Afonso de Albuquerque

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Albuquerque the Great
Governor and Captain-General of the Seas of India, Viceroy of India, First Duke of Goa
Afonso de Albuquerque.jpg
Duke of Goa
Tenure 1515
Successor Brás de Albuquerque

Issue

Brás de Albuquerque, 2nd Duke of Goa
Full name
Afonso de Albuquerque
Noble family Albuquerque
Father Gonçalo de Albuquerque
Mother Leonor de Menezes
Born 1453
Alhandra, Kingdom of Portugal
Died 16 December 1515
Goa, Portuguese India
Buried Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Graça, Lisbon, Kingdom of Portugal
Occupation Admiral, Viceroy of India, Duke of Goa

Afonso de Albuquerque (Alhandra ca. 1453 - December 16, 1515, at sea), commonly known as Albuquerque the Great,[1] "O Grande"[2][3][4][5] (Portuguese: Afonso de Albuquerque, also spelled Aphonso d'Albuquerque and Alfonso), was a Portuguese general, and a "great conqueror",[6][7][8] a statesman, and empire builder.[9]

Albuquerque advanced the three-fold Portuguese grand scheme of combating Islam, spreading Christianity and securing the trade of spices and the establishment of a vast Portuguese Asian empire.[10] He was the first European to enter the Persian Gulf and led the first voyage by a European fleet into the Red Sea.[11] His military and administrative achievements are generally regarded as among the most vital to building and securing the Portuguese Empire in the Orient, the Middle East, and the spice routes of the Eastern Oceania.[12]

Albuquerque is generally considered a military genius,[13][14] and "probably the greatest naval commander of the age"[15] given his successful strategy: he attempted to close all the Indian Ocean naval passages to the Atlantic, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and to the Pacific, transforming it into a Portuguese mare clausum established over the opposition of the Ottoman Empire and its Muslim and Hindu allies.[16] In the expansion of the Portuguese Empire, Albuquerque initiated a rivalry that would become known as the Ottoman–Portuguese war, which would endure for many years. Many of the Ottoman–Portuguese conflicts in which Albuquerque was directly involved took place in the Indian Ocean, in the Persian Gulf regions for control of the trade routes, and on the coasts of India. It was Albuquerque's military brilliance in these initial campaigns against the much larger Ottoman Empire and its allies that enabled Portugal to become the first global empire in history.[17] He had a record of engaging and defeating much larger armies and fleets. For example, his capture of Ormuz in 1507 against the Persians was accomplished with an army fifty times smaller. Other famous battles and offensives led by Albuquerque include the conquest of Goa in 1510 and the capture of Malacca in 1511. He became admiral of the Indian Ocean, and was appointed head of the "fleet of the Arabian and Persian sea" in 1506.[7]

During the last five years of his life, he turned at last to organization and administration, proving to be skilled in this respect also.[18] His administrative abilities as second governor of Portuguese India were crucial to the longevity of the Portuguese Empire. He diplomatically pioneered European sea trade with China during the Ming Dynasty with envoy Rafael Perestrello, also Thailand with Duarte Fernandes as envoy, and with Timor, passing through Malaysia and Indonesia in a voyage headed by António de Abreu and Francisco Serrão. He also aided diplomatic relations with Ethiopia using priest envoys Joao Gomes and João Sanches,[19][20][21][22][23] and settled diplomatic ties with Persia, during the Safavid dynasty.[24]

He became known as "the Terrible",[25] "the Great",[6][18][26] "the Caesar of the East", "Lion of the Seas", and "the Portuguese Mars".

Early life[edit]

Afonso de Albuquerque, was born in 1453 in Alhandra, near Lisbon.[27] He was the second son of Gonçalo de Albuquerque, Lord of Vila Verde dos Francos and Dona Leonor de Menezes. His father held an important position at court and was connected by remote illegitimate descent with the Portuguese monarchy. He was educated in mathematics and Latin at the court of Afonso V of Portugal, where he befriended Prince John, the future King John II of Portugal.[28]

Albuquerque’s early training is described by Diogo Barbosa Machado:

“D. Affonso de Albuquerque, surnamed the Great, by reason of the heroic deeds wherewith he filled Europe with admiration, and Asia with fear and trembling, was born in the year 1453, in the Estate called, for the loveliness of its situation, the Paradise of the Town of Alhandra, six leagues distant from Lisbon. He was the second son of Gonçalo de Albuquerque, Lord of Villaverde, and of D. Leonor de Menezes, daughter of D. Álvaro Gonçalves de Athayde, Count of Atouguia, and of his wife D. Guiomar de Castro, and corrected this injustice of nature by climbing to the summit of every virtue, both political and moral. He was educated in the Palace of the King D. Afonso V, in whose palaestra he strove emulously to become the rival of that African Mars”.[29]

Albuquerque served 10 years in North Africa, where he gained military experience in fierce campaigns against Muslim powers and Ottoman Turks.[26]

In 1471, under the command of Afonso V of Portugal, he was present at the conquest of Tangier and Arzila in Morocco,[26] serving there as an officer for some years. In 1476, he accompanied Prince John in wars against Castile, such as the Battle of Toro. He participated in the campaign on the Italian peninsula in 1480 to rescue Ferdinand II of Aragon from the Ottoman invasion of Otranto that ended in victory.[30] On his return in 1481, when Prince John was crowned as King John II, Albuquerque was made Master of the Horse for his distinguished exploits, chief equerry (estribeiro-mor) to the King, a post Albuquerque held throughout John's reign (1481–95).[26][31] In 1489, he returned to military campaigns in North Africa, as commander of defence in the fortress of Graciosa, an island in the river Luco near the city of Larache, and in 1490 was part of the guard of King John II, returning to Arzila in 1495, where his younger brother Martim died fighting by his side.

Albuquerque made his mark under the stern John II, and won military campaigns in Africa and the Mediterranean sea, yet Asia is where he would make his greatest impact.[26][32]

First expedition to India, 1503[edit]

When King Manuel I of Portugal was enthroned, he showed some reticence towards Albuquerque, a close friend of his dreaded predecessor and seventeen years his senior. Eight years later, on April 6, 1503, after a long military career and at a mature age, Albuquerque was sent on his first expedition to India along with his cousin Francisco de Albuquerque. Each commanded three ships, sailing with Duarte Pacheco Pereira and Nicolau Coelho. They engaged in several battles against the forces of the Zamorin of Calicut (Calecute, Kozhikode) and succeeded in establishing the King of Cohin (Cohim, Kochi) securely on his throne. In return, the King gave them permission to build a Portuguese fort at Cochin and establish trade relations with Quilon (Coulão, Kollam). This laid the foundation for the eastern Portuguese Empire.

Second expedition to India, 1506[edit]

Map of the Arabian Peninsula showing the Red Sea with Socotra island (red) and the Persian Gulf (blue) with the Strait of Hormuz (Cantino planisphere, 1502).

Albuquerque returned home in July 1504, and was well received by King Manuel I. After Albuquerque assisted with the creation of a strategy for the Portuguese efforts in the east, King Manuel entrusted him with the command of a squadron of five vessels in the fleet of sixteen sailing for India in early 1506 headed by Tristão da Cunha. Their aim was to conquer Socotra and build a fortress there, hoping to close the trade in the Red Sea. Albuquerque went as "chief-captain for the Coast of Arabia", sailing under da Cunha's orders until reaching Mozambique.[33] He carried a sealed letter with a secret mission ordered by the King: after fulfilling the first mission, he was to replace the first viceroy of India, Francisco de Almeida, whose term ended two years later.[34] Before departing, he legitimated a natural son born in 1500 and made his will.

First conquest of Socotra and Hormuz, 1507[edit]

The fleet left Lisbon on April 6, 1506. Albuquerque piloted his ship himself, having lost his appointed pilot on departure. In Mozambique Channel, they rescued Captain João da Nova, who had had difficulties on his return from India; Nova and his ship, the Frol de la mar, joined the fleet.[35] From Malindi, da Cunha sent envoys to Ethiopia, which at the time was thought to be closer than it actually is. Those included the priest João Gomes, João Sanches and Tunisian Sid Mohammed who, having failed to cross the region, headed for Socotra; from there, Albuquerque managed to land them in Filuk.[36] After a series of successful attacks on Arab cities on the east Africa coast, they conquered Socotra and built a fortress at Suq, hoping to establish a base to stop the Red Sea commerce to the Indian Ocean.[37]

At Socotra, they parted ways: Tristão da Cunha sailed for India, where he would relieve the Portuguese besieged at Cannanore, while Albuquerque took seven ships and five hundred men in an unrequested[clarification needed] advance towards Ormuz in the Persian Gulf, one of the chief eastern centers of commerce. On his way, he conquered the cities of Curiati (Kuryat), Muscat in July 1507, and Khor Fakkan, accepting the submission of the cities of Kalhat and Sohar. On September 25, he arrived with a fearsome reputation at Ormuz and soon captured the city, which agreed to become a tributary state of the Portuguese king. A few days later, the King of Ormuz was met by an envoy demanding the payment of tribute to Shah Ismail I from Persia. He was sent back with the answer that the only tribute would be in cannonballs and guns, thus beginning the connection between Albuquerque and Shah Ismail I (often named Xeque Ismael).[38][39] Immediately Albuquerque began building the Fort of Our Lady of Victory (later renamed Fort of Our Lady of the Conception),[40] engaging his men of all ranks in the work.

However, some of his officers revolted against the heavy work and climate and, claiming that Albuquerque was exceeding his orders, departed for India. With the fleet reduced to only two ships and left without supplies, he was unable to maintain this position for long. Forced to abandon Ormuz in January 1508, he raided coastal villages to resupply the settlement of Socotra, returned to Ormuz, and only then headed to India.

Arrest at Cannanore, 1509[edit]

Albuquerque arrived at Cannanore on the Malabar coast in December 1508, where he immediately opened before the viceroy, Dom Francisco de Almeida, the sealed letter he had received from the King appointing him governor.[41][42] The viceroy, supported by the officers who had left Albuquerque at Ormuz, had a matching royal order, but declined to yield, protesting that his term ended only in January and stating his intention to avenge his son's death by fighting the Mamluk fleet of Mirocem, refusing Albuquerque's offer to fight him himself. Afonso de Albuquerque avoided confrontation — which could have led to civil war — and moved to Kochi, pending instructions from Portugal, maintaining his entourage himself. He was described by Fernão Lopes de Castanheda as patiently enduring open opposition from the group that had gathered around Almeida, with whom he kept formal contact. Increasingly isolated, he wrote to Diogo Lopes de Sequeira, who arrived in India with a new fleet, but was ignored as Sequeira joined the Viceroy. At the same time, Albuquerque refused approaches from opponents of the Viceroy, who encouraged him to seize power.[43]

On February 3, 1509, Almeida fought the naval Battle of Diu against a joint fleet of Mamluks, Ottomans, the Zamorin of Calicut and the Sultan of Gujarat, regarding it as personal revenge for the death of his son. His victory was decisive: the Ottomans and Mamluks abandoned the Indian Ocean, easing the way for Portuguese rule there for over 100 years. In August, after a petition from Albuquerque's former officers with the support of Diogo Lopes de Sequeira claiming him unfit for governance, he was sent in custody in an old ship to St. Angelo Fort in Cannanore.[44][45] There he remained under what he considered to be imprisonment.

In September 1509, Sequeira tried to establish contact with the Sultan of Malacca but failed, leaving behind 19 Portuguese prisoners.

Governor of Portuguese India, 1509-1515[edit]

Albuquerque was released after three months' confinement, on the arrival at Cannanore of the Marshal of Portugal with a large fleet.[46] He was the most important Portuguese noble ever to visit India and he brought an armada of fifteen ships and 3,000 men sent by the King to defend the rights of Albuquerque and take Calicut.[47]

On 4 November 1509, Albuquerque became the second Governor of the State of India, a position he would hold until his death. Almeida, having returned home in 1510,[48] Albuquerque speedily showed the energy and determination of his character.[49] He intended to dominate the Muslim world and control the Spice trade.[49]

Initially King Manuel I and his council in Lisbon tried to distribute the power, outlining three areas of jurisdiction in the Indian Ocean:[50] in 1509, the nobleman Diogo Lopes de Sequeira was sent with a fleet to Southeast Asia, with the task of seeking an agreement with Sultan Mahmud Shah of Malacca, but failed and returned to the kingdom.[clarification needed] To Jorge de Aguiar was given the region between the Cape of Good Hope and Gujarat. He was succeeded by Duarte de Lemos, but left for Cochin and then for the kingdom, leaving his fleet to Albuquerque.

Conquest of Goa, 1510[edit]

In January 1510, obeying the orders from the kingdom and knowing of the absence of Zamorin, Albuquerque advanced on Calicut. The attack was unsuccessful, as Marshal D. Fernando Coutinho ventured into the inner city against instructions, fascinated by its richness, and was ambushed. During the rescue, Albuquerque received a severe wound and had to retreat.[51]

Soon after the failed attack, Albuquerque hastened to assemble a powerful fleet of 23 ships and 1200 men. Contemporary reports state that he wanted to fight the Egyptian Mamluk Sultanate fleet in the Red Sea or return to Hormuz. However, he had been informed by Timoji (a privateer in the service of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire) that it would be easier to fight them in Goa, where they had sheltered after the Battle of Diu,[52] and also of the illness of the Sultan Yusuf Adil Shah and war between the Deccan sultanates.[53] So he invested by surprise in the capture of Goa to the Sultanate of Bijapur. He thus completed another mission, for Portugal wanted not to be seen as an eternal "guest" of Kochi and had been coveting Goa as the best trading port in the region.

A first assault took place in Goa from March 4 to May 20, 1510. After initial occupation, feeling unable to hold the city given the poor condition of its fortifications, the cooling of Hindu residents' support and insubordination among his ranks following a severe attack by Ismail Adil Shah, Albuquerque refused a truce offered by the Sultan and abandoned the city in August. His fleet was scattered, and a palace revolt in Kochi hindered his recovery, so he headed to Fort Anjediva. New ships arrived from Portugal, which were intended for the nobleman Diogo Mendes de Vasconcelos at Malacca, who had been given a rival command of the region.

Only three months later, on November 25, Albuquerque reappeared at Goa with a renovated fleet, Diogo Mendes de Vasconcelos compelled to accompany him with the reinforcements for Malacca[54] and about 300 Malabari reinforcements from Cannanore. In less than a day, they took Goa from Ismail Adil Shah and his Ottoman allies, who surrendered on 10 December. It is estimated that 6000 of the 9000 Muslim defenders of the city died, either in the fierce battle in the streets or by drowning while trying to escape.[55] Albuquerque regained the support of the Hindu population, although he frustrated the initial expectations of Timoja, who aspired to become governor. Albuquerque rewarded him by appointing him chief "Aguazil" of the city, an administrator and representative of the Hindu and Muslim people, as a knowledgeable interpreter of the local customs.[52] He then made an agreement to lower the yearly dues.

In Goa, Albuquerque started the first Portuguese mint in the East, after complaints from merchants and Timoja about the scarcity of currency, taking it as an opportunity to announce the territorial conquest.[56] The new coin, based on the existing local coins, showed a cross on one side and the design of an armillary sphere (or "esfera"), King Manuel's badge, on the other. Gold, silver and bronze coins were issued, respectively gold cruzados or manueis, esferas and alf-esferas, and "leais".[57][58] Another mint was established at Malacca in 1511.

Despite constant attacks, Goa became the centre of Portuguese India, with the conquest triggering the compliance of neighbouring kingdoms: the Sultan of Gujarat and the Zamorin of Calicut sent embassies, offering alliances and local grants to fortify.

Conquest of Malacca, 1511[edit]

Afonso de Albuquerque explained to his armies why the Portuguese wanted to capture Malacca:

"The king of Portugal has often commanded me to go to the Straits, because...this was the best place to intercept the trade which the Moslems...carry on in these parts. So it was to do Our Lord’s service that we were brought here; by taking Malacca, we would close the Straits so that never again would the Moslems be able to bring their spices by this route.... I am very sure that, if this Malacca trade is taken out of their hands, Cairo and Mecca will be completely lost." - The Commentaries of the Great Afonso de Albuquerque
The surviving gate of the A Famosa Portuguese fortress in Malacca

In February 1511, through a friendly Hindu merchant called Nina Chatu, Albuquerque received a letter from Rui de Araújo, one of the nineteen Portuguese held at Malacca since 1509. It urged moving forward with the largest possible fleet to demand their release, and gave details about the fortifications. Albuquerque showed it to Diogo Mendes de Vasconcelos, as an argument to advance in a joint fleet. In April 1511, after fortifying Goa, he gathered a force of about 900 Portuguese, 200 Hindu mercenaries and about eighteen ships.[59] He then set sail from Goa to Malacca against orders and despite the protest of Diogo Mendes, who claimed the command of the expedition. Albuquerque eventually centralized the Portuguese government in the Indian Ocean. After the conquest of Malacca, he wrote a letter to the King where he explained his disagreement with Diogo Mendes, suggesting that further divisions could be harmful to the Portuguese in India.[60] Under his command was Ferdinand Magellan, who had participated in the failed embassy of Diogo Lopes de Sequeira in 1509.

After a false start towards the Red Sea, they sailed to the Strait of Malacca. It was the richest city that the Portuguese tried to take, and a focal point in the trade network where Malay traders met Gujarati, Chinese, Japanese, Javanese, Bengali, Persian and Arabic, among others, described by Tomé Pires as of invaluable richness. Despite its wealth, it was mostly a wooden-built city, with few masonry buildings but was defended by a mercenary force estimated at 20,000 men and more than 2000 pieces of artillery. Its greatest weakness was the unpopularity of the government of Sultan Mahmud Shah, who favoured Muslims, arousing dissatisfaction amongst other merchants.

Albuquerque made a bold approach to the city, his ships decorated with banners, firing cannon volleys. He declared himself lord of all the navigation, demanding the Sultan release the prisoners, pay for the damage, and asking to build a fortified trading post. The Sultan eventually freed the prisoners, but was unimpressed by the small Portuguese contingent. Albuquerque then burned some ships at the port and four coastal buildings as a demonstration. The city being divided by the Malacca River, the connecting bridge was a strategic point, so at dawn on 25 July the Portuguese landed and fought a tough battle, facing poisoned arrows, taking the bridge in the evening. After waiting for the reaction of the Sultan, they returned to the ships. As the Sultan did not respond, they prepared a junk offered by Chinese merchants, filling it with men, artillery, sandbags. Commanded by António de Abreu, it sailed upriver at high tide to the bridge. The day after, all had landed. After a fierce fight during which the Sultan appeared with an army of war elephants, the defenders were dispersed and the Sultan fled.[61] Albuquerque rested his men for a week and waited for the reaction of the Sultan. Merchants approached, asking for Portuguese protection. They were given banners to mark their premises, a sign that they would not be looted. On 15 August, the Portuguese attacked again, but the Sultan had fled the city. Under strict orders, they looted the city, but respected the banners.[62]

Albuquerque prepared Malacca's defences against any Malay counterattack,[59] immediately building a fortress, assigning his men to shifts and using stones from the mosque and the cemetery. Despite the delays caused by heat and malaria, it was completed in November 1511, its surviving door known as "A Famosa" ('the beautiful'). It was possibly then that Albuquerque had a large stone engraved with the names of the participants in the conquest. To quell disagreements over the order of the names, Albuquerque had it set facing the wall, with the single inscription Lapidem quem reprobaverunt aedificantes (Latin for "The stone the builders rejected", from prophecy of David, Psalm 118:22-23) on the front.[63]

He settled the Portuguese administration, reappointing Rui de Araújo as factor, a post assigned before his 1509 arrest, and appointing rich merchant Nina Chatu to replace the previous bendahara, representative of the Kafir people and adviser. Besides assisting in the governance of the city and first Portuguese coinage, he also provided the junks for several diplomatic missions.[64] Meanwhile, Albuquerque arrested and had executed the powerful Javanese merchant Utimuti Raja who, after being appointed to a position in the Portuguese administration as representative of the Javanese population, had maintained contacts with the exiled royal family.

Albuquerque also shipped over many Orfas del Rei to Portuguese Malacca.[65][66]

Missions from Malacca[edit]

Embassies to Pegu, Sumatra and Siam, 1511[edit]

Most Muslim and Gujarati merchants having fled the city, Albuquerque now invested in diplomatic efforts demonstrating generosity to Southeast Asian merchants, like the Chinese, to encourage good relations with the Portuguese. Trade and diplomatic missions were sent to continental kingdoms: Rui Nunes da Cunha was sent to Pegu (Burma), from where king Binyaram sent back a friendly emissary to Kochi in 1514[67][68] and Sumatra, Sumatran kings of Kampar and Indragiri sending emissaries to Albuquerque accepting the new power, as vassal states of Malacca.[69] Knowing of Siamese ambitions over Malacca, Albuquerque immediately sent Duarte Fernandes in a diplomatic mission to the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand), travelling in a Chinese junk returning home. He was one of the former Portuguese arrested in Malacca, having gathered knowledge about the culture of the region. There he was the first European to arrive, establishing amicable relations between the kingdom of Portugal and the court of the King of Siam Ramathibodi II, returning with a Siamese envoy bearing gifts and letters to Albuquerque and the king of Portugal.[70]

Expedition to the "spice islands" (Maluku islands), 1512[edit]

Depiction of Ternate with São João Baptista Fort, built in 1522.

In November, after having secured Malacca and learning the location of the then secret "spice islands", Albuquerque sent an expedition of three ships sailing east to find them, led by trusted António de Abreu with the deputy commander Francisco Serrão.[71] Malay sailors were recruited to guide them through Java, the Lesser Sunda Islands and the Ambon Island to Banda Islands, where they arrived in early 1512.[72][72] There they remained for about a month, buying and filling their ships with nutmeg and cloves. António de Abreu then sailed to Amboina whilst Serrão stepped forward to the Moluccas but was shipwrecked near Seram. Sultan Abu Lais of Ternate heard of their stranding, and, seeing a chance to ally himself with a powerful foreign nation, brought them to Ternate in 1512 were they were permitted to build a fort on the island, the Forte de São João Baptista de Ternate (pt), built in 1522.

China expeditions, 1513[edit]

In early 1513, Jorge Álvares— sailing on a mission under Albuquerque's orders — was allowed to land in Lintin Island, on the Pearl River Delta in southern China. Soon after, Albuquerque sent Rafael Perestrello to southern China, seeking out trade relations with the Ming Dynasty. In ships from Portuguese Malacca, Rafael sailed to Canton (Guangzhou) in 1513, and again from 1515–1516 to trade with Chinese merchants. These ventures, along with those of Tomé Pires and Fernão Pires de Andrade, were the first direct European diplomatic and commercial ties with China.[73]

Shipwreck on the Flor de la mar, 1511[edit]

In 20 November 1511 Albuquerque sailed from Malacca to the coast of Malabar on board the old Flor de la mar carrack that had served to support the conquest of Malacca. Despite already being deemed unsafe, Afonso de Albuquerque used her to transport the treasure amassed in the conquest, given her large capacity:[74] he wanted to give the court of King Manuel I a show of Malaccan treasures. There were also the offers from the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand) to the king of Portugal and all his own fortune. On the voyage a storm arose and the Flor De La Mar was wrecked, and he himself barely escaped with his life.[59]

Albuquerque returned from Malacca to Kochi, but could not sail to Goa as it faced a serious revolt headed by the forces of Ismael Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur, commanded by Rasul Khan with the help of some of his countrymen. While he was absent in Malacca, Portuguese who opposed the taking of Goa had waived the possession, even written to the king stating that it would be best to let it go. Held up by the monsoon and with few forces available, he had to wait for the arrival of reinforcement fleets headed by his nephew D. Garcia de Noronha and Jorge de Mello Pereira.

On 10 September 1512, Albuquerque set sail from Cochin to Goa with fourteen ships carrying 1,700 soldiers. Determined to recapture the fortress, he ordered trenches to be dug and a wall to be breached. But on the very morning of the planned final assault, Rasul Khan surrendered. Albuquerque demanded the fort be handed over with all its artillery, ammunition and horses, and the deserters to be given up. Some had joined Rasul Khan when the Portuguese were forced to flee Goa in May 1510, others during the recent siege. Rasul Khan consented, on condition that their lives be spared. Albuquerque agreed and he left Goa. Albuquerque kept his word, but mutilated them horribly. One such renegade was Fernão Lopes, bound for Portugal in custody, who escaped at the island of Saint Helena and led a 'Robinson Crusoe' life for many years. After such measures the town became the most prosperous Portuguese settlement in India.

Return to the Red Sea, 1513[edit]

In December 1512 an envoy from Ethiopia arrived at Goa. Mateus was sent by regent queen Eleni following the arrival of the Portuguese from Socotra in 1507, as an ambassador for the king of Portugal in search of a coalition to help face growing Ottoman influence. He was received in Goa with great honour by Albuquerque, as a long sought "Prester John" envoy. His arrival was announced by king Manuel I of Portugal to Pope Leo X in 1513. Although Mateus faced the distrust of some of Albuquerque rivals, who tried to prove he was some impostor or Muslim spy, Albuquerque sent him to Portugal.[75] The king is described as having wept with joy at their report.

In February 1513, while Mateus was in Portugal, Albuquerque sailed to the Red Sea with a force of about 1000 Portuguese and 400 Malabaris. He was, from the start, under orders from the kingdom to secure that channel to Portugal. Barren Socotra had proved ineffective to control the Red Sea entrance and was abandoned, and Albuquerque's hint that Massawa could be a good Portuguese base might have been influenced by Mateus' reports.[76]

Knowing that Mamluks were preparing a second fleet at Suez, he wanted to advance before reinforcements arrived in Aden. He accordingly laid siege to the city.[77] Aden was a fortified city, but although having scaling ladders they broke and after half day of fierce battle Albuquerque was forced to retreat. They cruised the Red Sea inside the Bab al-Mandab, as the first European fleet to have sailed this route. Albuquerque attempted to reach Jeddah, but the winds were unfavourable and so sheltered at Kamaran island in May, until sickness among the men and lack of fresh water forced to retreat. In August 1513, after a second attempt to reach Aden, they returned to India with no substantial results. In order to destroy the power of Egypt, Albuquerque is said to have entertained the idea of diverting the course of the Nile river and so rendering the whole country barren. Perhaps most tellingly, he intended to steal the body of the Prophet Muhammad, and hold it for ransom until all Muslims had left the Holy Land.[78][79]

Administration and diplomacy in Goa, 1514[edit]

In 1514 Afonso de Albuquerque devoted himself to governing Goa, concluding peace with Calicut and receiving embassies from Indian governors, strengthening the city and stimulating the marriage of Portuguese with local women. At that time, Portuguese women were barred from travelling overseas due to superstition about women on ships, as well as the unsafe nature of the sea route. In 1511, the Portuguese government encouraged their explorers to marry local women, under a policy set by Albuquerque. To promote settlement, the King of Portugal granted freeman status and exemption from Crown taxes to Portuguese men (known as casados, or "married men") who ventured overseas and married local women. With Albuquerque's encouragement, mixed marriages flourished. He appointed local people for positions in the Portuguese administration and didn't interfere with local traditions, except "sati", the practice of immolating widows, which he forbade.

In March 1514 King Manuel I of Portugal had sent to Pope Leo X a huge and exotic embassy led by Tristão da Cunha, who toured the streets of Rome in an extravagant procession of animals from the colonies and wealth from the Indies that struck Europe. His reputation reached its peak, laying foundations of the Portuguese Empire in the East.

In early 1514, Afonso de Albuquerque had sent ambassadors to Sultan Muzafar II, ruler of Cambay, to seek permission to build a fort on Diu. The mission returned without an agreement, but diplomatic gifts were exchanged, including an Indian rhinoceros.[80] Albuquerque sent the gift, named ganda, and its Indian keeper, Ocem, to King Manuel I.[81] In late 1515, the king sent it as a gift, the famous Dürer's Rhinoceros to Pope Leo X. Dürer never saw the actual rhinoceros, which was the first living example seen in Europe since Roman times.

Conquest of Ormuz and Illness[edit]

Portrait of the Duke of Goa while Viceroy of India

In 1513 at Cannanore Albuquerque was visited by a Persian ambassador from shah Ismail I, who had sent ambassadors to Gujarat, Ormuz and Bijapur. The shah's ambassador to Bijapur visited Albuquerque inviting him to send back an envoy to Persia. Miguel Ferreira was sent via Ormuz to Tabriz, where he had several interviews with the Shah about common goals on defeating the Mamluk sultan.

Having returned with rich presents and an ambassador, on the journey back in March 1515 they were met by Albuquerque at Ormuz, where he went to establish his rule.[82] Fueled by the offers of the shah, Albuquerque had decided to recapture Ormuz. He had learned that after the Portuguese retreat in 1507, a young king was reigning under the influence of a powerful Persian vizier, Reis Hamed, whom the king greatly feared. At Hormuz, Albuquerque had a parley with the king and asked the vizier to be present. He then had him immediately stabbed and killed by his entourage, thus "freeing" the dominated king so the island in the Persian Gulf yielded to him without resistance, and remained a vassal state of the Portuguese Empire. Hormuz itself, would not be Persian territory for another century, until a combined British-Persian alliance finally expelled the Portuguese, in 1622.[83] There in Hormuz, Albuquerque stood, engaging in diplomatic efforts and receiving envoys while becoming increasingly ill. In November 1515 he decided to return, but during the journey his illness would become increasingly fatal, and would lead to his eventual death in the very harbour of Goa.

The Last Sight of Goa[edit]

Albuquerque's life ended on a bitter note, with a painful and ignominious close. At this time, his political enemies back at the Portuguese court, had planned his demise. They had lost no opportunity in stirring up the jealousy of King Manuel against him, insinuating that Albuquerque intended to strike power in Portuguese India against the king back in Lisbon.[84]

Since at least the beginning of November 1515, Albuquerque had known that he had been replaced in the government of India by one of his enemies, Lopo Soares de Albergaria. Reportedly, he even received a letter from the ambassador of the Persian potentate Shah Ismael, inviting Albuquerque to become a leading lord in Persia. Albuquerque's illness was reported as early as September 1515.[85]

While on his return voyage from Ormuz in the Persian Gulf, within eyesight of the harbor of Goa, he got news about a Portuguese fleet arriving from Europe bearing dispatches, announcing that he was to be replaced by his personal foe, the Portuguese Lopo Soares de Albergaria. Feeling himself near death, he drew up his will, appointed the captain and senior officials of Hormuz, and organised a final council with his captains to decide the main matters affecting the Estado da Índia.[85]

He wrote a long letter to the king, voicing his bitterness: "I am in ill favor with the king for love of men, and with men for love of the king.". In this letter, he petitioned king Manuel, to confer to his natural son all of the high honors and rewards that were justly due to himself. He also wrote in dignified and affectionate terms assuring King Manuel I of his loyalty.[83][86] On December 16, 1515, Albuquerque afflicted by illness, and while in sight of Goa, died. The gentiles were reported as saying "It could not be that he was dead, but that God had need of him for some war and had therefore sent for him".[87]

In Portugal, King Manuel's zigzagging policies continued, still trapped by the constraints of real-time medieval communication between Lisbon and India, was unaware that Albuquerque was dead. Hearing rumours that the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt was preparing a magnificent army at Suez to prevent the conquest of Hormuz, he quickly repented to have replaced Albuquerque, and in March 1516 urgently wrote to Albergaria to return the command of all operations to Albuquerque, and provide him with resources to face the Egyptian threat. He organised a new Portuguese navy in Asia, with the orders that Albuquerque, if he was still in India, to be made commander-in-chief against the Sultan of Cairo's armies. Tragically of-course, king Manuel would afterwards learn, that Albuquerque had died many months earlier, and that his reversed decision had been delivered many months too late.[84][87]

Albuquerque's body was buried in Goa according to his will, in the Church of Nossa Senhora da Serra (Our Lady of the Hill), built in 1513 thanking for his escape from Kamaran island.[88] After 51 years, in 1566, he was moved to Nossa Senhora da Graça church in Lisbon,[89] which was ruined and rebuilt after the 1755 Great Lisbon earthquake.

Legacy[edit]

Albuquerque Monument on Afonso de Albuquerque Square in Lisbon (1902).

King Manuel I of Portugal was belatedly convinced of Albuquerque's loyalty, and endeavoured to atone for the ingratitude with which he had treated him by heaping honours upon his son, Brás de Albuquerque (1500–1580),[90] whom he renamed "Afonso" in memory of his father.

Afonso de Albuquerque was a prolific writer, having written numerous letters to the king reporting all kind of matters during his governorship, from minor issues to major strategies. In 1557, his son published a collection his letters under the title Commentarios do Grande Affonso d'Alboquerque.[91]- a clear reference to Caesar's Commentaries- which he later reviewed and re-published in 1576. There Albuquerque was described as "a man of middle stature, with a long face, fresh complexion, the nose somewhat large. He was a prudent man, and a Latin scholar, and spoke in elegant phrases; his conversation and writings showed his excellent education. He was of ready words, very authoritative in his commands, very circumspect in his dealings with the Moors, and greatly feared yet greatly loved by all, a quality rarely found united in one captain. He was very valiant and favoured by fortune."[92]

In 1572, Albuquerque's feats were described in The Lusiads, the Portuguese main epic poem by Luís Vaz de Camões (Canto X, strophe 40 to 49). The poet praises his achievements, but has the muses frown upon the harsh rule of his men, of whom Camões was almost a contemporary fellow. In 1934, Albuquerque was celebrated by Fernando Pessoa in Mensagem, a symbolist epic. In the first part of this work, called "Brasão" (Coat-of-Arms), he relates Portuguese historical protagonists to each of the fields in the Portuguese coat-of-arms, Albuquerque being one of the wings of the griffin headed by Henry the Navigator, the other wing being King John II.

A variety of mango that he used to bring on his journeys to India has been named in his honour.[93]

Numerous homages have been made to Albuquerque. He is featured in the Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument. Additionally there is a square carrying his name in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, which also features a bronze statue. Two Portuguese Navy ships have been named in his honour: the sloop NRP Afonso de Albuquerque (1884) and the warship NRP Afonso de Albuquerque, the latter belonging to a sloop class named Albuquerque.

Global legacy[edit]

The fabled Spice Islands were always on the imagination of Europe since ancient times. In the 2nd century AD, Malaya was known, by Ptolemy the Greek geographer, who labelled it 'Aurea Chersonesus"; and who said that it was believed the fabled area was rich in an abundance of gold. Even Indian traders who referred to the East Pacific region, as "Land of Gold" and made regular visits to Malaya in search of the precious metal, tin and sweet scented jungle woods.[94] But neither Ptolemy, nor Rome, nor Alexander would have the fortune of laying eyes upon the fabled regions of the East Pacific. Albuquerque became the first European to reach the Spice Islands. Upon discovering Malaysia, he proceeded in 1511 to conquer Malacca. Albuquerque then commissioned an expedition under the command of António de Abreu and Vice-Commander Francisco Serrão (the latter being a cousin of Magellan) to further explore the extremities of the region in east Indonesia.[95] As a result of these voyages of exploration by Albuquerque, the Portuguese became the first Europeans to discover and to reach the fabled Spice Islands of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Indies in addition to the discovering their sea routes. He effectively found what had always evaded Columbus' grasp — the wealth of the Orient. The discovery of Albuquerque would not go unnoticed and it did not take long for Magellan to arrive in the same region only several years later and discover the Philippines for Spain, giving birth to the Papal Treaty of Zaragoza.

Albuquerque's operations sent a voyage pushing further south which made the European discovery of Timor in the far south of Oceania, and the discovery of Papua New Guinea in 1512. This was soon followed up by another Portuguese Jorge de Menezes in 1526, who named Papua New Guinea, the "Island of the Papua".[96][97][98][99]

Through the diplomatic activities of Albuquerque, Portugal opened up for the first time in history, the sea between Europe and China. As early as 1513, Jorge de Albuquerque, a Portuguese commanding officer in Malaca, sent his subordinate Jorge Álvares to sail to China on a ship loaded with pepper from Sumatra. After sailing many miles across the sea, Jorge Álvares and his crew dropped anchor in Tamao, an island located at the mouth of the Pearl River. This was to be the first time the Portuguese ever to set foot in the territory known as China, the mythical "Middle Kingdom" where they erected a stone Padrão.[100] Jorge is the first European to reach Chinese land by sea,[101][102][103][104] and, the first European to discover Hong Kong.[105][106] One year later, in 1514, Afonso de Albuquerque, the Viceroy of the Estado da India dispatched Italian, Rafael Perestrello to sail to China in order to pioneer European trade relations with the Chinese nation.[107] Rafael Perestrelo was quoted as saying, "being a very good and honest people, the Chinese hope to make friends with the Portuguese.".[108] In spite of initial harmony and excitement between the two empires, difficulties began to arise shortly afterwards. When different cultures have encountered each other for the first time, there has often been misunderstanding, bigotry, even hostility, and the Portuguese were not alone in this regard.[109] Portugal's efforts in establishing long lasting ties with China however paid off, in the long run. Eventually, the Portuguese colonized Macau, and established the first European permanent settlement on Chinese soil in history, which served as a permanent colonial base in southern China, and the two empires maintained an exchange in culture and trade that would span for nearly 500 years.[110][111] The longest empire in history begun by Albuquerque centuries earlier, ended when Portugal handed over the government of Macau back to China (1515-1999).[112][113][114][115]

Albuquerque pioneered trade relations with Thailand, being the first European to discover Thailand.[116]

Titles and honours[edit]

Son[edit]

Afonso de Albuquerque had a bastard son with an unknown woman. He legitimized the boy in February 1506. Prior to his death, he asked King Manuel I to leave him all his wealth and that he take care of his education. When Albuquerque died, Manuel I renamed the child "Afonso" in his father's memory. Brás Afonso de Albuquerque, or Braz in the old spelling, was born in 1500 and died in 1580.

Ancestry[edit]

References[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Francisco de Almeida
Viceroy of Portuguese India
1509–1515
Succeeded by
Lopo Soares de Albergaria