John II of Portugal (1455-1495)
The Perfect Prince ( o Príncipe Perfeito) was the son of King Afonso V of Portugal by his wife Isabella of Coimbra. Queen Isabella died when John and his older sister Joanna were still very young, and both grew close to their aunt, Filipa, an artist and scholar who wrote the first extant poetry by a Portuguese woman. Prince John was provided with an education suitable for a royal, which included fluency in Latin and a knowledge of science and art. He was married to his cousin Eleanor of Viseu in 1471. Prince John was 15 at the time, and his spouse just 12. They had two sons, but only one of them survived childhood. 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 were afraid of his future policies as king.
John participated in his father’s conquest of Arzila in Morocco, where he was knighted, and was given a separate household at Beja in southern Portugal. In 1474 his father entrusted him with the “trade of Guinea” and the African explorations. When Afonso V claimed the Castilian throne in opposition to Isabella I, plunging Portugal into war, he appointed John his regent. The Prince mobilized an army and marched to support his father, but the venture was a disastrous one. In August 1481, he succeeded Afonso V and became King John II of Portugal.
John II was an astute politician and statesman, and a patron of Renaissance art and learning. 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. Following the crackdown, no one in the country dared to defy the king and John II 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.
John II took in Jewish refugees from Spain’s famous 1492 expulsion, and founded what was the most modern medical facility in the world at the time, All Saints Hospital in Lisbon. John II’s royal treasury financed numerous expeditions that mapped out the African coast. King John refused to help Columbus, whom he thought a dreamer, but he encouraged the search for an eastern sea route to India. In 1484, Diogo Cão discovered the Congo, and in 1488, Bartholomeu Diaz discovered the Cape of Good Hope. John II maintained peace with Spain and signed the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, setting bounds for Spanish and Portuguese colonial expansion. Her son Prince Afonso died in a horse riding accident, and four years later, King John II died at Alvor aged only 40 years old, without leaving a male heir apparent. He was succeeded by his first cousin Manoel I. King John II of Portugal was admired as one of the greatest European monarchs of his time. Isabella I of Castile usually referred to him as El Hombre (The Man).
Álvaro Monje played John II of Portugal in TV Series “Isabel”