Manuel I (Portugal)

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King Manuel I, the lucky one, of Portugal

Manuel I ( Portuguese Dom Manuel I ), called "Emanuel the Happy" ( O Venturoso ), (born May 31, 1469 in Alcochete , † December 13, 1521 in Lisbon ), is considered one of the most important kings of Portugal . He came from the house of Avis and ruled from 1495 to 1521. Under his rule, Portugal experienced an economic, political and cultural boom, a so-called Golden Age . The sea ​​route to India was discovered and a first colonial empire was built inIndian Ocean to secure the Indian trade and the discovery of Brazil . The splendid Manueline architecture is named after him.


The question of succession to the throne

Manuel I was a son of Ferdinand of Portugal-Viseu and Beatrix of Portugal. He was therefore a grandson of King Edward I on his father's side and a great-grandson of King John I , the first ruler of the House of Avis , on both his father's and mother 's side .

However, since he came from a younger line of the family on both his father's and his mother's side, he was not destined to succeed the throne from birth. In 1491 , however, the heir to the throne, Alfons, died before his father. Since King John II no longer succeeded in fathering an heir, and since the king's attempts to have his illegitimate favorite son declared heir to the throne, the succession finally fell to Manuel as the closest male relative of John II. The fact that Manuel was able to ascend the throne was also thanks to Queen Eleonore , the wife of John II. She was Manuel's sister and fought vigorously for Manuel's claim to the throne and against her husband's illegitimate son.

Even before he was appointed heir to the throne, Manuel held high offices. He was Duke of Viseu and Beja and Grand Master of the Order of Christ . In 1495 he ascended the Portuguese throne himself after the death of John II.

Manuel I, silver coin from 1994, 25 ECU

Establishment of the colonial empire

Dom Manuel I on the elephant Hanno , which he gave as a gift to Pope Leo X in Rome in 1514 (contemporary cover illustration of Leitura Nova )
The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Belém, Lisbon

Just three years later, in 1498 , Vasco da Gama discovered the sea ​​route to India, which had been sought since the days of Henry the Navigator . Portugal rose to global power and Manuel became the richest ruler in Europe. Under his rule, bases and colonies were established in different continents.


Portugal had already established numerous bases on the western coasts of Africa before the reign of Manuel I. Under Manuel's rule, only a few new bases were established on the African coast or the islands in the Atlantic. The first settlement on Príncipe was built in 1500 and the Fort St. Antonio in Axim was built in 1515 , which served as an important transshipment point for the slave trade . In 1501 the island of St. Helena in the Atlantic was taken by João da Nova for Portugal.

In order to supply the fleets going to India, it was necessary to have bases on the eastern coasts. The Portuguese concluded an alliance with the trading town of Melinde in what is now Kenya in 1500, after which the town became an important base for the Portuguese in East Africa for decades until 1593. Ships that got into distress while circumnavigating the southern tip of Africa could be repaired at the local shipyard . Also in 1500 Diogo Dias discovered Mauritius and La Réunion and thus a possibility of an alternative route to India in case a fleet missed the monsoon . In 1503 a trading post followed on the Zanzibar archipelago . In 1505 the whole archipelago was taken over as a colony. Also in 1505 was in Sofala the great stone fortress with the construction of São Caetano de Sofala started. The construction of the fortress was completed in 1512 after 7 years. The Portuguese believed they had reached the biblical Ophir here. Subsequently, the Portuguese from Sofala tried to get their hands on the South African gold trade from the Manicas gold fields in the Munhumutapa empire . The constant influx of precious metals from sub-Saharan Africa allowed King Manuel to issue the cruzado , a gold coin that became the international unit of account. In 1510 the Portuguese built Fort São Sebastião on the island of Ilha de Moçambique . From then on it served as the central administrative seat of the East African colonies and as a base for supplying the Portuguese travelers to India with water and provisions.

middle East

In order to enforce the trade monopoly in the Indian Ocean, attempts were made under the rule of Manuel I to take not only the ports exporting spices in India and Asia, but also the importing ports of the Middle East on the previous trade route. This also largely succeeded. Only the conquest of Aden failed in 1513 after a siege under Afonso de Albuquerque . As a result, the entrance to the Red Sea and this itself remained under Arab control. In addition to his mercantile interests, Manuel I also pursued a religious agenda in the Middle East. In order to reduce the influence of the Islamic states, they sought the empire of the legendary priest king Johannes . After the discovery of the Christian kingdom in Ethiopia, an embassy under Francisco Álvares was sent there to make an alliance with Negus David II . Manuel I hoped to destroy Islam in an alliance . But neither the Portuguese war campaign of 1517 under Lopo Soares de Albergaria towards Jeddah and Mecca nor the war between Ethiopia and the Sultanate of Adal brought success. As a direct result of the Portuguese campaign in 1517 through the Red Sea in the immediate vicinity of the holiest cities of Islam, the Sherif of Mecca submitted to the Ottoman Empire , from which they hoped for protection.

In 1507, Muscat , Suhar , Quriat and Sur were taken, most of the port cities in what is now Oman . In 1515 Hormuz , which controlled trade between India and what is now Iran , was conquered and the great fortress Forte de Nossa Senhora da Conceição de Ormuz was built.

Estado da India

The first explorers who had found the sea route to India ( India trade ) were followed by the conquerors: first Francisco de Almeida , who was appointed Viceroy of India by the king , then Afonso de Albuquerque , who had extensive powers as governor . They set up a number of bases, both trading posts mainly for the pepper trade , and military bases, and advanced further east beyond India.

In 1502 the first permanent settlement in Asia was founded with Fort Manuel in Cochin and functioned as the first capital of the Portuguese in India until 1510. In 1504 a small Portuguese army with the help of allied troops from Cochin under Duarte Pacheco Pereira succeeded in defeating a large Indian army of the Zamorins of Kalikut and consolidating the Portuguese presence in India. In 1505 the fortress of St. Angelo was built in Cannanore . In 1509 a large united Egyptian-Arab-Indian fleet was destroyed during the naval battle of Diu and Portugal achieved unrestricted naval supremacy in the Indian Ocean for almost 100 years . Then the Portuguese introduced a kind of tax or a kind of protection money for all non-Portuguese merchant ships that sailed the Indian Ocean. In 1510, Afonso de Albuquerque occupied Goa , which quickly developed into the most important Portuguese trading post in India and served as the Portuguese capital in India from 1510 to 1961. In 1517 the first fort was built in Colombo and Ceylon came more and more under Portuguese influence, whereby Portugal achieved a monopoly in the cinnamon trade. In 1518 the Forte de São Tomé was built in Quilon . From 1520/1521 the trading hub Chaul came under Portuguese control.

East asia

In 1511 de Albuquerque conquered Malacca (now in Malaysia ). The city on the Strait of Malacca controlled both the route between India and China and the route to the Spice Islands in the east. Then the great fortress A Famosa was built in Malacca . The Moluccas were discovered in the same year by an expedition led by António de Abreu and Francisco Serrão . On Ternate and Batjan the first factories were established in 1513. Ternate in particular then became the center of the Portuguese presence on the Moluccas and the starting point of the spice route to Lisbon. Nutmeg , mace and cloves were imported to Europe from these islands .

The spice route from the Moluccas to Lisbon

In 1511 Macassar was reached and in 1512 the first trading post was built. Timor was discovered in 1512 and in 1515 the first Dominicans came to Timor as missionaries. Portugal had thus brought the extraordinarily lucrative spice trade under its control, and the Arabs' previous monopoly of trade in spices was broken. Lisbon developed into the central trading center in Europe for spices and other goods from the east. The trade was organized by the Casa da Índia . Every year a fleet was sent to Asia, the so-called Armadas da Índia . From 1520, the Fernão de Magalhães mission , which had previously been dismissed by Manuel from grace, caused tensions between Manuel I and his brother-in-law Charles V. Both interpreted the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas differently and claimed the Moluccas. In 1520 Manuel therefore commissioned the construction of the São João Baptista de Ternate fortress on Ternate , which was built after his death in 1522. In 1520 Solor came and in 1521 Ambon came under the influence of the Portuguese


In 1513 Jorge Álvares was the first European to reach China by direct sea route . In 1517, on the instructions of Manuel I, the first official embassy under Tomé Pires was sent to the court of the Chinese Emperor Zhengde from the Ming dynasty . The trip was unsuccessful and Pires died in captivity in China. As a result, there was war between China and Portugal. A first Portuguese base in Tamão , built in 1519, was lost in 1521. It was not until 1553 that the Portuguese succeeded in gaining a permanent foothold in China with the colony of Macau .


Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered Brazil by chance on the second voyage to India in 1500 and took possession of it for Portugal. In 1502 and 1503 the coasts of the country were explored under Gonçalo Coelho , Amerigo Vespucci and Gaspar de Lemos . In 1502 the Guanabara Bay was discovered and the name Rio de Janeiro was given to the place. Subsequently, the formally occupied land, which the Portuguese called Terra da Santa Cruz ("Land of the Holy Cross"), was leased for an annual sum to a private trading consortium under Fernão de Noronha . In 1504 the Fernando de Noronha archipelago was handed over to Noronha by Manuel I as "capitania do mar" no litoral as the first Brazilian overseas fiefdom. From 1504 the consortium organized an annual fleet to Brazil.

Global claim

Manuel I conquered large parts of Morocco from the Arabs in 1513–1515 . The royal title of Manuel shows the global claim that the Portuguese monarchy made at that time: Rei de Portugal e dos Algarves e Senhor da conquista, navegação, e comércio da India, Etiópia, Arábia e Pérsia (German King of Portugal and the Algarve, Lord of the conquests, the seafaring and the trade with India, Ethiopia, Arabia and Persia ). Manuel expressed his claim to be master of trade with India by having several elephants imported from Asia regularly accompany him to the cathedral in Lisbon, one of which he called Hanno as a gift to Pope Leo X in Rome .

Under Manuel I, Portugal experienced a previously unknown cultural heyday, the so-called Golden Age . The country's overseas activities began to bear fruit, with large quantities of valuable goods, especially gold and silver, flowing into the motherland from the colonies. Since overseas trade to Africa and Asia was a royal monopoly and the new colonies were declared crown property, the king himself benefited above all from this wealth. Manuel used it to build fantastic buildings in the Manueline style named after him . The legal, educational and health systems were also reformed under his rule.

Persecution of the Jews

Epistola de victoria contra infideles habita , 1507

In terms of domestic politics, Manuel I finally prevailed against the landed gentry. The tax system was perfected, but further domestic policy was burdened by the expulsion of the Jews . Jews had lived in the country since late antiquity, i.e. before the Christian era and before the founding of the Kingdom of Portugal. From 1490, however , complaints about the Jews as moneylenders were increasingly loud in the Cortes , the Portuguese aristocratic parliament. In 1492 the Catholic Kings expelled the Jews from their territories, 60,000 of them fled to Portugal. In the negotiations with the Catholic Kings, which in 1497 led to the wedding of the king with their daughter Isabella of Aragon and Castile , the members of the Cortes demanded that Portugal should also expel its Jews. This happened in 1496. However, those Jews who were baptized should be allowed to stay. In 1504 and 1506, however, there were anti-Jewish pogroms in Lisbon against the so-called "New Christians" (Cristãos-Novos).

Marriage and Offspring

It was also agreed with the Catholic Kings to unite the three great Iberian empires (Portugal, Castile and Aragon) through a targeted marriage policy. After the heir to the throne died in Spain in 1497, Isabella was designated heiress to the Catholic Kings. However, she died a year after her marriage to Manuel I of complications after the birth of her first son, Michael. He also died in his second year of life.

After Isabella's death, Manuel remarried a daughter of the Catholic Kings, the Infanta Maria. But not she, but her older sister Johanna ("the madwoman") inherited the Spanish crown, which finally fell to the Habsburgs through her marriage to Philip the Fair . Manuel I also established family relationships with the new ruling family. After Mary's death, his last marriage was Eleanor, a sister of the Roman-German Emperor Charles V (as Charles I, King of Spain).

The coat of arms of the Portuguese kings from John II to Manuel II.

Manuel I was married three times.

  • In his first marriage he married Isabella of Aragón and Castile (1470–1498) from the House of Trastámara y Trastámara in 1497. With her he had a son:
    • Michael , Crown Prince of Portugal, Castile and Aragon (1498–1500)
  • In his second marriage he married in 1500 Maria of Aragon and Castile (1482–1517) from the house of Trastámara y Trastámara. From this connection emerged:
    • Johann III. (1502–1557), King of Portugal
    • Isabella (1503–1539) ⚭ Emperor Charles V , Holy Roman Emperor (= King Charles I of Spain)
    • Beatriz (1504–1538) ⚭ 1521 Charles III. Duke of Savoy
    • Ludwig (Luis) (1506–1555), Duke of Beja
    • Ferdinand (1507–1534), Duke of Guarda and of Tancoso
    • Alfons (1509-1540), cardinal
    • Maria (1511-1513)
    • Heinrich (1512–1580), cardinal, King of Portugal
    • Eduard (Duarte), fourth Duke of Guimarães (1515–1540) ⚭ Isabella (Isabel) of Braganza
    • Anton (António) (* 1516, died as a small child)
  • In his third marriage in 1519 he finally married Eleanor of Castile (1498–1558) from the House of Habsburg . With this niece of his first two wives, he had two more children:
    • Karl (Carlos) (1520-1521)
    • Maria (1521–1577), Duchess of Viseu


John I of Portugal (1357–1433)
Edward I of Portugal (1391-1438)
Philippa of Lancaster (1360-1415)
Ferdinand of Portugal-Viseu (1433–1470)
Ferdinand I of Aragon (1380-1416)
Eleanor of Aragon (1402–1445)
Eleanor Urraca of Castile (1374–1435)
Manuel I (Portugal) (1469-1521)
John I of Portugal (1357–1433)
John of Portugal (1400–1442)
Philippa of Lancaster (1360-1415)
Beatrix of Portugal (1430–1506)
Alfonso of Braganza (1377–1461)
Isabella of Braganza (1402–1465)
Beatrice Pereira de Alvim

See also


  • Peter Feige: Manuel I . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA) . tape 6 . Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1993, ISBN 3-7608-8906-9 , Sp. 210 f .
  • Roger Crowley : The Conquerors: Portugal's Struggle for an Empire . Translation Norbert Juraschitz; Hans Freundl. Darmstadt: Theiss, 2016
  • Helmut Pemsel : Maritime rule: A maritime world history from the beginnings to 1850 . Augsburg 1995

Web links

Commons : Manuel I of Portugal  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ LA Rebello da Silva: Corpo diplomatico Portuguez . Lisbon, 1862; I, p. 236; quoted in Stephan Oettermann : The curiosity of the elephant. An Elephantographia Curiosa . Syndikat, Frankfurt am Main 1982, p. 107
predecessor government office successor
Johann II. King of Portugal
Johann III.