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if he meant to murder her too; but he assured her that her majesty had nothing to fear.
This catastrophe being rumoured through the city of Lisbon, and likewise that the grand master was in danger, the whole was bustle and alarm. The people zealously declared themselves in favour of the grand master, who seeing them secure in his interest, meditated to marry queen Leonora, as the most likely means to prolong her power and his own.
The queen rejected the overtures with contempt, and claimed the protection of Don Juan of Castile; on which the commons, without any farther ceremony, proclaimed the grand master protector of the Portuguese nation, and swore never to desert him.
Soon after Don Juan, attended by his queen, the heiress of Portugal, entered Portugal at the head of a powerful army, where he caused himself to be proclaimed king, in right of his wife, and took upon him the exercise of various royal functions. The queen mother was treated with much indifference, and the Portuguese nobles, who at first had sided with the Castilian, were soon disgusted with his distant manners, which they contrasted with those of Don Ferdinand, much to the disadvantage of the former.
Meanwhile, the grand master of Avis, from the time he assumed the title and office of regent, acted with all imaginable prudence and sagacity, bestowing the principal places on men of the most distinguished virtues, and studying to conciliate the good will of all, by the most subtle behaviour and the most refined policy.
Nevertheless, the kingdom of Portugal was not only split into two factions, but it was actu
ally divided between two rival powers,. The regent, however, still kept possession of Lisbon, and Don Juan, sensible of the importance of carrying that place, at last determined to beșiege it. With immense preparations he sat down before it: the siege was carried on with vigour, and generally with success, on the part of the Castilians ; but a pestilential disorder breaking out in their camp, the devastation it made was so great, that Don Juan was glad to have recourse to negociation. In this too he failed ; and, after various turns of fortune, was obliged to retire into his own dominions. A crown, however, was too splendid a prize to be given up without a severe contest; and the states of Portugal, perceiving that their country would soon be ruined and depopulated did they not interfere to put an end to the dissensions. which agitated it, after a long and impartial deliberation, agreed to elevate
to the thro Juan, grand master of Avis, and brother to the deceased king; who had executed the office of regent with the general applause of his party
By this determination, not only the claims of the king of Castile were set aside, but also those which numbers wished to urge in favour of Don Juan, son of Agnes de Castro. The principal nobility immediately made a tender of their services to the new elected king, and thus an end was put to the interregnum, which had lasted eighteen months, and in its unhappy consequences had deluged the country with blood, and rent the nation into factions.
King John I. of Portugal, as we shall now call him, in order to distinguish him from Don
Juan of Castile, assumed the reins of government with the general good will of his subjects; but under circumstances of peculiar difficulty, from the ruined and agitated state of his kingdom. The king of Castile, so far from acquiescing in the decision of the states of Portugal, made haste to invade that country with an army of thirty thousand men.
His resolution was to ruin and destroy all before him, to drive the master of Avis, as he styled him, into Lisbon, and not to depart from that city till it had owned him for its sovereign. In pursuance of this barbarous scheme, several places were taken and sacked, while king John was obliged to remain inactive, on account of the smallness of his army, and to be a tame spectator of the mischief that was done. One reason for this passive conduct was, that he expected succour from England; but being irritated beyond forbearance, he at last ventured an engagement with the forces which he had; and, notwithstanding the superiority of the enemy, obtained a complete victory. In this decisive action, A. D. which took place on the plain of Alju1385.
barota, the Castilians lost ten thousand
men; and all their former conquests immediately surrendered. Not satisfied with this, the king of Portugal made an irruption into Castile, where he had the good fortune to defeat the grand master of the order of St. James, who was killed on the spot, and then returned, covered with glory, into his own dominions. This campaign fixed the fate of Portugal, and firmly established John on his throne. The Castilians were glad to accept a truce of three years, which before the expiration of that period was im
proved into a lasting peace, by the death of Don Juan, who left no issue by his queen Donna Beatrix; and thus every pretext for making war with Portugal ceased.
But though a pacification took place between the two powers, as neighbours and rivals, frequent misunderstandings arose, which sometimes produced a partial warfare, of no great consequence in its events to either. John in a short time became not only the object of fear, but also of respect to his enemies; while the easy freedom of his behaviour and the complacency of his manners endeared him to his own sub jects. Having once been a private person, he never forgot those with whom he had formed an early acquaintance: he received and paid visits, without the least form or ceremony; and such was his humility, that after an audience he would attend the party, when retiring, to the door of the apartment.
To the poor he was extremely generous, and to all he was just; but with all his condescension, he knew how to make himself respected, and even dreaded, when occasion required. He suffered neither rank nor fortune to bias him: the reign of the laws he maintained with inflexible zeal; and allowed no claims to preferment, save virtue and ability. He used to say, that conversation, as it was the cheapest, so it was the most improving of all amusements.
He had a taste for letters; and he rendered it fashionable among his courtiers, by his own example.
John had married the English princess Philippa, daughter of the duke of Lancaster, who bore him several children. The affection she
entertained for him was so strong, that when he determined to undertake an expedition against the Moors in Barbary, which he was to com mand in person, she was so concerned at the A. D. thoughts of his absence, that she died of 1414: grief before his departure. This blow,
which he wished to avert when it was too late, affected the king and his whole court most severely; but, in order to fulfil his engagements with other princes, and to dissipate his sorrow, he soon after set out, and landed on the coast of Barbary. Success attended his steps: the city of Ceuta fell almost at the first attack; butscarcely had John withdrawn from that place, before the powers of Barbary formed a league for its recovery. The young princes of Pora tugal, who were entrusted with the command of an army to repel this aggression, behaved with abundant prudence and valour, and gave the infidels several severe defeats; but so much im. portance did they attach to the regaining of Ceuta, and John to the keeping of it, that the latter was obliged to strengthen and enlarge the fortifications, and to keep a formidable army on foot, in order to check the advances of the Moors.
Nor was John only fortunate in war, but also superlatively happy in his family. He had several sons whom he had educated with the greatest care, and who repaid his paternal regard to their welfare by the most dutiful conduct and the utmost zeal to serve him. It was his son Henry, duke of Viseo, who commenced those discoveries, which proved in the event so beneficial not only to Portugal but to Europe.