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John III, King of Portugal, son of Queen Maria of Portugal, great-nephew of Catherine of Aragon

John III (June 7, 1502 – June 11, 1557) was the fifteenth King of Portugal and the Algarves.

 

Born in Lisbon, he was the son of King Manuel I and his queen consort, Maria of Aragon (the third daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain). John succeeded his father in 1521, at the age of nineteen.

 

During his rule, Portuguese possessions were extended in Asia and in the New World through the Portuguese colonization of Brazil. John III's policy of reinforcing Portugal's bases in India (such as Goa) secured Portugal's monopoly over the spice trade of cloves from the Moluccas and nutmeg from the Banda Islands, as a result of which John III has been called the "Grocer King". On the eve of his death in 1557, the Portuguese empire spanned almost 1 billion acres.

 

During his reign, the Portuguese became the first Europeans to make contact with both China, under the Ming Dynasty, and Japan, during the Muromachi period. He abandoned Muslim territories in North Africa in favor of trade with India and investment in Brazil. In Europe, he improved relations with the Baltic region and the Rhineland, hoping that this would bolster Portuguese trade.

 

John was responsible for the evangelization of the Far East and Brazil, in part through the introduction of Jesuit missions there. Both the Jesuits and the Portuguese Inquisition, introduced in 1536, were to become key institutions in Portugal and its Empire. The Jesuits were particularly important for mediating Portuguese relations with native peoples and the Inquisition served to spare Portugal the civil upheavals of religious warfare of the sort that occurred in France and elsewhere in Europe during the 16th century. In the final years of John's reign, Portugal's colony of Brazil was just beginning its rapid development as a producer of sugar that compensated for the gradual decline of revenues from Asia, a development that would continue during the reign of his grandson and successor, Sebastian, who became king upon the death of John of apoplexy in 1557.

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Taken on March 27, 2009