Manuel I Rei de Portugal, known as the Fortunate, o Blessed or the Lucky. He was born in Alcochete, a town near Lisbon in 1469 and died in Lisbon in the year 1521. Ninth son of Infantes D. Fernando, 2nd Duke of Viseu and D. Beatriz, married D. Isabel, daughter of the Catholic Kings.
With the Queen’s death due to childbirth, he married second wife the Infanta D. Maria de Castela, sister of D. Isabel, with whom he had ten children, in addition to the first child with his previous wife. Again a widower, he married Infanta D. Leonor, having two more children.
With the death of D. Afonso, legitimate successor to the throne of his priest King D. João II, D. Manuel I was acclaimed as his legatee to the throne in 1495.
King Manuel I’s policy was a continuation line of the previous governments. He continued with the Portuguese overseas exploration campaigns, expeditions that were decisive for the expansion of the empire and that led to the discoveries of Brazil by Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500, of the way to India by Vasco da Gama in 1498 and of the Moluccas by Admiral D. Afonso de Albuquerque in 1511.
Likewise, he received from his predecessor a powerful and centralized government with a strong tendency towards absolutism. D. Manuel dedicated himself to tax, legislative and administrative reforms. These reforms were fundamental to configure the Kingdom of Portugal as a modern state.
But the history of this king, which meant so much to the history of Portugal, is also a part worthy of the best soap operas.
Princess D. Leonor was destined for the wife of Prince D. João, heir to the crown of Portugal, and they were both still very young. King Manuel, however, who was widowed for the second time, seeing the portrait of the young princess, who was only nineteen, and says the tradition is of rare beauty, was so pleased with her charms that he decided to choose her for his wife, ignoring the pretensions of the prince his son, thus making his third nuptials.
Carlos V had been acclaimed as emperor of Germany, and had come from Flanders to Zaragoza, where he had met the court, and D. Manuel, on the pretext of congratulating him on having girded the imperial crown, sent Zaragoza as his ambassador, and Major Álvaro da Costa, but the main purpose of this embassy was to deal with the wedding, very secretly, given the circumstances that were taking place.
Álvaro da Costa carried out his mission with great diligence and diplomacy, the proposal was well accepted by the court of Castile, and the negotiations were quickly concluded.
The marriages took place in the same city of Zaragoza on 16 July 1518, with prosecutors being appointed to deal with Ambassador Álvaro da Costa, Cardinal Florent, Bishop of Tortosa, who later was Pope Adriano VI, Guilherme de Croy, duke of Sora; and João le Sauvage, lord of Strambeque.
This marriage of D. Manuel caused a certain astonishment in Portugal, because the monarch had been inconsolable by the death of his second wife, saying that he abdicated the crown on his son, and retired to the Penha Longa convent.
The prince felt great disgust, because he had also fallen in love with the portrait of his future wife, who had now become a stepmother.
After the marriage contracts were concluded, the new queen D. Leonor left Zaragoza, and entered Portugal through Castelo de Vide with the accompaniment of nobles.
The monarch was waiting for her at Crato, and on November 24th there were pompous parties. As there was plague in Lisbon, the royal spouses left with the entire court for Almeirim, where they stayed until the following summer, then passing to Évora, returning to Lisbon only when the epidemic was completely extinguished
D. Manuel I died in December 1521, leaving two more children with his third marriage. It is said, after widowing, D. Leonor recovered his destiny. The 23-year-old woman had a secret relationship with her stepson, D. João III. The secret love for her ex-fiance was a way to recover the lines of destiny that had been broken by D. Manuel I.