Many an 18th century European monarch faced the moral dilemma of reconciling their religious, usually Catholic, convictions with their all too human sexual desires. Louis XV, for one, resolved his religious conflict by praying before each one of his thousands of assignations with women that led to him dying of syphilis as well as smallpox. King John V of Portugal hit upon an even more novel idea. He cheated on his Queen consort exclusively with nuns.
John V, who ruled Portugal from 1706-1750, is a glaring example of a monarch whose religious fanaticism reaped havoc on his kingdom. As Karl Shaw pointed out in Royal Babylon, while Portugal experienced its economic zenith during his rule resulting from the gold being mined in its Brazilian colony, John waisted his country’s prosperity on cathedrals, monasteries and nunneries. By the end of his life, Portugal contained over 8 thousand of them. This appears to be the primary reason why by 1750 one in every ten Portuguese was either a monk or a nun.
While his wife, Queen Maria Anna, a daughter of Austrian Emporer Leopold l and her husband’s first cousin, went about reorganizing the royal court, paying particularly close attention to the separation of the sexes, John V busied himself turning the Odivelas Convent into his own private ecclesiastical brothel.
The self styled “Most Faithful King” bestowed at least three acknowledged bastards on this convent’s brides of Christ. Nicknamed “the children of Pahlava,” one grew up to become an archbishop, one a nun, and the other a Grand Inquisitor. At least they kept the family tradition going.