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João II
The first-born son of Afonso V and his Queen Isabel, João was born on 4 May 1455. He ascended to the throne upon the death of his father on 28 August 1481. At the Cortes (parliaments) in Évora that same year the young king presented his plans in relation to the nobility, which had benefited so much from the royalist policies of his father. He was ruthless in putting down a conspiracy amongst the nobility, leading to the condemnation of the Duke of Braganza in April 1483 and the violent death of the Duke of Viseu in August 1484. His policies tended towards the centralisation of the monarch's powers. His stamp on the Portuguese overseas policies was characterised by his sponsorship of the expeditions of Diogo Cão and Bartolomeu Dias and the preceding voyages of Afonso de Paiva and Pêro de Covilhã to Egypt and Ethiopia. Already very ill, he drew up his will on 29 September 1495 in favour of his brother-in-law Manuel I and died one month later in Alvor.

The first steps in creating the River Tagus defence system were taken during the reign of João II. The system was intended to be a comprehensive one, covering the whole Tagus Estuary at its narrowest points defined by the riverbanks at Restelo (north bank), Almada (south bank) and from there to the more distant but strategically important bay of Cascais. The system, as it was drawn up then, guaranteed coverage of the river by artillery fire. At the end of João's reign, in the late 1480s and early 1490s, St. Sebastian's Tower in Caparica on the opposite bank and the Cascais Tower at the northern point of the bay were built.
Bibl.: Humberto Baquero Moreno, Dicionário Enciclopédico da História de Portugal, Publicações Alfa, 1990; Paulo Pereira, Torre de Belém, Publicações Scala, 2005

Manuel I
Born in 1469, Manuel was the ninth child of the Infantes Fernando and Beatriz. A paternal grandson of King Duarte and maternal grandson of the Infante João, and great grandson of João I through both lines, Manuel I ascended to the throne by acclamation on 27 October 1495. He had been appointed by his brother-in-law João II (after the death of his son and heir, Afonso). Manuel I continued the policies begun by Afonso V aimed at unifying the Iberian Peninsula through successive marriages with the Spanish royal family. In this context, and also with the aim of consolidating his absolutist powers, Manuel issued a decree in December 1496 expelling all Jews and Muslims who did not convert to Christianity within a period of tem months. However, the aim of the policy was also to ensure that they remained in the country in the context of a peaceful integration. Parallel to this he undertook a far-reaching reform of the legal, administrative, educational and economic systems, transforming the Portuguese overseas expansion into a huge enterprise controlled by the central power. His reign was marked by Vasco da Gama's discovery of the sea route to India in 1498, the discovery of Brazil by Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500 and territorial expansion in Morocco (Safim, Azamor, Tite and Almedina). Manuel I died in 1521.

During the reign of Manuel I the plan for the defence of Lisbon and the River Tagus, drawn up by João II, was implemented, leading to the construction of St. Vincent's Tower in Belém, beginning in 1514.
Bibl.: Maria de Fátima Coelho, Dicionário Enciclopédico da História de Portugal, Publicações Alfa, 1990; Paulo Pereira, Torre de Belém, Publicações Scala, 2005

Philip I
Born in Valladolid on 27 May 1527, Philip I (Philip II of Spain) was son of the Emperor Carlos V and Queen Isabel of Portugal. He has gone down in history as the creator of modern Spain. He was the great grandson of the Catholic Monarchs (Los Reyes Católicos) and grandson of Philip the Handsome, the first Habsburg king of Castile, and Manuel I of Portugal. He amassed a huge empire, either by succession or through conquest, extending from Europe to the Americas and the Pacific Ocean. His reign was marked by uprising in the Low Countries, which became the United Provinces (the embryo of the future Netherlands). He also fought against Turkish dominance in the Mediterranean (the Battle of Lepanto in 1571) and went to war with France in an attempt to validate his rights to the French throne. After the death of the Portuguese King Sebastião at Alácar-Quibir (Morocco), Philip assumed his rights to the Portuguese crown, which he received in 1580 after the invasion led by the Duke of Alba. Despite Spanish hegemony in the world during his reign, he was unable to impede the rise of England and the Netherlands in the struggle for maritime and commercial power that marked 17thcentury Europe. Philip I died at the Escorial on 13 September 1589.

Under Philip I (Philip II of Spain) plans were drawn up to give the Tower a military upgrade. The Spanish monarch commissioned form the Italian engineer Giovanni Vizenzo Casale a design for a fortress to complete the Tagus defence line. The "Philippine Barracks" - a simple parallelepipedic construction on the bulwark - were built next to the Tower's south façade.
Bibl.: Joaquim Veríssimo Serrão, Dicionário Enciclopédico da História de Portugal, Publicações Alfa, 1990

Maria II
Maria was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1819 to Pedro IV of Portugal (Pedro I of Brazil) and his first wife, Leopoldina, Archduchess of Austria. When she was only seven, her father abdicated in her favour, imposing the condition that she married her uncle Miguel. The marriage was done by proxy in 1826. This political marriage was never consummated and the country fell into civil war between absolutists and liberals. In 1834 Maria was proclaimed queen, marking the end of the civil war. At the age of 15 she found herself governing a country in the midst of great social and political turmoil that was to last for many years. Although she was head of state in a particularly complex and tortuous period of Portuguese history, she endeavoured to maintain the constitutional outlook her father had instilled in her. Maria II died in childbirth in Lisbon on 15 November 1853.

The Tower of Belém was restored in the reign of Maria II in 1845/46. Following protests from Almeida Garrett about the monument's dilapidation and thanks to the efforts of the Duke of Terceira, then Minister of War, the works were sponsored by Maria's husband, Fernando II (Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) and supervised by the military engineer António de Azevedo e Cunha. The "Philippine Barracks" were demolished and revivalist elements were added such as the merlons decorated with coats of arms, the balustrade on the south veranda, the cloister with intricate platband and the niche with the statue of Our Lady of the Grapes.
Bibl.: Fernando Pereira Marques, Dicionário Enciclopédico da História de Portugal, Publicações Alfa, 1990