Aviz, House of

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Aviz, House of

A ruling dynasty of Portugal that assumed power in 1385 with the coronation of Joao I, master of the Order of Aviz, as king. The Order of Aviz, symbolized by a green cross, was founded in the twelfth century to contend with the Moors, Islamic occupiers of the Iberian Peninsula. Under the kings of Aviz, Portgual became one of the wealthiest realms in Europe. Portuguese mariners explored the coasts of Africa, Asia, and the western hemisphere, laying claim to Brazil in South America and trading ports in the East Indies, India, and China.

The second ruler of the dynasty, Duarte I, the Philosopher, supported the founding of a school of navigation by his brother, Prince Henry the Navigator, at Sagres. Duarte allied Portugal with England by marrying Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of the English prince John of Gaunt. His son, Afonso V, succeeded him in 1438 at the age of six. After coming of age, Afonso attacked and conquered several important ports in North Africa, earning the nickname of the African. Joao II, coming to power in 1481, dealt with rebellious nobles in his country who were being supported by the Spanish realm of Castile. To put an end to the conspiracies, Joao summoned three noblemen to his royal palace and murdered them.

Manuel I reigned from 1495 until 1521. This was an important time for overseas trade and the establishment of Portugal's far-flung colonial empire. Portuguese explorers traveled to Brazil, discovered routes across the Indian Ocean, and staked Portuguese claims in India. The style of Portuguese architecture known as Manueline was named after this illustrious king. Under Joao III, called the Grocer King, Portugal sent missions to China and Japan, colonized Brazil, and secured a monopoly in the rich trade of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon from the East Indies. Joao's successor Sebastian I died fighting in Morocco in 1578.

Sebastian never married and died without an heir, the vacancy leading to a violent struggle over the throne of Portugal. Anthony, grandson of Manuel I, claimed his right to inherit the throne in 1580 but was opposed by Philip II, king of Spain and a member of the Habsburg dynasty. Philip defeated Anthony at the Battle of Alcantara, after which Anthony retreated to the Azores Islands and Philip assumed power, ending the reign of the House of Aviz. Until 1640 Portugal and Spain would be united under the rule of the Habsburgs.

See Also: Henry the Navigator; Manuel I; Philip II; Portugal