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Sebastian I of Portugal

Sebastião I, King of Portugal, was the grandson of Dom João III. He became heir to the throne due to the death of his father, Dom João, in 1555 and succeeded to the throne two years later. As Sebastian was still an infant, the regency was handled first by his Spanish grandmother, and then by his uncle, Cardinal Henry of Evora. This period saw continued Portuguese colonial expansion in Angola, Mozambique, Malacca and the annexation of Macao in 1557. The young King grew up under the guidance of the Jesuits. He was a mystic who spent long periods either hunting or fasting. He was also a stubborn and reckless boy who convinced himself that he was to be Christ's captain in a crusade against the Muslims of Africa. Almost immediately upon attaining his majority Sebastian began plans for a great crusade against the Moroccans of Fez. Philip II of Spain refused to be party to the plan, and postponed Sebastian's imminent marriage to a Spanish princess. The Portuguese crusaders crossed into Morocco in 1578 and, against the advice of his commanders, Sebastian marched deep inland. At Alcazarquivir (Field of the Three Kings) the Portuguese were routed by Ahmed Mohammed of Fez, and Sebastian was almost certainly killed in battle or subsequently executed. He then passed somewhat undeservedly into legend as a great Portuguese patriot - the "sleeping King" who would return to help Portugal in her darkest hour, like the British Arthur or the German Barbarossa. In the time of Spanish occupation (1580-1640) three pretenders claimed to be King Sebastian, the last of whom - an Italian - was hanged in 1619.

Preceded by:
D. Joćo III
List of Portuguese monarchs Succeeded by:
Cardinal Henry of Portugal



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