Marriages of Manuel I

Spanish and Portuguese Intermarriages

Eleanor of Austria
Eleanor of Austria, Third Wife of Manuel I. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

In royal families, one importance of the women was as marriage partners to solidify relationships with other countries -- other royal families -- and perhaps solidify an alliance and avoid war.  If a woman died, the relationship of the families could weaken.

Manuel I of Portugal, once married into the powerful family of Isabella I of Castile and her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon, found a way to keep that alliance strong through remarriage.

Family Connections Between Manuel, Isabella and Ferdinand

There were many family connections already between Manuel I and the family he married into.

  • Manuel I of Portugal and Isabella of Castile were first cousins. Their mothers were sisters.
  • Isabella of Castile’s mother, Isabella of Portugal, and Manuel’s mother, Beatrice of Portugal, were sisters. Their father, the Infante John, was the brother of King Edward of Portugal and a son of John I of Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster.
    • Philippa of Lancaster was the daughter of John of Gaunt and his first wife, Blanche of Lancaster.
    • John of Gaunt, an English prince, was a son of King Edward III.
  • Isabella’s father, John II of Castile, was the son of Henry III of Castile and Catherine of Lancaster.
    • Catherine of Lancaster was the daughter of John of Gaunt and his second wife, Constance of Castile.
  • Manuel I of Portugal was the son of the Infante Fernando, Duke of Aviz, a son of King Edward of Portugal. Manuel’s parents were paternal first cousins; his father was also a grandson of John I of Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster.
    • Manuel was also related to Ferdinand II; they were first cousins once removed, with common descent from Ferdinand I of Aragon and Eleanor of Albuquerque.

    Isabella and Ferdinand’s Children

    Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon had five children:

    1. Isabella of Aragon
    2. John (in Spanish, Juan)
    3. Joan or Joanna (in Spanish, Juana)
    4. Maria of Aragon
    5. Catherine of Aragon

    First wife: Isabella of Aragon, married 1497

    • Isabella of Aragon was the eldest child and daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand. She was about 27 when she married Manuel.
    • Manuel had succeeded his first cousin, John II of Portugal, in 1495.  John II was married to Manuel’s sister, Eleanor.
    • Afonso, son of John II of Portugal and his wife, Eleanor, had died in 1491.
    • Isabella of Aragon had married Afonso in 1490. When she was widowed in 1491, she had told her parents she would not marry again. They persuaded her to accept a marriage with Manuel I, Afonso’s nephew and cousin, in 1497.
    • Manuel I and Isabella had one son, Miguel da Paz, born in 1498.  Isabella died in childbirth.  Miguel died in 1500. 
    • During Miguel’s short lifetime, he was heir apparent to Castile and Aragon, since no other grandchildren had been born to Isabella and Ferdinand.  In the unlikely event that had remained the case, and if Miguel had survived, he would have brought the crowns of Castile, Aragon and Portugal together.

    Second marriage: Maria of Aragon, married 1500

    • Maria of Aragon was the fourth child and third daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand. Twelve years younger than her sister, Isabella, she was 18 years old when she married Manuel.
    • Manuel and Maria had ten children, eight of whom survived to adulthood: six sons and two daughters.  A daughter and a son died in infancy.
    • The youngest of their children was born in 1516; Maria died in 1517.

      Third marriage: Eleanor of Austria, married 1518

      • Eleanor of Austria was the eldest child and daughter of Juana of Aragon and Castile and her husband, Philip I of Castile, a member of the House of Habsburg. She was 19 years old when they married.
      • Eleanor’s mother, Juana, was the third child and second daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon.  Juana was thus a sister of Manuel’s first two wives, Eleanor was a niece of her predecessors in marriage to Manuel, and Eleanor was a first cousin of her stepchildren.
      • Before marriage to Manuel, Eleanor was betrothed to the future Henry VIII of England.  He married, instead, Catherine of Aragon, his brother Arthur’s widow.  Catherine was the fourth of the daughters of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Catherine was thus the remaining sister of Eleanor of Austria’s mother and of Manuel’s first two wives.
      • Manuel’s son, the future John III, had planned to marry his cousin Eleanor, before she married Manuel. He apparently never forgave his father for this.
      • Eleanor and Manuel had one daughter, Maria, Duchess of Viseu, and another child who died.
      • Manuel died of the plague in 1521.
      • The widowed Eleanor returned to Spain; she had to leave her daughter, Maria, in Portugal, as it was the custom for royal children to remain with their father’s family.

      More Marriages in the Family

      • With the death of Manuel, the royal families of Spain and Portugal planned two marriages to keep them bound together.
      • Two of Manuel’s children by his second wife, Maria, married siblings of Manuel’s third wife, children of Juana and Philip of Spain.  Because Maria and Juana were sisters, the marriages were of first cousins.
      • Isabella of Portugal and John III, King of Portugal, married, respectively, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and Catherine of Austria.
      • Charles and Isabella married on March 10, 1525, in Spain.  They had six children; the birth of the youngest in 1539 led to Isabella’s death. Charles never remarried.
      • John married Catherine of Austria – she was the younger sister of the woman John had first intended to marry – on March 11, 1526 in Portugal.  They had nine children of whom two survived childhood.
      • The next generation saw further intermarriages of cousins and double cousins and other couples related before marriage.
      • Catherine of Austria and John III of Portugal had only two surviving grandsons: Carlos of Spain and Sebastian of Portugal; neither had children.

      Eleanor of Austria, Widow

      • Eleanor, who had returned to Spain after the death of Manuel I, was to be married to the Duke of Bourbon; the marriage failed to materialize.  There were other prospective marriages that did not materialize, either.
      • Eleanor married King Francis I of France in 1530, as negotiated in the Peace of the Ladies, the Treaty of Cambrai of 1529.  The marriage was childless.
      • After her husband died in 1547, Eleanor went to Austria; when her brother Charles abdicated in 1555, they and another sister returned to Spain in 1556.
      • In 1558, Eleanor traveled to visit her daughter, Maria, whom she had not seen for 28 years since leaving her in Portugal.  On her return trip to Spain, Eleanor died.

      Connections With the English Royal Family

      • Before Manuel I married the first of his three wives, he had been negotiating with Richard III, king of England, to marry Richard’s niece, Elizabeth of York. The death of Richard, and succession of Henry VII, interrupted that plan.
      • Elizabeth of York married, instead, Henry VII, the first Tudor king.
      • The eldest son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, Arthur, later married Catherine of Aragon, that fourth daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand.  Henry VII had arranged for Catherine of Aragon’s niece, Eleanor of Austria, to marry Henry and Elizabeth’s younger son, Henry.  But Arthur died, leaving Catherine a widow (and a long battle over her dowry between her father-in-law, Henry VII, and her father, Ferdinand).  When Henry VII died, and his son Henry succeeded as Henry VIII, the new king married his brother’s widow, leaving Eleanor of Austria free to marry Catherine’s brother-in-law, Manuel I, as described above.