Anthroponyms seta JOÃO, D. (Vila Viçosa?, c.1431 ? Sevilha,1484)

1st Marquis and great alcaide of Montemor-o-Novo, governor of the frontier between Tagus and Guadiana, the lord of Viana do Alentejo and Condestável of Portugal, was born around 1431 at Vila Viçosa.

The second son of Dom Fernando, the 3rd Count of Arraiolos (and the prospective 2nd Duke of Braganza), and of Dona Joana de Castro, Dom João was, by his father?s side, the great-grandson of Dom João I and of Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira, and the grandson of Dom Afonso, the 1st Duke of Braganza.

Little is known about his childhood. There is a report of his presence at Ceuta in 1447, at the age of sixteen, during his father?s assignment as captain of that Portuguese stronghold.

He returned to Ceuta in 1452, again in the company of his father who went there in order to attempt to persuade Prince Fernando to return to the Kingdom.

Following in the footsteps of his father and brother, he took up a military career, and participated in the capture of Alcácer Ceguer in 1458. The chronicles report that he sailed from Setúbal in the ship of Dom Afonso V, on the 30th of September.

The death of his uncle, the Marquis of Valença, in 1640, and his father?s rise as probable heir to the dukedom of Braganza, brought him good matrimonial prospects. Dona Isabel de Noronha, the illegitimate daughter of Dom Pedro de Noronha, Archbishop of Lisbon, and Dona Branca Dias, was eventually chosen for bride. The wedding ceremony took place on the 25th of July, 1460. Being the niece of Dona Constança, the Duchess of Bragança, Dona Isabel profited from an enlarged dowry of 12,000 doubloons [1]. The marriage was childless.

By the end of 1463, Dom João would return to Morocco with the King and participate on one more attempt of unauthorised entry in Tangier. The bad sailing conditions between Silves and Ceuta and the survival of men whose ships were lost in the tempest combined to create a feeling of miraculous rescue. The members of the House of Braganza went in pilgrimage, barefoot and humbly dressed, to the Church of Santa Maria of Africa. Though it is not certain that Dom João was with his brother Fernando when the latter arrived at the Benamir mountain range, we know that he was present when Dom Afonso V went to Gibraltar to meet Henry IV of Castile.

On his return to Portugal, on the 15th of January 1465, the Duke and the Duchess of Braganza, as well as his brother, the Count of Guimarães, granted him Montenor-o-Novo and the towns of Cadaval and Peru. That same year, Dom Afonso V awarded him the overlordship of the town of Redondo.

In March 1471, the fleet organised with a view to the capture of Asilah was almost ready to sail when twelve Portuguese ships returning from Flanders fully loaded with merchandise were taken by the English privateer Phoecumbrix (nephew of the Count of Warwick who was at the time ruling England on behalf of Henry IV). As a consequence of the attack, Dom Afonso V declared war to England and was preparing to lunch an armada against the English (probably the one meant for Asilah), under the command of Dom João, when the Count of Warwick and his sovereign were murdered by Edward IV. As a result, the capture of Asilah followed as planned in 1471, on an expedition commanded by Dom João in the capacity of constable.

Shortly after the capture of Asilah, even before the King had left it, news came that the inhabitants of Tangier had abandoned the city in fear of being the Portuguese?s next military target. The King tasked Dom João with ascertaining the veracity of the information and ordered him to occupy the city if it proved to be true. Dom João made his entrance into Tangier on the 28th of August 1471, and remained there until it was passed on to Rui de Melo, the Count of Olivença, upon the King?s return to Portugal. Dom João was rewarded for his deeds in Asilah and Tangier with the nobility rank of Marquis. It is not known when he became the 1st Marquis of Montemor-o-Novo; we only know for certain that it was before the 15th of April 1473, the date of his appointment as frontier official of Entre-o-Tejo-e-Guadiana. Shortly after, on the 25th of April, he was honoured with the rank of Condestável of Portugal[2], a position previously held by his great-grandfather, Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira.

The last military campaign of Dom João during Dom Afonso V?s reign is related to the Peninsular War. Even though the head of the Braganza lineage, Dom Fernando, the 2nd Duke of Braganza, disapproved of Dom Afonso?s claims to the Castilian throne, the House of Braganza took an active and significant part in the Battle of Toro. The over seventy-year-old Duke was absent, but his sons participated in the fight.

Notwithstanding holding the post of Condestável, Dom João did not perform as such in the battle, because it fell upon the first-born son the responsibility of representing the family?s lineage. Both Dom João and his brother Afonso held commanding positions in the army.

The relationship between the King and the nobility grew bitter when Dom João II ascended the throne. In 1481, during the cortes of Évora, the King ordered the devolution of privately owned fortresses with a view of confirming their donation. This measure met with the 3rd Duke of Braganza?s opposition. According to the chroniclers, he sent one of his squires to Vila Viçosa and tasked him with finding the documents that proved the lawfulness of all his privileges. It is said that during the search the squire found letters that incriminated the Duke and his brothers of conspiracy with the Catholic Monarchs against Dom João II. The Marquis of Montemor was charged with high treason. He was accused of having told that the King had helped the Kingdom of Granada in the war against Castile, in addition to having lied both about the monarch having arranged his father?s death by poisoning and of being at present occupied in preparing an attack against Castile. The treacherous acts had allegedly been committed in exchange for the administration of the Santiago Order in Castile.

When Dom João heard the news concerning his brother Fernando?s arrest (the 3rd Duke of Braganza), by the end of May 1483, he left for Campos, in Castile, and from there he moved to Seville where he was received by the Catholic Monarchs. Dom Fernando was judged, sentenced to death and executed on the 20th of June that year. Dom João II, notwithstanding being out of the country, was judged in default. He was charged with the crime of lese-majesty, sentenced to death and executed in effigy, on the 12th of September 1483, at Abrantes.

During his permanence in Castile, he helped the Catholic Monarchs, fighting in the war against the Kingdom of Granada.

He died childless, on the 30th of April 1484, in Seville, where he is buried at the Santa Paula Monastery. The Church of the monastery was built by Dona Isabel?s order.

CUNHA, Mafalda Soares da, Linhagem, Parentesco e Poder. A Casa de Bragança (1384-1433), Lisboa, Fundação da Casa de Bragança, 1990. SALGADO, Anastácia Mestrinho, O Marquês de Montemor e a Sua Vida Pública, Lisboa, Edições Cosmos, 1997. SOUSA, António Caetano de, História Genealógica da Casa Real Portuguesa, tomo V, nova edição revista por M. Lopes de Almeida e César Pegado, Coimbra, Atlântida Livraria Editora, 1948.

Author: Maria Dávila Translated by: Leonor Sampaio da Silva [1] Ancient Portuguese gold coin.
[2] The Condestável was the second person in power in the Kingdom, ranking immediately after the King.

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