Afonso de Albuquerque


Afonso de Albuquerque : biography

1453 – 1515

He became known as "the Terrible",(The Career and Legend of Vasco Da Gama, by Sanjay Subrahmanyam, p. 365) "the Great", "the Caesar of the East", "Lion of the Seas", and "the Portuguese Mars".

Early life

Afonso de Albuquerque, was born in 1453 in Alhandra, near Lisbon. He was the second son of Gonçalo de Albuquerque, Lord of Vila Verde dos Francos and Dona Leonor de Menezes. His father held an important position at court and was connected by remote illegitimate descent with the Portuguese monarchy. He was educated in mathematics and Latin at the court of Afonso V of Portugal, where he befriended Prince John, the future King John II of Portugal.Morse Stephens, "Albuquerque"

Albuquerque’s early training is described by Diogo Barbosa Machado:

“D. Affonso de Albuquerque, surnamed the Great, by reason of the heroic deeds wherewith he filled Europe with admiration, and Asia with fear and trembling, was born in the year 1453, in the Estate called, for the loveliness of its situation, the Paradise of the Town of Alhandra, six leagues distant from Lisbon. He was the second son of Gonçalo de Albuquerque, Lord of Villaverde, and of D. Leonor de Menezes, daughter of D. Álvaro Gonçalves de Athayde, Count of Atouguia, and of his wife D. Guiomar de Castro, and corrected this injustice of nature by climbing to the summit of every virtue, both political and moral. He was educated in the Palace of the King D. Afonso V, in whose palaestra he strove emulously to become the rival of that African Mars”.(Vasco Da Gama, By Kingsley Garland Jayne; pp. 78.79, Taylor & Francis, 1970)

Albuquerque served 10 years in North Africa, where he gained military experience in fierce campaigns against Muslim powers and Ottoman Turks.

In 1471, under the command of Afonso V of Portugal, he was present at the conquest of Tangier and Arzila in Morocco, serving there as an officer for some years. In 1476, he accompanied Prince John in wars against Castile, such as the Battle of Toro. He participated in the campaign on the Italian peninsula in 1480 to rescue Ferdinand II of Aragon from the Ottoman invasion of Otranto that ended in victory. On his return in 1481, when Prince John was crowned as King John II, Albuquerque was made Master of the Horse for his distinguished exploits, chief equerry (estribeiro-mor) to the King, a post Albuquerque held throughout John’s reign (1481–95).(Vasco Da Gama, By Kingsley Garland Jayne; pp. 79, Taylor & Francis) In 1489, he returned to military campaigns in North Africa, as commander of defence in the fortress of Graciosa, an island in the river Luco near the city of Larache, and in 1490 was part of the guard of King John II, returning to Arzila in 1495, where his younger brother Martim died fighting by his side.

Albuquerque made his mark under the stern John II, and won military campaigns in Africa and the Mediterranean sea, yet Asia is where he would make his greatest impact.(Vasco Da Gama, By Kingsley Garland Jayne; pp. 79, Taylor & Francis, 1970)

First expedition to India, 1503

When King Manuel I of Portugal was enthroned, he showed some reticence towards Albuquerque, a close friend of his dreaded predecessor and seventeen years his senior. Eight years later, on April 6, 1503, after a long military career and at a mature age, Albuquerque was sent on his first expedition to India along with his cousin Francisco de Albuquerque. Each commanded three ships, sailing with Duarte Pacheco Pereira and Nicolau Coelho. They engaged in several battles against the forces of the Zamorin of Calicut (Calecute, Kozhikode) and succeeded in establishing the King of Cohin (Cohim, Kochi) securely on his throne. In return, the King gave them permission to build a Portuguese fort at Cochin and establish trade relations with Quilon (Coulão, Kollam). This laid the foundation for the eastern Portuguese empire.

Second expedition to India, 1506

Albuquerque returned home in July 1504, and was well received by King Manuel I. After Albuquerque assisted with the creation of a strategy for the Portuguese efforts in the east, King Manuel entrusted him with the command of a squadron of five vessels in the fleet of sixteen sailing for India in early 1506 headed by Tristão da Cunha. Their aim was to conquer Socotra and build a fortress there, hoping to close the trade in the Red Sea. Albuquerque went as "chief-captain for the Coast of Arabia", sailing under da Cunha’s orders until reaching Mozambique.Diogo do Couto, "Décadas da Ásia", década X, livro I He carried a sealed letter with a secret mission ordered by the King: after fulfilling the first mission, he was to replace the first viceroy of India, Francisco de Almeida, whose term ended two years later.Foundations of the Portuguese empire, 1415-1580, p. 239, Bailey Wallys Diffie, Boyd C. Shafer, George Davison Winius Before departing, he legitimated a natural son born in 1500 and made his will.