As a member of the House of Aviz, he played a pivotal role in the expansion of the Portuguese Empire during the Age of Discovery. His reign witnessed numerous Portuguese discoveries and expeditions that shaped the course of history. Manuel's support for explorers like Vasco da Gama led to the establishment of the Portuguese India Armadas and ensured Portugal's dominance in the lucrative spice trade. This article delves into the life and achievements of King Manuel I, highlighting his contributions to exploration, colonization, art, and religious policies.

Manuel I was born on May 31, 1469, in Alcochete, Portugal. He was the ninth child of Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, and Beatriz of Portugal. His lineage connected him to prominent figures in Portuguese history, including his sister Eleanor of Viseu, who was married to King John II of Portugal. Manuel grew up in a time of political turmoil, marked by conspiracies against King John II. However, his fate took a fortunate turn when he was chosen as the heir to the throne, succeeding John II in 1495. This stroke of luck earned him the nickname "the Fortunate" and set the stage for his transformative reign.

Manuel's first marriage took place in 1490 when he wedded Isabella of Aragon, the daughter of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. However, tragedy struck their union when Isabella passed away only one year after their wedding, leaving Manuel a widower. Undeterred, he sought another alliance to strengthen his position on the European stage.

In 1497, Manuel I married Maria of Aragon, Isabella's sister and the widow of Manuel's own nephew, Prince Afonso. This marriage not only solidified the bond between Portugal and Spain but also brought forth a harmonious family life. Manuel and Maria had eight children together, comprising three sons and five daughters. Their children included Prince John, who would succeed Manuel as King John III, as well as Prince Afonso, who tragically died at a young age. The couple's daughters married into various European royal families, further cementing Portugal's diplomatic ties.

Despite the stability of his marriage to Maria of Aragon, Manuel's marital alliances were not without controversy. It is worth noting that in order to marry Maria, Manuel agreed to persecute the Jewish population of Portugal, leading to their expulsion from the country. This decision strained relations with the Jewish community and shaped Manuel's legacy in the context of religious tolerance. Recommends

King Manuel I of Portugal's marriage to Eleanor of Austria was a strategic alliance that aimed to strengthen political and diplomatic relations between Portugal and the Habsburg Empire. The marriage took place in 1518, marking Manuel's third marriage after the deaths of his first two wives. Eleanor, the sister of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, brought with her a substantial dowry and valuable connections across Europe. Despite the significant age difference between them, Manuel and Eleanor developed a close and affectionate relationship. Eleanor's influence was notable in the Portuguese court, where she introduced a refined Habsburg courtly culture. Their marriage was fruitful in terms of diplomacy, as it solidified the alliance between Portugal and the Habsburg Empire and contributed to the political stability of both kingdoms.

One of Manuel's notable achievements was the expansion of the Portuguese Empire through exploration and colonization. Under his patronage, Portuguese navigators made groundbreaking discoveries, opening up new trade routes and establishing Portuguese presence in distant lands. The most famous of these expeditions was Vasco da Gama's successful voyage to India in 1498. This discovery paved the way for the creation of the Portuguese India Armadas, securing Portugal's monopoly on the spice trade and establishing lucrative trade networks.

Manuel's reign also witnessed other significant explorations. In 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered Brazil, laying the foundation for Portuguese colonization in the Americas. Gaspar and Miguel Corte-Real's voyages led to the discovery of Labrador in present-day Canada. The Portuguese also made advancements in Africa and Asia, with the establishment of trade empires across regions like the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf, and Southeast Asia. These achievements not only brought immense wealth to Portugal but also contributed to the development of global trade and cultural exchange.

To manage Portugal's monopolies and oversee imperial expansion, Manuel I established the Casa da Índia, a royal institution responsible for coordinating trade and exploration efforts. Manuel provided financial support to renowned Portuguese navigators, including Pedro Álvares Cabral, who discovered Brazil, and Afonso de Albuquerque, a key figure in establishing Portuguese dominance in the Indian Ocean. These explorers greatly expanded the Portuguese territories and secured Portugal's position as a global maritime power.

King Manuel I of Portugal had a complex religious policy that reflected the political and social dynamics of his time. While he was personally devout and invested a significant portion of Portuguese income in missionary activities and the construction of religious buildings, his treatment of different religious groups varied. Initially, Manuel's relationship with the Portuguese Jews was positive, as he released all Jews who had been made captive during the reign of his predecessor, John II. However, his desire to marry Infanta Isabella of Aragon, whose parents had expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492, led to a shift in his stance. In the marriage contract, Manuel agreed to persecute the Jews of Portugal.

In December 1496, a decree was issued that forced all Jews in Portugal to convert to Christianity or leave the country without their children. The expulsion of Jews from Portugal marked the end of their presence in the country. Those who chose expulsion were met with attempts at coercion and promises of baptism by clerics and soldiers when they arrived at the port in Lisbon. This policy resulted in the forced conversion of many Jews, who became known as "New Christians." A grace period of thirty years was granted to the converted Jews and their descendants, during which no inquiries into their faith were allowed. However, this grace period eventually ended in 1534. The Lisbon massacre of 1506, in which thousands of accused Jews were murdered, further exemplified the persecution faced by this community during Manuel's reign.

Additionally, Manuel I ordered the expulsion of Muslims from Portugal and put pressure on Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to end the toleration of Islam in their own kingdom. These actions indicate Manuel's determination to establish a unified Christian identity within his realm. By expelling Jews and Muslims, Manuel aimed to consolidate religious homogeneity and align Portugal with the religious policies of other European powers at the time. Despite his religious fervor and efforts to promote missionary activities, Manuel's policies towards non-Christian communities were marked by discrimination and persecution, reflecting the prevailing attitudes of the period.

King Manuel I's reign coincided with the Portuguese Renaissance, characterized by a flourishing of arts, literature, and architecture. Manuel was a great patron of the arts and sponsored numerous Portuguese intellectuals and artists. Among them was playwright Gil Vicente, known as the father of Portuguese and Spanish theatre. Manuel's support for the arts led to significant cultural and literary achievements during his reign.

The Manueline style, named after the king, became Portugal's national architecture. This architectural style incorporated elements of late Gothic, Renaissance, and Moorish influences, resulting in intricate and ornate designs. Examples of the Manueline style can be seen in iconic structures such as the Monastery of Jerónimos and the Belém Tower.

King Manuel I, a significant figure in Portuguese history, met his demise in December 1521, amidst a tumultuous period for Lisbon. As the city grappled with the devastating Black Plague outbreak, Manuel and his court found themselves confined within the walls of Ribeira Palace. It was within this quarantine that the king began experiencing symptoms of a severe fever, which progressively debilitated him. Sadly, on the 13th of December, at the age of 52, King Manuel I passed away, leaving behind a legacy that would be carried forward by his successor, his son John III of Portugal.

The news of Manuel's death reverberated throughout the nation, casting a somber veil over the capital. The following day, his body, lovingly enshrined in a black velvet-draped coffin, was transported to the Belém district of Lisbon. The funeral procession was a grand affair, attracting throngs of mourners who came to pay their respects to the departed monarch. As the procession advanced, the air filled with a palpable sense of grief and reverence for the ruler who had guided the nation through both prosperity and turmoil.

Temporarily laid to rest at Restelo Church, Manuel's final resting place was destined to be the royal pantheon of the House of Aviz, nestled within the grandeur of Jerónimos Monastery. In 1551, his mortal remains, accompanied by those of his second wife Maria of Aragon, were transferred to their permanent abode at the monastery. In an intimate ceremony attended solely by the royal family and the Portuguese nobility, four distinguished nobles of the realm, including the Duke of Braganza, the Duke of Coimbra, and the Marquis of Vila Real, solemnly undertook the responsibility of interring the coffin.

King Manuel I's death marked the end of an era, leaving behind a mixed legacy characterized by his religious policies and ambitious endeavors. As Portugal mourned the loss of its ruler, the nation stood poised on the precipice of a new chapter, ready to be penned by the hand of his successor. The passing of the crown from father to son would usher in a period of further exploration, political maneuvering, and cultural achievements that would shape the course of Portuguese history. Though Manuel's mortal remains found their eternal repose within the hallowed walls of Jerónimos Monastery, his impact on Portugal's past and future continues to resonate to this day.