Fernando de Alencastre, 1st Duke of Linares

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Fernando de Alencastre Noroña y Silva, duque de Linares y marqués de Valdefuentes

Fernando de Alencastre Noroña y Silva, duque de Linares y marqués de Valdefuentes (c. 1641, Spain—June 3, 1717, Mexico City) was a Spanish nobleman and military officer. He also served as viceroy of New Spain, from January 15, 1711 to August 15, 1716.

Early career[edit]

Alencastre Noroña y Silva was a descendant of Fernando de Noroña, Duke of Linares, and thus from a very distinguished Spanish family. In addition to the two titles he inherited, he was knight commander of the Order of Santiago, lord of the bedchamber of the king, and lieutenant general in the army. He was also knight commander of the royal arms in the Kingdom of Naples, viceroy of Sardinia, vicar general of La Toscana and viceroy of Peru.

Beginning of his term as viceroy of New Spain[edit]

Fernando de Alencastre Noroña y Silva, duque de Linares y marqués de Valdefuentes by Juan Rodríguez Juárez ca 1717.

In 1711 he became viceroy and captain general of New Spain and president of the Audiencia. Around 1711 he authored a proposal to the Council of the Indies to legitimize private trade between New Spain and Peru in the Pacific. Spain had supplied Peru by bringing goods by government fleet to the port of Portobelo (on the Atlantic side of Panama), from whence they were carted to Lima overland. However, the Spanish government fleet did not arrive for the eleven years between 1696 and 1707, and had not come between 1708 and 1711. The problem was the War of Spanish Succession was making it difficult for the Spanish fleet to cross the Atlantic. In their place, the French were sailing from Saint Malo France around Cape Horn (below Argentina) over to Callao, Peru. At Callao, the French sold European merchandise for silver, and then sailed to Asia, where the French traded silver for Asian products (spices and above all, textiles), and then returning to Callao to sell the Asian produce for silver and/or cacao before returning to France. Viceroy Linares suggested that Spain permit Latin American merchant ships to sail from Acapulco to Callao. In Acapulco, they could pick up produce from Asia on the government Manila galleon, and they could also purchase European goods brought to Veracruz by the Spanish government fleet. Linares pointed out that banning Latin American merchants trading between Acapulco (New Spain) and Callao (Peru) was simply making French businessmen wealthy.[1]

The Consejo de Indias rejected this idea, hinting that Viceroy Linares himself might be profiting from Pacific trade: "without the toleration of the Viceroys, governors and ministers of those Kingdoms [New Spain and Peru], the perpetrators of fraud could not continue business with their goods with the freedom and openness with which they have done so in recent years".[2]

On August 16, 1711 there was a strong earthquake that damaged many buildings and resulted in significant loss of life. The earthquake was said to last half an hour. The viceroy paid out of his own pocket to help the poor and to restore some of the buildings.

In 1713, Mexico City experienced a snowfall unlike any earlier recorded. The harvest failed, and a severe famine resulted. The streets were filled with people begging for bread. Perhaps as a result of the famine, a severe plague broke out, continuing into the following year. Many sick people were abandoned on the streets. Many people died and were buried in common graves. Both the viceroy and the archbishop of Mexico, José Lanziego, paid out of their own pockets to help the poor during these catastrophes.

Foreign affairs and defense[edit]

To cement the recent peace with England in 1713, the Spanish Crown granted that country a monopoly in the trade in black slaves throughout Spanish America for ten years. This had the unintended effect of allowing the English to introduce large quantities of contraband merchandise into the colonies as well. Also troublesome was the longstanding English settlement at Laguna de Términos. Here the English continued the illegal harvest of tropical woods, especially logwood.

Alencastre ordered the construction of four well-armed, light warships at Coatzacoalcos to reinforce the Armada de Barlovento (coast guard). He bought 600 new muskets in Cantabria for the militia and sent money for the repair of fortifications at Cumaná.

He petitioned the Crown to allow direct trade between New Spain and Peru, but the Crown rejected the proposal.

Internal affairs and new settlements[edit]

This viceroy organized two expeditions to reoccupy Texas and establish missions there. He founded the city of San Felipe de Linares September 3, 1711 (in present-day Nuevo León). Alencastre also aided the missions in California and New Mexico. He was an early donor to the Jesuit missions of Baja California, providing 5,000 as seed money in 1697.[3] Indians in New Mexico continued in revolt, and the viceroy sent priests there to subdue the natives peacefully.

In 1711 Father Eusebio Kino, explorer and missionary in Sonora, Baja California and Alta California, died in Magdelena, Sonora.

Alencastre constructed the aqueduct of Arcos de Belén to Salto de Agua in Mexico City. He continued and expanded La Acordada, a special tribunal dedicated to fighting robbery in the cities and on the highways. He prohibited the manufacture of the alcoholic beverage aguardiente from sugar cane, and made attempts to suppress immorality among the regular clergy.

The Crown fixed the annual contribution of New Spain to the mother country at one million pesos. To raise this money required some ingenuity on the part of the viceroy.

On October 28, 1715 an insurrection broke out among the garrison at San Juan de Ulúa, near Veracruz. For two years the soldiers had received only partial pay. The rebels were tried, convicted, and pardoned. Afterwards they continued to press their grievances.

Alencastre founded the first public library and the first natural history museum in New Spain. King Philip V of Spain directed that the museum send to Spain samples of rocks, plants, fruits, animals and other things found in Mexico but unknown in Spain. The viceroy complied, copiously.

Retirement and death[edit]

In 1716 he turned over the office to his successor, Baltasar de Zúñiga, 1st Duke of Arión. He left for Zúñiga a written Instrucción, in which he detailed the sad social and economic conditions of the colony.

He died the following year in Mexico City, and was interred in the church of the Discalced Carmelites. He left many charitable donations in his will, including an addition 5,000 for the Jesuit missions of Baja California.[4]


  1. ^ Mariano Ardash Bonialian, El Pacifico Hispanoamericano, politica y comercio asiatico en el imperio espanol (1680-1784). (Mexico City, 2012), 100-119.
  2. ^ quoted in Bonialian, El Pacifico Hispanoamericano, 113
  3. ^ Alegre, Francisco Javier. ([1766], 1960). Historia de la Provincia de la Compan~ía de Jesus de Nueva Espan~a. Nueva edición por Ernest J. Burrus y Felix Zubillaga. Roma: Insitutum Historicum S.J.; Vol. 4, pp. 3*, 252-53.
  4. ^ Alegre, 1960, v. 4:252-53.
  • (Spanish) "Alencastre Noroña y Silva, Fernando de," Enciclopedia de México, v. 1. Mexico City, 1988.
  • (Spanish) García Puron, Manuel, México y sus gobernantes, v. 1. Mexico City: Joaquín Porrua, 1984.
  • (Spanish) Orozco L., Fernando, Fechas Históricas de México. Mexico City: Panorama Editorial, 1988, ISBN 968-38-0046-7.
  • (Spanish) Orozco Linares, Fernando, Gobernantes de México. Mexico City: Panorama Editorial, 1985, ISBN 968-38-0260-5.
  • (Spanish) Alegre, Francisco Javier. Historia de la Provincia de la Compan~ía de Jesus de Nueva Espan~a. Nueva edición por Ernest J. Burrus y Felix Zubillaga. Roma: Insitutum Historicum S.J. [1766], 1960.

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