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Dom Francisco de Almeida ( ), also known as "the Great Dom Francisco" (born c. 1450 in Lisbonmarker; died March 1, 1510 at Table Baymarker, Cape of Good Hopemarker), was a Portuguesemarker nobleman, soldier and explorer. He distinguished himself as a counsellor to King John II of Portugal and later in the wars against the Moors and in the conquest of Granadamarker in 1492. In 1503 he was appointed as the first governor and viceroy of the Portuguese State of Indiamarker (Estado da Índia). Almeida is credited with establishing Portuguese hegemony in the Indian Ocean, with his victory at the naval Battle of Diumarker in 1509. Before Almeida or his son could return to Portugal, they lost their lives in surprise attacks in 1510 and 1508 respectively.

Exploits as soldier

As was customary for men in his social circle, he joined the military at a young age. In 1476 he took part in the Battle of Toro. He then fought in conflicts in different parts of Moroccomarker and in 1492 participated in the Christian conquest of Granadamarker on the side of the Castilians.

Mission to the east


In 1503 King Manuel I of Portugal appointed Almeida, then in his mid 50's, as the first viceroy of Portuguese Indiamarker (Estado da Índia). With an armada of 22 ships, including 14 carracks and 6 caravels, Almeida departed from Lisbon on March 25, 1505. The armada carried a crew of 1,000 and 1,500 soldiers. The flagship was the carrack São Rafael captained by Fernão Soares. The mission's primary aims were to bring the spice trade under Portuguese control, to construct forts along the east African and Indian coasts, to further Portuguese spice trade through alliances with local chieftains, besides constructing trading posts.

African conquest

Almeida rounded the Cape of Good Hopemarker and entered African coastal waters again at Sofalamarker and the Island of Mozambiquemarker, whence they proceeded northwards to the coastal settlement of Kilwamarker. In July 1505 they employed 8 ships to conquer the ca 4,000 strong population of this harbour town. Because of the good harbour that the town provided, sufficient for anchoring ships up to 500 tons, the Portuguese decided to build a fort here. For this purpose Pêro Ferreira and a crew of 80 soldiers remained in the town.

In August 1505 the Portuguese arrived at Mombasamarker, a coastal port further north. The city with a population of ca 10,000 was conquered in heavy combat against the troops of the local Arab sheik. The city was plundered and torched. The Portuguese were assisted in this attack by a Mombasa enemy, the Sultan of Melindemarker. The same month a caravel of Almeida's fleet captained by John (João) Homere captured Zanzibarmarker island and claimed it for Portugal.

Viceroy in India

After reaching Indiamarker, Almeida took up residence in Cochinmarker. He strengthened the Portuguese fortifications of Fort Manuel on Cochin and those of Fort Anjedivamarker on Anjadip Islandmarker. In March 1506 his son Lourenço de Almeida was victorious in a sea battle at the entrance to the harbour of Cannanoremarker, an important setback for the fleet of the zamorin of Calicutmarker. Hereupon Lourenço de Almeida explored the coastal waters southwards to Colombomarker, modern Sri Lankamarker.

In 1507 Almeida's mission was strengthened by the arrival of Tristão da Cunha's squadron. Afonso de Albuquerque's squadron had however split from that of Cunha off east Africa and was independently conquering territories to the west. In March 1508 a Portuguese squadron under command of Lourenço de Almeida was attacked by a combined Mameluk Egyptianmarker and Gujarat Sultanate fleet at Chaulmarker and Dabul respectively, lead by admirals Mirocem and Meliqueaz. Lourenço de Almeida lost his life after a fierce fight in this battle.

Afonso de Albuquerque arrived at Cannanore at the close of 1508 and immediately made known an hitherto secret commission he had received from the King empowering him as governor to supersede Almeida at his term as viceroy. Almeida, determined to avenge the death of his son and free the portuguese prisionners made at Chaul, refused to recognize Albuquerque's credentials immediately, and later arrested him.

In 1509, Almeida become the first Portuguese to set sail in Bombaymarker. He seeked Meliqueaz, to whom he had written a menacing letter, and the Mameluk Mirocem, fiercely investing at the naval Battle of Diumarker on February 3, 1509 commanding a fleet of 23 ships near the port of Diumarker. He inflicted a decisive defeat on a joint fleet from the Mamlûk Burji Sultanate of Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, the Zamorin of Calicutmarker and the Sultan of Gujarat, with technical naval support from the Republic of Venicemarker and the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik), that feared for its eastern trade links.

His victory was decisive: the Ottomans and Egyptians left the the Indian Ocean, easing the Portuguese rule for over 100 years, into the 17th century when it was ended by the Dutch and English. Albuquerque was released after three months' confinement, on the arrival of the grand-marshal of Portugal with a large fleet, in November 1509.

Return and death

Almeida sailed for Portugal in December 1509 and reached Table Baymarker near the Cape of Good Hope, where the Garcia, Belém and Santa Cruz dropped anchor late February, 1510, to replenish water. After friendly trade with the Khoikhoi some of the crew visited their nearby village where a dispute ensued. Almeida allowed his captains Pedro and Jorge Barreto to return to the village on the morning of March 1, 1510. The village's cattle herd was raided with the loss of one man, while Almeida awaited his men some distance from the beach. As the flagship's master Diogo d'Unhos moved the landing boats to the watering point, the Portuguese were left without a retreat. The Khoikhoi sensed the opportunity for an attack, during which Almeida and 64 of his men perished, including 11 of his captains. Almeida's body was recovered the same afternoon and buried on the shorefront of the current Cape Townmarker.

Relatives and subjects

Almeida was the son of the 1st Count of Abrantes and one of a number of highly distinguished siblings including two bishops, an ambassador to the Holy See and the Portuguese head of the Order of Malta. His son, Lourenço, was killed in battle, but he was survived by a daughter, Leonor, who married Rodrigo de Melo, Count of Tentugal, precursors of the Dukes of Cadaval.

There is also a community of Goan Christians, both in Indiamarker and Pakistanmarker, who carry the surname Almeida and are apparently his descendants through marriages/liaisons with native Indian women.

Ferdinand Magellan (Fernão de Magalhães) accompanied Almeida to the east, but was promoted to captain and only returned in 1512 after losing that commission.


  1. Rogers, Clifford J. Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe, San Francisco:Westview Press, 1995, pp. 299–333
  1. Fernão Lopes de Castanheda's account of Almeida's mission

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