João III, king

(1502-1557)
   Portugal's most talented and accomplished monarch of the late Renaissance period. João III was the 15th king of Portugal, the son of King Manuel I. Well-educated by brilliant tutors, including the humanist Luís Teixeira, João at age 12 was introduced to the study of royal governance by his father. During his reign, Portugal reached the apogee of its world imperial power at least in terms of coastal area and number of different continents over which the scattered territories were spread. Portugal had a tenuous hold on various Moroccan cities, and during João's reign was forced to abandon most of the North African fortresses, due to Muslim military pressures. It was to the colonization and exploitation of giant Brazil, though, that João turned imperial attention. In diplomacy, no other monarch during the Aviz dynasty was as active; negotiations proceeded with Spain, France, and the Holy See. In domestic affairs, João III reinforced absolutist tendencies and built up royal power. It was João, too, who introduced the Inquisition into Portugal in 1536, after lengthy negotiations. The king encouraged a flowering of humanist culture as well, and among favored intellectuals were the great writers Gil Vicente and Damião de Góis.
   João III's reign was a vital turning point in the history of Portugal's first overseas empire (1415-1580). He found the empire at its zenith, yet when he died it was showing grave signs of weakness not only in Morocco, but in Asia, where rival European powers and the Turks were on the move. Portugal's very independence from Spain and even the royal succession were under a cloud when João III died in 1557 without a son to succeed him. Following tragic deaths of his children, João's only indirect heir was Sebastião, a grandson, who succeeded to rule a menaced Portugal.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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