Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Portuguese Connection

Philippa of Lancaster
Philippa of Lancaster
Almost a year ago I wrote a general post on the children of John of Gaunt (1340-1399). The eldest child of John of Gaunt and his first wife, Blanche of Lancaster was Philippa of Lancaster (1359-1415).

Philippa was born  at Leicester Castle on 31 March 1359. She was one of seven children of John and Blanche, however only her sister Elizabeth and her brother, Henry, survived childhood. As a grandaughter of Edward III Philippa had a royal upbringing. She appears to have had a good education. Her governess was Katherine de Roet (later Swynford) who eventually became her father's third wife. Katherine's brother-in-law, Geoffrey Chaucer, and the theologian, John Wycliffe, are quoted by some sources as being involved in the education of the children of John and Blanche. Philippa later ensured that her children also received a good education.

Marriages in royal households were often arranged marriages planned to cement political alliances. France and Spain had formed an alliance against England so it was considered wise for England to form an alliance with Portugal. The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance remains today.

As part of this Alliance, in 1387, Philippa married Joao I of Portugal (also known as John I) (1357- 1433).  Joao becoming king was the beginning of the House of Aviz in the Portuguese royal family.
Philippa and Joao had nine children - six lived to become adults.
Blanche (1388-1389)
Alfonso (1390 - 1400)
Duarte (Edward) (1391-1438) - Became King of Portugal in 1433
Pedro (Peter) (1392 - 1449) - Duke of Coimbra and Regent during the minority of his nephew Alfonso V
Henrique (1394 - 1460) - Duke of Viseu (Known by the English as Henry the Navigator)
Isabella (1397 - 1472) - married Phillip III of Burgundy
Blanche (1398 - 1398)
Joao (John) (1400-1442) - Constable of Portugal, Lord of Reguengos
Ferdinand (1402-1443) - the 'Saint Prince'
The children of this family were referred to as the 'Illustrious Generation'.

Philippa ensured that her children were well educated while Jaoa also ensured that the boys were skilled in riding and hunting. Events in later life show their interest in law, science and religion.  Duarte wrote a number of books and during his short reign as king edited collections of law and required written opinion from his councillors before making decisions. Henrique became known for his interest in discovering new lands and, although he did not go on any of the early Portuguese voyages of discovery and certainly was not a navigator, he funded many of the voyages discovering unknown sections of the west coast of Africa. Henrique was also responsible for the beginning of the Portuguese involvement in the African slave trade.

Using her connections with England, Philippa was able to influence both the Portuguese and English courts and was able to improve diplomatic and commercial bonds between the two kingdoms.

Blanche, Philippa's mother had died in 1369 after contracting bubonic plague. On 19 July 1415 Phillipa also died from the plaque. Initially she was buried at the Convent of Odivelas. Eighteen years later when King Joao died, her body was reburied next to her husband at Founder's Chapel at Batalha.

Portuguese explorers
It was during the reign of Joao I that Portugal began to seriously investigate Africa leading eventually to seeking an alternative route around the coast of Africa to India and the spice trade. Up until this time it was necessary to travel through many, often hostile, countries to gain access to the spice route. Portugal had a good navy and was prepared to build additional ships to aid the exploration of the African coast.

1415, the year Philippa died, was the year that the Portuguese began their campaign to make in-roads into Africa. Joao and three of his sons, Duarte, Pedro and Henrique, led Portuguese troops in  a fleet of 200 ships to capture the seaport of Ceuta, the gateway to Morocco. The expedition was planned so that the Portuguese had some land in Africa but it was also a 'battle of fire' for the three princes to prove their capabilities as military leaders. King Joao knighted his three sons shortly after their participation in the battle. It was at Ceuta that the princes saw for themselves the riches that abounded in the city from the spice trade. This was to be the beginning of Portuguese expansion to the New World. Other countries controlled the Mediterranean Sea so for Portugal the decision was made to establish a sea route around the coast of Africa to India.  
As well as trading in spices, the search for gold was part of the plan. This was also the time of battles against Muslims who inhabited the north of Africa. Consequently religion, desire for trade, riches and new trade routes and defeat of Muslim lands were some of the goals behind the exploration plans. Colonisation of areas discovered was part of the plan and this led to the development of the slave trade.

The first expedition sponsored by Henrique was to the Atlantic Islands of Porto Santo (1418-1419). The where abouts of these and a number of other island groups in the Atlantic had been known for many years but now the Portuguese rediscovered the islands and established colonies. The Azores became Portuguese territories in 1439 and the Cape Verde Islands 1455-1460. Meanwhile the coast of west Africa was gradually being explored and mapped. Expeditions were also being made into north Africa, not always with success. The attempt to capture Tangiers in 1437 was a failure and Henrique's brother, Fernando, was taken hostage. Fernando died at Fez in 1443.

When Henrique died in 1460 the Portuguese had developed the desire for further exploration. By 1460 1,500 miles of African coast had been explored, a number of settlements established with African coastal rivers explored. The explorers had travelled and mapped as far south as Sierra Leone. Trade with people living along the coast of Africa resulted in large supplies of gold. They also had access to some of the African spices and, of course, the slave trade had begun. The Portuguese had also obtained the rights to further explore and colonise the African coast in their search for a route to the 'Indies'.

The exploration continued, much of it during the reign (1481-1495) of King Joao II, the great grandson of King Joao I. Exploration of the Afican coast continued with stone pillars being left on the land to show that the Portuguese had been there. There were a number of explorers but it was Bartolomeu Dias in 1488 who located the southern tip of Africa and sailed home to report the discovery to report his discovery.

In July1497 Vasco da Gama, with a fleet of four ships, sailed from Lisbon to locate the route around Africa to India. They did not travel all the way along the African coast as they took a detour into the South Atlantic Ocean to avoid unfavourable winds before sailing east to the southern tip of Africa. They then travelled north to Mozambique and then to Mobassa before crossing the Indian Ocean to Calicut on 20 May 1498. When the ships returned to Lisbon in 1499 only 55 of the original crew of 170 men had survived the voyage.

In March 1500 Pedro Alvares Cabral set out with 13 ships to follow da Gama's route to India. When taking the detour to avoid the unfavourable winds he sailed further west than da Gama had and discovered the coast of Brazil which became another Portuguese colony. Regular trips to India followed including a second and then a third expedition by Vasco da Gama.

So by 1500 the Portuguese had established trade routes to India, established new colonies in Africa and India and now also had a colony in South America.

Websites and blog posts about Phillipa of Lancaster:
Famous people - Philippa of Lancaster
English monarchs - Philippa of Lancaster, Queen of Portugal
Freelance history writer - Philippa of Lancaster, Queen of Portugal - Philippa of Lancaster, Queen of Portugal

Website about King Joao 1 of Portugal:
Encyclopaedia Britannica - John 1 King of Portugal

Websites about Prince Henrique (Henry) often referred to as the Navigator:
Encyclopaedia Britannica - Henry the Navigator Prince of Portugal
Bio - Henry the Navigator Prince - Henry the Navigator

Websites about King Joao II of Portugal
Encyclopaedia Britannica - John II King of Portugal
Mad Monarchist - King Joao II of Portugal

Website about King Manuel I of Portugal
Encyclopaedia Britannica - Manuel 1 King of Portugal

Websites about Portuguese explorers
Encyclopaedia Britannica - Bartolomeu Dias
Encyclopaedia Britannica - Vasco da Gama 
Encyclopaedia Britannica - Pedro Alvares Cabral

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