Sebastian King of Portugal: Four Essays


Harold B. Johnson (University of Virginia) is a specialist in the history of Portugal and colonial Brazil. Beginning as a medievalist working on the history of Spanish Galicia, he later moved into the field of Brazilian history during his four years as postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. In addition to numerous articles, he is the author of Camponeses e Colonizadores (2002) and the coauthor of O Imperio Luso-Brasileiro, 1500–1620 (1992) and “The Settlement of Colonial Brazil, 1500–1580,” a chapter in the first volume of The Cambridge History of Latin America.

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Shortly after the birth in 1554 of Sebastian, the last of the dynasty of Avis, a doctor in attendance named Maldonado cast his horoscope. Among other things, the horoscope predicted that Sebastian would be given to “pleasures” with women, and that his wife would give him many noble and handsome children. Since Sebastian never married and had no children in spite of the fact that producing heirs was one of the primary duties of royalty, Sebastian’s failure to do so prompted author Harold B. Johnson to examine Sebastian’s life more closely in an attempt to understand why. These researches led Johnson to elaborate a radical new picture of the young king’s upbringing, a picture that has proved deeply upsetting to conservative Portuguese scholars.

Sebastian King of Portugal: Four Essays is a collection of Johnson’s contributions to the understanding of King Sebastian. Within its pages he provides evidence of Sebastian’s sexual abuse at the age of nine, as well as Sebastian’s homosexual behavior later in life. Johnson also addresses the arguments of his critics, providing documentation that further authenticates his interpretations of this unusual king’s life.


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