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Henrique (January 31, 1512 – January 31, 1580) was king of Portugal and a cardinalof the Catholic Church. He ruled Portugal between 1578 and 1580 and was known as Henrique the Chaste and the Cardinal-King. As a clergyman, he never married and was bound to chastity, and as such, had no children to succeed him, and thus put an end to the House of Aviz.

His death led to the Portuguese succession crisis of 1580 and ultimately to the 60-year Iberian Union that saw Portugal share a monarch with that of Spain. The next independent monarch of Portugal would be João IV, who took the throne after 60 years of Spanish rule. King Henrique was born and died on January 31, 1512 and 1580 respectively.


Henrique was the fifth son of King Manuel I of Portugal and Maria of Aragon, the third surviving daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Fernando II-V of Aragon and Castile (the Catholic monarchs).

As the younger brother of King João III of Portugal and a younger son in the Royal Family, Henrique was not expected to succeed to the Portuguese throne. Early in his life, Henrique took Holy Orders to promote Portuguese interests within the Catholic Church, then dominated by Spain.

He rose fast through the Church hierarchy, becoming in quick succession Archbishop of Braga, Archbishop of Évora and Grand Inquisitor before receiving a galeroin 1545, along with the Titulus Ss. Quattuor Coronatorum. From 1564 to 1570 he was Archbishop of Lisbon. Henriqu, more than anyone, endeavoured to bring the Jesuits to Portugal to employ them in the colonial empire.

Henrique served as regent for his great-nephew King Sebastian, replacing his sister-in-law and Sebastian’s grandmother Queen dowager Catherine, (An Infanta of Castile and Archduchess of Austria, Catherine was the posthumous daughter of King Felipe I by Queen Joanna of Castile) following her resignation from the role in 1562.

King Sebastian died without an heir in the disastrous Battle of Alcácer Quibir that took place in 1578, and the elderly cardinal was proclaimed king soon after. Henrique sought to be released from his ecclesiastical vows so he could take a bride and pursue the continuation of the Aviz dynasty, but Pope Gregory XIII, not wanting to antagonize Felipe II of Spain, did not grant him that release.

Death and succession

The Cardinal-King died in Almeirim, on his 68th birthday, without having appointed a successor, leaving only a regency to care for the kingdom. One of the closest dynastic claimants was King Felipe II of Spain who, in November 1580, sent the Duke of Alba to claim Portugal by force. Lisbon soon fell, and Felipe II was elected king of Portugal at the Portuguese Cortesof Tomar in 1581—on the condition that the kingdom and its overseas territories would not become Spanish provinces.