JAIME, D. (1479-1532)
He was born in 1479 and died on September 20, 1532. Although the overall aspects of his life are known, a detailed biography has not yet been written, but should be, since the life of the 4th Duke of Bragança has been the subject of disparate interpretations by historians, as well as others. Studies of the 1800s created a character that has more to do with the anxiety and strategies of the time, than with the late medieval gentleman that Dom Jaime was. This character-type is part of a gallery of opposites that was used to give shape to the catastrophic and negative vision of Manueline Portugal, seen as the low point in a succession of somber periods that constantly hampered the country in its trajectory toward modernity and progress. The case in point was the rise to power of the Braganças, which began with the neutralization of the justified attempts of King João II to make his illegitimate son king (another example of the moral stature of this grand statesman, added to other virtues). This was orchestrated by a female and clerical clique (which included Dona Leonor as her husband's assassin) and ended with the authorization for the repatriation of exiles, who were granted full honors and the return of their possessions. This was seen as the supreme act of treason committed by King Manuel against his benefactor.
The total background cannot be traced here, but reference should be made to one of the last influential players: Anselmo Braancamp Freire. He was the one to depict Dom Jaime as an example of a decadent Manueline reign, which had unfortunately followed that of the only strong king in Portuguese history, the great King João II. Contrary to his cousin and successor, he was a modern thinker, the enemy of privileged groups, and defended the progressive forces of the Nation. Between the ill-fated modernity of King João and the fatal triumph of the monastic, archaic and prodigal Manueline monarchy - portrait of a political past suitable to the present - Dom Jaime was portrayed within the paradigm of an outdated world that could always return, but that should have been definitively banished to make way for the modern world.
The renewed historiography of the last decades allows us to, first of all, deconstruct these structures and, then, reevaluate the figure of Dom Jaime in light of non-anachronistic and scientifically founded premises. In fact, the very figure of Dom Jaime is just as interesting as the discursive descriptions he gave rise to, for it conjugates different contradictions at various levels. There are, right off, the contradictions of Portuguese society at the end of the 1400s, a society that was undergoing a process of rapid change which was seen from different perspectives by the various social agents. Among these, the House of Bragança stood out, both due to its socio-economic weight, and to the political connections that depended on it. Then, there are the contradictions of the Duke himself, who had suffered different trials and tribulations since childhood and had also tended to be unbalanced, as he himself recognized. And finally, there are the contradictions in the reconstitution of the events themselves which, at this time perhaps more than during other phases of Portuguese history, were registered in a daring manner at a time of conflict that seemed, like the present, about to change.
After a succinct presentation of the main events of his life, an interpretation of some of the most significant of these will be presented. Duke Jaime was the son of the 3rd Duke of Bragança, Dom Fernando, and his wife, Dona Isabel (daughter of Infante Fernando, Duke of Viseu and Beja, brother to King Afonso V). In 1496, King Manuel bestowed on him the various titles of his father. He was only four year old when his father was executed in Evora on June 20, 1483, after which he was exiled with his mother and siblings. He lived in the court of the Catholic Kings of Spain until 1496, when King Manuel ordered his return to Portugal (along with the repatriation of the remaining exiles of the House of Bragança), with full rights to his father's property and titles. As the closest relative to the king, who had no direct descendents at the time, he was also declared heir to the Royal House in March of 1498.
He was married in 1500 to Dona Leonor de Mendonça, daughter of the Dukes of Medina Sidónia. They had two descendents - the future master of the House, Dom Teodósio I, and Dona Isabel, who married one of the sons of King Duarte, Infante Duarte, in 1536. The Duke's marriage would come to a dramatic end, however, when the Duchess, suspected of being unfaithful, took her own life in 1512.
Dom Jaime commanded the expedition to Azamor, returning to the Kingdom after in full glory. During the next decades, he would remain in the Court as one of its most prominent figures, that of prestigious counselor to Kings Manuel and João III. Always mindful of the privileges of his position, he also administered his many possessions and clientele, making Vila Viçosa, with its luxurious palace and grounds, the main headquarters of the House, and had various other administrative branches spread out among the landlords.
The Duke remarried in 1520, this time to Dona Joana de Mendonça (lady to Queen Leonor, from the local nobility of Alentejo, which had consolidated its position by close proximity to the court). They had numerous offspring. The careful administration of marital alliances and the pursuit of high ecclesiastic positions by his children had, from the first dukes, reinforced Brigantine power. Emblematic of this are the negotiations to marry his oldest daughter to the brother of King João III.
The life of Dom Jaime points to important aspects of the society of the time. First of all, it is important to highlight his status as a titled member of the most important house of the Kingdom, which meant that, according to the societal structure of the time, he could administer a corps of autonomous members endowed with the capacity of self-governance at various levels - from the material to the symbolic levels - who could establish their own relationship with the Crown. It is necessary to recall the political networks of the late-Medieval and high-Modern monarchies, where the King was obliged to maintain a balance among the subjects with higher titles. While the profits of Maritime Expansion allowed the Portuguese kings a greater margin of maneuverability, it was unthinkable that the monarchy should assume markedly preeminent governance over the members of the higher nobility of the court. Current historiography's non-anachronistic interpretation of these respective roles has removed moral intention from strategies of mutual equilibrium.
In this respect, Dom Jaime not only proved he was up to par as a Duke of the Brigantine tradition, but was even able to reinforce the symbolic elements that identified and gave prestige to the House. At the same time, the attitude that Dom Jaime assumed in relation to North Africa is no less emblematic of his capacity to defend the continuity of the House, by establishing equilibrium between the traditional powers of the nobles versus their adjustment to the policies of the king. Due to family tradition, regional agreement and religious conviction, Dom Jaime could have positioned himself ahead of the traditional nobility of old in that territory, seat of honor par excellence for the nobility, in opposition to the commercial venture that India represented. His victory in Azamor, which also helped to erase the disastrous marriage episode of the previous year, could have led to this. In the letter he sent to King Manuel soon after, nonetheless, he writes as a judicious gentleman of the grand House, playing a prudent and restrained role in relation to the pressure to pursue the conquest, made by some noblemen and more radical members of the clergy, who based their arguments on the local conditions and on the orders received. He is even more explicit later, when addressing King João III in a letter that clearly pinpoints some of the clichés inherent to the way the ?North African faction? was seen. Among other things, in this missive he criticizes the model of the heroic and chivalrous captain, along with clearly affirming that, given its limited supply of men and money, Portugal would be unable to control the territory. And, although God is invoked in relation to the mission in Africa, the reference is unequivocally ironic, in light of the blind exaltation of the spirit of the Crusades.
Finally, the religious and cultural environment in which the 4th Duke of Bragança lived is also worthy of note. The devotional experiences of Dom Jaime must not be seen from the perspective of the 1800s, or else one might not understand how the gentleman who assembled in Vila Viçosa a Humanistic court, undoubtedly the most important and cultivated court of the Renaissance in Portugal, might have been a «religious fanatic». The connection that Dom Jaime had to the Franciscans should be considered in broader contexts, which range from networks of family influence, to spiritual models of temporal Power, created for the noble lords who, at a time of profound cleavage in Christianity, would not forsake their longing for religious reform.
AUBIN, Jean, Le Latin et l?astrolabe [III]. Études inédites sur le règne de D. Manuel (1495-1521), ed. Posthume prep. Mª da Conceição Flores, L. F. Thomaz e Françoise Aubin, Paris, Centre Culturel Calouste Gulbenkian, 2006.
CUNHA, Mafalda Soares da, Imagem, parentesco e poder. A Casa de Bragança (1384-1483), Lisboa, Fundação da Casa de Bragança, 1990; A Casa de Bragança, 1560-1640. Práticas senhoriais e redes clientelares, Lisboa, Editorial Estampa, 2000.
FREIRE, Anselmo Brancaamp, Brasões da Sala de Sintra, vol. III, 2ª ed., Lisboa, IN-CM, 1973.
ROSA, Maria de Lurdes, ?"D. Jaime de Bragança, entre a cortina e a vidraça" in O tempo de Vasco da Gama, dir. Diogo Ramada Curto, pp. 319-332, Lisboa, Comissão Nacional para a Comemoração dos Descobrimentos Portugueses/ Pavilhão de Portugal na Expo 98/ Ed. Difel, 1998.
SOUSA, A. Caetano de, História Genealógica da Casa Real Portuguesa, t. V, pp. 271-347, 2ª ed., Coimbra, Atlântida Ed., 1948.
Author: Maria de Lurdes Rosa
Translated by: Rosa Neves Simas