engagements in Eastern waters is Boies Penrose, Travel and Discovery in the Renaissance, 1420-1620 (1952). For the Portuguese Eastern Empire see any of the following works by Charles R. Boxer: "The Portuguese in the East, 1500-1800" in H. V. Livermore, ed., Portugal and Brazil: An Introduction (1953); Four Centuries of Portuguese Expansion, 1415-1825: A Succinct Survey (1961); and The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415-1825 (1969). A history of the region into which the Portuguese incursion was made is Auguste Toussaint, History of the Indian Ocean (1966). Extracts from firsthand accounts of the Portuguese ventures are in J. H. Parry, ed., The European Reconnaissance: Selected Documents (1968). □

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Manuel I (1469–1521)

Manuel I (14691521)

King of Portugal during whose reign the Portuguese extended their overseas empire and made it the largest among all European nations. Born in Alcochete, he was the grandson of King John I and the cousin and brother-in-law of John II, whom he succeeded as king in 1495. Although he was raised in a court of dangerous intrigue and violence, he was favored by John II as his heir after John's legitimate son died in an accident and his illegitimate son was denied the throne. For this reason Manuel is also known as the Fortunate.

Manuel was an enthusiastic supporter of Portugal's explorations in Asia and South America. During his reign, Vasco da Gama found a sea route to the Indian port of Calicut, Pedro Alvares Cabral discovered Brazil, and Portugal won a monopoly over the trade of the entire Indian Ocean. Portuguese merchants were settled in the Indian port of Goa, which served as a central base for Portugal's commercial empire in the east. These merchants brought home a fortune in trade goods from the East Indies, allowing the king the money to raise many important palaces and religious buildings designed in a uniquely national style known as Manueline. The king signed important trade treaties with China and Persia, and also was an energetic ruler at home, reforming the tax and justice systems and making the nobility more subservient to the king. He took two daughters of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella as wives, but failed in his ambition to unite the monarchies of Spain and Portugal and pass the throne on to his descendants. Although the Spanish monarchs demanded that Manuel expel all the Jews from his kingdom as a condition of these marriages, he instead allowed them to remain for a period of twenty years and banned any official inquiry into their religious beliefs.

See Also: Aviz, House of; da Gama, Vasco; exploration; Portugal

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Manuel I (1469–1521, king of Portugal)

Manuel I, 1469–1521, king of Portugal (1495–1521), successor of John II. Manuel's reign was most notable for the successful continuation of Portugal's overseas enterprises. John had planned the expedition in search of a sea route to India and had appointed Vasco da Gama to head it, but it was under Manuel that the epochal voyage was made (1497–99) and that the wealth of the Indies began to pour into Portugal. Cabral announced the discovery of the coast of Brazil (1500), and such commanders as Francisco de Almeida and Afonso de Albuquerque built up the Portuguese commercial empire. Portugal became the leading commercial nation of the West. This sudden wealth, however, soon had corrupting effects on officials and started the process of turning interest away from the agricultural and industrial development of Portugal itself. In order to marry Isabel, eldest daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Manuel accepted (1496) the Spanish condition that he expel the Jews and Moors from Portugal. However, because he did not wish to lose a community that had contributed much to learning and science in Portugal and had provided many able artisans, he first attempted a policy of forcible conversion of the Jews. Though Manuel promised that no investigation would be made into the faith of the "new Christians," he could not prevent the departure of some Jews. Nor could he prevent a great massacre of the Jews in Lisbon in 1506, though he punished the perpetrators. Manuel used his new wealth to erect some beautiful buildings, including the Hieronymite monastery at Belém (now in Lisbon), near the spot where Vasco da Gama embarked for India. He also revised the laws and strengthened the power of the king. He was succeeded by his son, John III.

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Manuel II (Byzantine emperor)

Manuel II (Manuel Palaeologus), 1350–1425, Byzantine emperor (1391–1425), son and successor of John V. In his youth he was taken captive by the Turks, and during his reign the Ottomans reduced the empire to Constantinople and its dependencies in the Peloponnesus. After the failure of the crusade of Sigismund of Hungary (later Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund) at Nikopol (1396), Manuel appealed to the West for aid and made a futile European journey (1399–1402) for that purpose. His nephew, John VII, was coemperor during that time and, with Boucicaut, defended Constantinople against the siege by Sultan Beyazid I. The victory of Timur over Beyazid at Ankara, in the same year, temporarily saved Constantinople. By 1422 the Turks were again strong enough to attack Constantinople, and in 1425 Manuel was forced to pay tribute to the sultan. Afflicted with partial paralysis in his last years, Manuel devoted himself to religious writing, entrusting the government to his son and successor, John VIII.

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Manuel II (1889–1932, king of Portugal)

Manuel II, 1889–1932, king of Portugal (1908–10), second son of Charles I. He succeeded to the throne after the assassination of his father and elder brother, but in Oct., 1910, a revolution dethroned Manuel and established a republic. The royal family escaped, and Manuel spent most of his remaining years in England enjoying his large fortune.

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