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Named in honor of his great grandfather, Edward III of England, Duarte I of Portugal gave impulse to the incipient voyages of exploration to the coasts of Africa by Portuguese mariners and navigators during the XIV century.
"Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom." - Lao-Tse.
Duarte was born in 1391, the son of king Joćo I of Portugal and his wife, queen Philippa (see Joćo I de Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster); naturally, the conditions of his upbringing were far better than those that common people could afford at the time, but in the particular case of the House of Avis, and unlike the rule even for chiefs of state of the time, he actually received an exceptional education[1.70].
The work had begun with their parents, but Duarte and his siblings that survived into adulthood became an exceptional generation of leaders that turned Portugal into a superpower.
He was known as "The Eloquent" or "The philosopher" since he was already a well-cultivated writer by the time he became king in 1433, when his father died of the plague; some of his works include "O Leal Conselheiro" and "Livro Da Ensinanēa De Bem Cavalgar Toda Sela".
Leaning towards consensus and debate instead of imposition, his somewhat short reign was considered peaceful and reasonable. During that time, he continued the policy started by his parents concerning the exploration of Africa. His brother, the Duke of Viseu, also known as Henry the Navigator (see Henry the Navigator) and his "School of Sagres" made some of the key advances in the development of ocean going ships during the reign of Duarte, that later enabled Europeans to essentially turn Western civilization into a dominant force.
However, the country also suffered some serious blows during the time: After capturing Ceuta under the assumption that such a possession would guarantee a monopoly on the trade of spice and gold, it was soon realized that the city was of no much use without conquering also Tangiers. Ceuta, in fact, was draining the national treasury and so, the decision was made to attack the Tangiers stronghold.
The campaign proved disastrous: the Portuguese army there was captured after they suffered a counter siege, and they were only allowed to depart after they promised to turn Ceuta back to its former owners - the Marinids. Henry - Duarte's brother - who was in charge of the expedition, left another of his brothers as hostage. Fernando would die in captivity some years later.
These events certainly played a role in the oceanic expansion of Portugal; it is difficult to measure how much this weighted in the end but the original idea of the Portuguese was to conquer Ceuta in order to get control over commerce of spice and gold, and then, go on exploring and conquering strongolds to establish an alternate route to the commercial sources of their interest, which were India and China. The conquest of Ceuta provided them with a strategic advantage indeed but not in a commercial sense, so, in order to continue with their plans to go around Africa, perhaps esablishing an alliance with the kingdom of Prester John, which was believed to exist at the time, and reaching India in the end, they had to give even more impulse to the development of naval technology and the subsequent exploration efforts.
It was then that Jewish financiers began taking part in such projects, like the Sampayo - Belmontes which gave rise to the Schoenberg family after marrying the Mascarenhas and Lancasters (see Dom Iago de Sampayo y Belmonte) to which we belong; many of the families of the nobility and of course, even the royal family - the Lancasters and Mascarenhas, related to the royal family, were partly Jewish -, were by then related by blood to the Jewish high class. That brew a popular anti Semitic feeling that would eventually erupt a few decades later with the expulsion of all Jews from Spain in 1492, and from Portugal in 1535 after a series of troubles and massacres (see The Easter Massacre and The Mother of All Mistakes). This explusion would eventually had direct consequences for both the Spanish as well the Portuguese empires, since it deprived them of skilled workers and significant financial sources. That, along with the opressive mentality of the Inquisition, eroded any possibility of both countries to respod to the challenges imposed by competing nations such as France, England and the Dutch.
Soon after the Tangiers defeat debates ensued in the Portuguese cortes about the treaty and the convenience of continuing the exploration campaigns thorough the African land; some insisted that it should be honored, while others, including Henry - who had signed it - told Duarte that he should reject it. Finally, it was rejected and Ceuta was never returned, and that's why Fernando ever returned either. The same year - 1438 - Duarte died of the plague. His son, Afonso, was too young to rule and so, a regent had to be put in place. If building up a trust to manage the fortune of some young heir is complicated in the present, it is not difficult to understand what it meant several centuries ago, especially concerning a kingdom.
It was expected that one of Duarte's brother would take that place, but he appointed by will his wife, Leonor de Aragón, who was accepted among the nobles but rather unwelcomed among the common people ostensibly because she was a foreigner, which is odd since her mother-in-law Philippa of Lancaster was also a foreigner but well-liked.
The problem rose to a scale of an impending civil war, since subjects wanted Pedro de Coimbra to take the place, while Leonor had it by will of the deceased king. The situation was defused by a complicated and difficult to keep truce. National identity in Portugal was a problem at the time, and the presence of foreign members in the royal family generated mistrust, especially if they came from Spain.
Not only for familiar curiosity, but alos as a matter of state, Duarte I had several sons and daughters with Leonor:
Joćo (1429 - 1433).
Philippa (1430 - 1439).
Afonso (1432 - 1481), who became king Afonso V of Portugal, from whom the Schoenberg family descends (see Afonso V, The African).
Marķa (1432 - 1432).
Fernando (1433 - 1470).
Leonora (1434 - 1467); married Frederick V von Habsburg and became Holy Roman Empress.
Duarte (1435 - 1435).
Catalina (1436 - 1463).
Juana (1439 - 1475); became queen consort by marriage to Enrique IV de Castilla.
He also had a natural son with Joana de Vilhena:
Joćo Manuel (1416 - 1476)
Many of his children died young; however, the House of Avis continued leading Portugal for some generations more. The Portuguese did not reach India during his rule; that was attained a couple of decades later, but the fact that king Duarte gave impulse to an effort for which he would never see the results is a testametent to his statemanship, which, in turn, was the direct result of his education and upbringing. Thinking big always entails having to think far ahead in time as well.
Duarte I, king of Portugal.
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