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Afonso de Albuquerque

Dom Afonso de Albuquerque (or Afonso d'Albuquerque - disused) (1453, Alhandra - Goa, December 16, 1515) was a Portuguese fidalgo, or nobleman, a naval general officer whose military and administrative activities conquered and established the Portuguese colonial empire in the Indian ocean. Generally considered as a world conquest military genius by means of his successful strategy, he was created first Duke of Goa by king Manuel I of Portugal shortly before his death, being the first Portuguese duke not of the royal family, and the first Portuguese title landed overseas. He attempted to close all the Indian ocean naval passages to the Atlantic, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and to the Pacific, transforming it in a Portuguese Mare Nostrum established over the Turkish power and their Muslim and Hindu allies.

Early life

Born in Alhandra in the year of 1453, near Lisbon, Portugal, he was for some time known as The Great, The Caesar of the East, Lion of the Seas and as The Portuguese Mars. Through his father, Gonçalo de Albuquerque, Lord of Vila Verde dos Francos (married to Dona Leonor de Menezes), who held an important position at court, he was connected by remote illegitimate descent with the royal family of Portugal. He was educated in mathematics and classical Latin at the court of Afonso V of Portugal, and after the death of that monarch seems to have served for some time in Arzila, Morocco. On his return he was appointed estribeiro-mor (chief equerry) to John II.

Expeditions to the East

First Expedition, 1503-1504

In 1503 he set out on his first expedition to the East, which was to be the scene of his future triumphs. In company with his kinsman Francisco he sailed round the Cape of Good Hope to India, and succeeded in establishing the king of Cochin securely on his throne, obtaining in return for this service permission to build a Portuguese fort at Cochin, and thus laying the foundation of his country's empire in the East.

Operations in the Persian Gulf and Malabar, 1504-1508

Albuquerque returned home in July 1504, and was well received by King Manuel I of Portugal, who entrusted him with the command of a squadron of five vessels in the fleet of sixteen which sailed for India in 1506 under Tristão da Cunha. After a series of successful attacks on the Arab cities on the east coast of Africa, Albuquerque separated from Tristão, and sailed with his squadron against the island of Hormuz, in the Persian Gulf, which was then one of the chief centers of commerce in the East. He arrived on September 25, 1507, and soon obtained possession of the island, though he was unable to maintain his position for long. He was responsible for building the Portuguese Castle on the island of Hormoz.

With his squadron increased by three vessels, he reached the Malabar coast at the end of 1508, and immediately made known the commission he had received from the king empowering him to supersede the governor Dom Francisco de Almeida. The latter, however, refused to recognize Albuquerque's credentials and cast him into prison, from which he was only released, after three months' confinement, on the arrival of the grand-marshal of Portugal with a large fleet, in November 1509. Almeida having returned home, Albuquerque speedily showed the energy and determination of his character. On this date he became the second viceroy of the State of India, a position he would hold until his death.

Operations in Goa and Malacca, 1510-1511

Albuquerque intended to dominate the Muslim world and control the spices' trading network. An unsuccessful attack upon Calicut (modern Kozhikode) in January 1510, in which the commander-in-chief received a severe wound, was immediately followed by the investment and capture of Goa. Albuquerque, finding himself unable to hold the town on his first occupation, abandoned it in August, to return with the reinforcements in November, when he obtained undisputed possession. In April 1511, he set sail from Goa to Malacca with a force of some 1200 men and seventeen or eighteen ships. He conquered Malacca by August 24, 1511 after a severe struggle throughout July. Albuquerque remained in Malacca until November 1511 preparing its defences against any Malay counterattack. He ordered the slaughter of all the Muslim population in an effort to reduce religious divergence hoping that it would force Hindus and Muslims to convert to Christianity. He also ordered the first Portuguese ships to sail east in search of the 'Spice Islands' of Maluku.

Various operations, 1512-1515

In 1512 he sailed for the coast of Malabar. On the voyage a violent storm arose, Albuquerque's vessel, the Flor De La Mar, which carried the treasure he had amassed in his conquests, was wrecked, and he himself barely escaped with his life. In September of the same year he arrived at Goa, where he quickly suppressed a serious revolt headed by Idalcan, and took such measures for the security and peace of the town that it became the most flourishing of the Portuguese settlements in India. Albuquerque had been for some time under orders from the home government to undertake an expedition to the Red Sea, in order to secure that channel of communication exclusively to Portugal. He accordingly laid siege to Aden in 1513, but was repulsed; and a voyage into the Red Sea, the first ever made by a European fleet, led to no substantial results. In order to destroy the power of Egypt, he is said to have entertained the idea of diverting the course of the Nile River and so rendering the whole country barren. His last warlike undertaking was a second attack upon Ormuz in 1515. The island yielded to him without resistance, and it remained in the possession of the Portuguese until 1622. 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.

China expeditions, 1513

In early 1513, Jorge Álvares—sailing in a mission under Albuquerque—discovered Lintin Island in the Pearl River Delta of southern China, and soon after Albuquerque sent Rafael Perestrello to southern China to seek out trade relations with the Ming Dynasty of China. In ships from Portuguese Malacca, Rafael sailed to Canton (Guangzhou) in 1513 and again from 1515–1516 to trade with Chinese merchants there. These ventures, along with those of Tomé Pires and Fernão Pires de Andrade, were the first direct European diplomatic and commercial ties to China. However, after the death of the Chinese Zhengde Emperor on April 19, 1521, conservative factions at court seeking to limit eunuch influence rejected the new Portuguese embassy, fought sea battles with the Portuguese around Tuen Mun, and Tomé was forced to write letters to Malacca stating that he and other ambassadors would not be released from prison in China until the Portuguese relinquished their control of Malacca and returned it to the deposed Sultan of Malacca (who was previously a Ming tributary vassal). Nonetheless, Portuguese relations with China became normalized again by the 1540s and in 1557 a permanent Portuguese base at Macau in southern China was established with consent from the Ming court. .

Political downfall and last years

Albuquerque's career had a painful and ignominious close. He had several enemies at the Portuguese court who lost no opportunity of stirring up the jealousy of King Manuel against him, and his own injudicious and arbitrary conduct on several occasions served their end only too well. On his return from Ormuz, at the entrance of the harbour of Goa, he met a vessel from Europe bearing dispatches announcing that he was superseded by his personal enemy Lopo Soares de Albergaria. The blow was too much for him and he died at sea on December 16, 1515.

Before his death he wrote a letter to the king in dignified and affecting terms, vindicating his conduct and claiming for his son the honours and rewards that were justly due to himself. His body was buried at Goa in the Church of our Lady. The king of Portugal was convinced too late of his fidelity, and endeavoured to atone for the ingratitude with which he had treated him by heaping honours upon his natural son Brás de Albuquerque (1500—1580). In 1576, the latter published a selection from his father's papers under the title Commentarios do Grande Affonso d'Alboquerque which had been gathered in 1557.

An exquisite and expensive variety of mango, that he used to bring on his journeys to India, has been named in his honour, and is today sold throughout the world as Alphonso mangoes.

References

Bibliography

  • Albuquerque, Braz de (1774). Commentarios do grande Afonso Dalboquerque. Lisbon: Na Regia Officina Typografica. Available in English as The Commentaries of the Great Afonso Dalboquerque, Second Viceroy of India. Laurier Books Ltd. /AES 2000. ISBN 978-8120615144
  • Danvers, Frederick Charles (1894). The Portuguese in India. London: W. H. Allen. ISBN 978-1402150807 (reprint).
  • Diffie, Bailey W. and George D. Winius (1977). Foundations of the Portuguese Empire, 1415–1580. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0816607826.
  • Marques, António Henrique R. de Oliveira (1972). History of Portugal, 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 023108353X.
  • Panikkar, K. M. (1929). Malabar and the Portuguese: Being a History of the Relations of the Portuguese with Malabar from 1500 to 1663. Bombay: D.B. Taraporevala Sons. ASIN B000878T7Q.

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