Afonso de Albuquerque

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Afonso de Albuquerque : biography

1453 – 1515

The Last Sight of Goa

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.Albuquerque, Brás de (1774). Commentarios do grande Afonso Dalboquerque, parte IV", p.200-206

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.

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.

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. 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".

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.

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.This Church was later demolished between 1811 and 1842, in Manoel José Gabriel Saldanha, "História de Goa:(política e arqueológica)", p.145, ISBN 81-206-0590-X After 51 years, in 1566, he was moved to Nossa Senhora da Graça church in Lisbon,Bibliotheca Lusitana, Diogo Barbosa Machado, Tomo I, página 23 which was ruined and rebuilt after the 1755 Great Lisbon earthquake.

Titles and honours

  • Governor and Captain-General of the Seas of India
  • 2nd Governor of India
  • 1st Duke of Goa
  • A knight of the Portuguese Order of Saint James of the Sword
  • Fidalgo of the Royal Household