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Afonso de Albuquerque[p][n] (or d'Albuquerque - disused) ( ; 1453, Alhandramarker - Goamarker, December 16, 1515) was a Portuguesemarker fidalgo, or nobleman, a naval general officer whose military and administrative activities as second governor of Portuguese India conquered and established the Portuguese colonial empire in the Indian ocean. He is generally considered a world conquest military genius, given his successful strategy: he attempted to close all the Indian ocean naval passages to the Atlanticmarker, Red Seamarker, Persian Gulfmarker, and to the Pacificmarker, transforming it into a Portuguese mare clausum established over the Turkish power and their Muslim and Hindu allies.He was responsible for building numerous fortresses to defend key points that he was taking and established a net of diplomatic relations. Shortly before his death he was awarded viceroy and "Duke of Goa" by king Manuel I of Portugal, being the first Portuguese duke not from the royal family, and the first Portuguese title landed overseas. For some time he was known as The Tirribil, The Great, The Caesar of the East, Lion of the Seas and as The Portuguese Mars.

Early life

Born in Alhandra in the year of 1453, near Lisbonmarker, Portugalmarker. 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 served ten years in North Africa, where he acquired military experience. He was present at Afonso V's conquest of Arzilamarker and Tangiermarker in Moroccomarker in 1471. On his return he was appointed estribeiro-mor (chief equerry) to John II, who in 1476 he accompanied in the wars against Castile, in the Battle of Toro. Participated in the squadron sent in 1480 to the rescue of Ferdinand II of Aragon against the Turkish invasion of Italy that culminated in a Christian victory in 1481.In 1489 returned to service in North Africa, In an expedition to defend the fortress of Graciosa, the island located in the river Luco near the city of Larachemarker, and in 1490 was part of the guard of king John II, returning to Arzila in 1495.

First Expeditions to the East, 1503-1506

On April 6 of 1503, Afonso de Albuquerque set off on his first expedition to Indiamarker with Duarte Pacheco Pereira, his cousin Francisco de Albuquerque, and Nicolau Coelho each commanding four ships. They participated in several battles, which succeeded in establishing the king of Kochimarker securely on his throne, obtaining in return for this service a permission to build a Portuguese fortress at Cochin, and establishing trade relations with Quilonmarker, helping thus laying the foundation of his country's empire in the East.

Persian Gulf mission, 1506-1508

Albuquerque returned home in July 1504, and was well received by King Manuel I of Portugal who, after his participation in the design of a strategy for the Portuguese efforts in the east, entrusted him with the command of a squadron of five vessels in the fleet of sixteen which sailed for Indiamarker in early 1506 under Tristão da Cunha. Albuquerque was sent as chief captain for "Coast of Arabia" sailing with Tristão da Cunha until they reached Mozambique, to conquest Socotra and build a fortress there, hoping to close the trade in the Red Sea. He carried a secret mission ordered by the king, once fulfilled the first mission: to replace the Viceroy Francisco de Almeida, whose term would end two years later.

Socotra and Hormuz first conquest

In the Mozambique Channelmarker they found captain João da Nova stranded while returning from India. They rescued him and the ship Frol de la mar, both joining the fleet. After a series of successful attacks on Arab cities on the east coast of Africa, they headed to Socotramarker island, hoping that it would be a base to stop the Red Seamarker commerce to the Indian sea. They occupied Suq, where they started a fortress.Albuquerque separated then from Tristão, and sailed with a fleet of seven ships and five hundred men towards the island of Hormuz, in the Persian Gulfmarker, which was then one of the chief centers of commerce in the East. On this route they conquered the cities of Curiati (Kuryat), Muscatmarker in July 1507 and Khor Fakkanmarker, accepting the submission of the cities of Kalhat and Soharmarker. He arrived at Hormuz on September 25, 1507, and soon obtained possession of the island. Immediately he began building the first of two fortresses, the Fort of Our Lady of Victory and the Fort of Our Lady of the Conceptionmarker on Hormuz Islandmarker.. However, some of his officers revolted against the heavy work and climate, leaving for India. With the fleet reduced to two ships and without supplies he was unable to maintain his position for long. He was forced to abandon Hormuz in January 1508 (to return in 1515), then raided coastal villages to resupply the settlement of Socotra, returning to Hormuz and only then heading to India.

Arrested at Cannanore
Albuquerque arrived at Cannanore on the Malabar coast in December 1508, where he immediately revealed to the viceroy Dom Francisco de Almeida the secret commission he had received from the king, appointing him governor to supersede him. The viceroy, then joined by the officers who had defeated Albuquerque in Ormuz, agreed that he had a matching order from the king, but refused to hand government to Albuquerque, protesting that his term would end in January and of his intention to avenge his son death by fighting in Diu, refusing Albuquerque's offer to fight it himself. Afonso de Albuquerque obeyed the order without confronting D. Francisco de Almeida - which could have lead to civil war - and moved to Kochimarker, pending on indications coming from the kingdom, supporting and housing his entourage himself. He is described by Castanheda patiently enduring the declared opposition from the group that had gathered around D. Francisco de Almeida, with whom he had formal contacts. Increasingly ostracized, he wrote to Diogo Lopes de Sequeira, who was arriving with a new fleet to India, but he ignored him and joined the Viceroy. At the same time Albuquerque refused approaches from opponents of the viceroy, who challenged him to take power.

On February 3, 1509 Almeida fought the naval Battle of Diumarker - taking it as personal revenge for the death of his son Lourenço de Almeida in dramatic circumstances at the Battle of Chaul - commanding a fleet of 23 ships against a joint fleet of Arabs, Egyptians and Indians. His victory was decisive: the Ottomans and Egyptians left the waters of the Indian Ocean, easing the Portuguese rule for over 100 years.

In August, after a petition from Albuquerque's former officers with the support of Diogo Lopes de Sequeira considering him unfit for governance, he was sent to St. Angelo Fortmarker in Cannanoremarker. There he remained isolated in custody. In September 1509 Sequeira advanced the mission of establishing contact with the Sultan of Malaccamarker but failed, leaving behind 19 Portuguese prisoners.

Governor of Portuguese India, 1509-1515

Albuquerque was released after three months' confinement in Cannanore, on the arrival of the grand-marshal of Portugal with a large fleet. 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 Calicutmarker..

In October 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, he speedily showed the energy and determination of his character.

Albuquerque intended to dominate the Muslim world and control the spices' trading network.Initially king Manuel I and his council in Lisbon tried to distribute the power, creating three areas of jurisdiction in the Indian Ocean: in 1509 the nobleman Diogo Lopes de Sequeira was fitted with a fleet and sent to Southeast Asia, with the task of seeking an agreement with Sultan Mahmud Shah of Malaccamarker, but failed and went back to the kingdom. To Jorge de Aguiar was given the area between the Cape of Good Hope and Gujarat, he was succeeded by Duarte de Lemos but left to Cochin and then for the kingdom, leaving his fleet to Albuquerque.

Conquest of Goa, 1510

In January 1510, fulfilling the orders from the kingdom, and knowing of the absence of Zamorin, Albuquerque advanced to Calicutmarker (now Kozhikode). But he had to retreat after the Marshall D. Fernando Coutinho, against his warnings, ventured in the inner city fascinated by its richness, and suffered an ambush. To help him, Afonso de Albuquerque received a severe wound and had to retreat.

Soon after the failed attack on Calicut, Albuquerque hastened to form a powerful fleet of twenty-three ships and 1200 men. Contemporary reports state that he wanted to fight the egipcian Mamluk Sultanatemarker fleet in the Red Sea or return to Hormuz. However, he had been reported by Timoji (a privateer in the service of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire) that it would be easier to fight them in Goamarker, where they had sheltered after the Battle of Diu , and also of the illness of the Sultan Yusuf Adil Shah and war between the Deccan sultanates. 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 Goamarker from March 4 to May 20, 1510. After a first occupation, feeling unable to handle the city - given the poor condition of its fortifications, the cooling of Hindu population support and insubordination among his rank, after a severe attack of Ismail Adil Shah - Afonso de Albuquerque refused an agreement peace by the sultan and abandoned the city in August. His fleet was shattered and a palace revolt in Kochi hindered his recovery, so he headed to Fort Anjedivamarker. When new ships arrived from the kingdom they were intended to Malacca, for nobleman Diogo Mendes de Vasconcelos, who had been given a rival command of the region.

Only three months later, on November 25, Albuquerque reappeared in Goa with a fleet fully renovated, Diogo Mendes de Vasconcelos vexed by his side with the reinforcements of Malacca and about 300 Malabari reinforcements from Cannanore. In less than a day they took possession of 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 on the fierce battle in the streets or drowned while trying to escape. Albuquerque regained the support of the Hindu population, although frustrating the initial expectations of Timoja, who aspired to gain the city. Afonso de Albuquerque rewarded him by appointing him chief "Aguazil" of the city, an administrator and representative of the Hindu and Muslim people, as a knowing interpreter of the local customs. He then made an agreement to lower 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. The new coin, based on the existing local coins, showed a cross on one side and the design of an armillary sphere (or "espera"), king Manuel's badge, on the other. Gold, silver and bronze coins were issued, respectively gold cruzados or manueis, esperas and alf-esperas, and "leais". More mints would follow in Malacca in 1511.

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

Conquest of Malacca 1511-1512

In February 1511, through a friendly Javanese merchant called Ninchatu, Albuquerque received a letter from Rui de Araújo, one of the nineteen Portuguese arrested at Malacca since 1509. It urged moving forward with the largest possible fleet to demand their liberation, and gave details about the procedures. 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. He then set sail from Goa to Malacca, against the orders of the kingdom and under the protest of Diogo Mendes, who claimed the command of the expedition. Under his orders was Fernão de Magalhães, 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 the most important east 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. On the other hand it was defended by a powerful army of mercenaries and artillery, estimated at 20,000 men and more than 2000 pieces. Its greatest weakness being the unpopularity of the government of Sultan Mahmud Shah, who favored Muslims producing dissatisfaction within 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 to release the prisoners, pay for the damage, and asking to build a fortified trading post. The Sultan eventually freed the prisoners, but wasn't impressed by the small Portuguese contingent. Albuquerque then burned some ships at the port and four coastal buildings, to test the response. The city being divided by the Malacca River, and connected by a bridge seen as a strategic point, on 25 July at dawn the Portuguese landed and fought in 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 the river at high tide onto the bridge, with success: the day after all had landed. Fighting fiercely, they broke down the barricades built in the meantime. Suddenly, the Sultan appeared, leading his army of war elephants to crush the invaders. Despite the surprise, one of the Portuguese, Fernão Gomes de Lemos, approached and spurred an animal with a spear, making him stand up and back. Other Portuguese emulated him and the front of elephants retreated in panic, overthrowing the army, and the sultan himself, wreaking havoc and dispersing it. . During a week Albuquerque rested his men and waited for the reaction of the Sultan. Merchants approached, asking for Portuguese protection. They were given flags to mark their premises, a sign that they would not be looted. On 24 August the Portuguese attacked again, but the Sultan had fled the city. Under firm orders they looted the city, respecting the flags, which still was a fabulous drawing.

Albuquerque remained in Malacca preparing its defences against any Malay counterattack, immediately building a fortress, distributing his men in 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 Famosamarker" ( the famous). He settled the Portuguese administration, appointing Rui de Araújo factor, and arresting and executing mercilessly a powerful Javanese merchant, Utimuta Raja, who maintained contacts with the exiled royal family.

Expeditions to the Kingdom of Siam and Moluccas

Most Muslim merchants having fled the city, at the same time Albuquerque invested in diplomatic efforts demonstrating a wide generosity with the merchants in Southeast Asia, like the Chinese, hoping that they echoed the good relations with the Portuguese. Trade and diplomatic missions were sent to continental kingdoms, like Sumatramarker, the Sumatran kings of Kampar and Indragiri sending emissaries to Albuquerque accepting the new power, as vassal states of Malacca.Knowing of Siamese ambitions over Malacca, Albuquerque immediately sent Duarte Fernandes in a diplomatic mission to the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand), traveling 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 with gifts and letters to Albuquerque and the king of Portugal.
In November, after having secured Malacca and learning the location of the then secret "spice islandsmarker", Albuquerque sent an expedition of three ships sailing east to find them, led by trusted António de Abreu with the deputy commander Francisco Serrão. Malay pilots were recruited to guide them through Javamarker, the Lesser Sunda Islandsmarker and the Ambon Islandmarker to Banda Islandsmarker, where they arrived in early 1512. 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, Fort São João Baptista de Ternate, built in 1522.

Shipwreck on the Flor de la mar

In 1512 he sailed from Malacca for the coast of Malabar on board of the old Frol 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 : he wanted to give the court of King Manuel I a show of Malacca treasures. There were also the offers from the Kingdom of Siammarker (Thailand) to the king of Portugal and all his own fortune. On the voyage a violent storm arose and the Flor De La Mar 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 Hidalcão, and took such measures for the security and peace of the town that it became the most flourishing of the Portuguese settlements in India.

China expeditions, 1513

In early 1513, Jorge Álvares— sailing in a mission under Albuquerque — was allowed to land at Lintin Islandmarker in the Pearl River Deltamarker of southern Chinamarker, and soon after Albuquerque sent Rafael Perestrello to southern China to seek out trade relations with the Ming Dynastymarker of China. In ships from Portuguese Malaccamarker, Rafael sailed to Canton (Guangzhoumarker) 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.

Return to the Red Sea and Ormuz 1513-1515

Albuquerque was, from the start, under orders from the kingdom to undertake an expedition to the Red Seamarker, in order to secure that channel of communication exclusively to Portugal. He accordingly laid siege to Adenmarker 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 Egyptmarker, 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 Ormuzmarker in 1515. The island in the Persian Gulf 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.

Last years and political downfall

In 1514 Afonso de Albuquerque was devoted to the administration and diplomacy in Goa, concluding peace with Calicut and receiving embassies from Indian governors, strengthening the city and stimulating the marriage of Portuguese with Indians. At that time, Portuguese women were barred from traveling overseas due to superstition about women on ships, as well as the substantial danger 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.

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 a extravagant procession of animals from the colonies and wealth from the Indies that struck Europe. His reputation reached its peak, creating the foundation of the Portuguese Empire in the East.
In early 1514, Afonso de Albuquerque had sent ambassadors to Sultan Muzafar II, ruler of Cambaymarker, to seek permission to build a fort on Diumarker. The mission returned without an agreement, but diplomatic gifts were exchanged, including a Indian rhinoceros.Albuquerque forward the gift, named ganda, and its Indian keeper, Ocem, to King Manuel I. In late 1515, the king sent it as a gift for Pope Leo X, but it died in a shipwreck off the coast of Italymarker in early 1516. Germanmarker painter Albrecht Dürer, based on a written description and brief sketch by an unknown artist, created then is famous Dürer's Rhinoceros in 1515. Dürer never saw the actual rhinoceros, which was the first living example seen in Europe since Roman times.

Political downfall
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, insinuating that he intended to strike power in Portuguese India, 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 honors and rewards that were justly due to himself.

His 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 a shipwreck off Kamaranmarker island, in the Red Sea.. After 51 years, in 1566, he was moved to Nossa Senhora da Graça church in Lisbon, which was ruined and rebuilt after the 1755 earthquakemarker.

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 1572 Albuquerque's feats were inscribed in "The Lusiads", Portuguese main epic poem by Luís Vaz de Camões, Canto X, (strophe 40 to 49). In 1576, Brás de Albuuqerque published a selection from his father's papers, which had been gathered in 1557, under the title Commentarios do Grande Affonso d'Alboquerque.

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.

Despite his fame, the city of Albuquerquemarker in New Mexico is not named after him. It was named after a Spanish Viceroy of Mexico named Don Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, who also held the title Duke of Alburquerque. There is, however, a town near the Spanish-Portuguese border named Alburquerquemarker which may be the root of both names.


  [n] - The name also appears as: Affonso d'Albuquerque, Alphonso Albuquerque, Afonzo de Albuquerque
(listed for search-engine match).

  [p] - The name is pronounced as "Ah-fon-so de Ahl-boo-kayrk".


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