Thursday, July 4

King João II of Portugal “O Príncipe Perfeito” and the Jews (1481-1495)

A paper that i was sent was quite interesting. King Joao II of Portugal is quite an interesting chap. I was interested in him not just because of what he did in Portugal but of his funding of expeditions to India (people who think that the Portuguese were fun chaps should really read up on what these guys did in the Indian Ocean, they were true barbarians, unbelievable savages).

Second was the fact that this chap was responsible (during the time of Columbus), to divide up the world between Spain and Portugal.

Third was that this king was supposed to be the personification of Machiavelli’s work..Very interesting indeed.

But I digress, as is usual with Europe for a very long time, the Jews got it in the neck. This paper, Sefarad (Sef)
Vol. 69:1, enero-junio 2009, págs. 75-99, ISSN 0037-0894 by Francois Soyer of the University of Southampton tells all about how this fellow was an absolute infamous horrible man with the Jews. I quote:


A central element of this reputation has been João II’s treatment of the thousands of Jews who were expelled from the neighbouring kingdoms of Castile and Aragón in 1492 and who came to Portugal. King João has become particularly notorious because of his enslavement of a
number of these Castilian Jews as well as his decision to deport Jewish children seized from their parents to the inhospitable island of São Tomé in the Gulf of Guinea. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Portuguese sovereign gained the reputation –both in contemporary Jewish accounts and in the work of modern historians– of a callous tyrant who pitilessly persecuted the Jews;
resorting to cruel methods in order to extort funds from the Castilian Jews and coercing many of them to convert to Christianity. By way of illustration, Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508), one of the foremost Jews at the Portuguese Court until his exile in 1483, used the epithets “tyrannical,” “deceitful” and “iniquitous” to describe João II in his work.
Likewise, the Cretan Rabbi Elijah
Capsali (c. 1490-1549), who interviewed many Iberian Jews, presents João II
in his famous chronicle as an inveterate enemy of the Jews and describes the
monarch as a “repulsive” and “wicked” king. In his work, Capsali went to the
extreme of including an extraordinary paragraph in which God punished João
II for his cruelty towards the Jews by sending an avenging angel to slay him
and thus avenge his Jewish victims.

The paper is just amazing to read. Here’s one more quote:

the episode recorded by Solomon Ibn Verga, who himself
came to Portugal in 1492 with his family, is particularly moving:

There was a [Jewish] woman from whom they had taken six children.
When the unfortunate woman heard that the King was leaving the church
[where he had just attended mass], this woman [started to] implore his mercy and threw herself at the feet of his horse, pleading with him to return her
youngest child to her but the King would not listen to her.
The King ordered his servants: “take her out of my sight!”
[The woman] continued to plead her case with yet louder screams and
[the servants] abused her.
The King then exclaimed: “Let her be, she is like a bitch whose pups
have been taken away from her!”

Europe, your history is full of ill-treatment towards minorities. Why just blame the Nazi’s? there is good form for anti-Semitic attacks in pretty much every country.

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