Afonso de Albuquerque


Afonso de Albuquerque : biography

1453 – 1515

China expeditions, 1513

In early 1513, Jorge Álvares— sailing on a mission under Albuquerque’s orders — was allowed to land in Lintin Island, on the Pearl River Delta in southern China. Soon after, Albuquerque sent Rafael Perestrello to southern China, seeking out trade relations with the Ming Dynasty. In ships from Portuguese Malacca, Rafael sailed to Canton (Guangzhou) in 1513, and again from 1515–1516 to trade with Chinese merchants. These ventures, along with those of Tomé Pires and Fernão Pires de Andrade, were the first direct European diplomatic and commercial ties with China.ref>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). See Mote, Frederick W. and Denis Twitchett. (1998). The Cambridge History of China; Volume 7–8. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-24333-5 (Hardback edition). Page 340. 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.

Shipwreck on the Flor de la mar, 1511

In 20 November 1511 Albuquerque sailed from Malacca to the coast of Malabar on board the old Flor 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:Diffie, Bailey W. and George D. Winius (1977). Foundations of the Portuguese Empire, 1415–1580, p.260 he wanted to give the court of King Manuel I a show of Malaccan treasures. There were also the offers from the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand) to the king of Portugal and all his own fortune. On the voyage a storm arose and the Flor De La Mar was wrecked, and he himself barely escaped with his life.

Albuquerque returned from Malacca to Kochi, but could not sail to Goa as it faced a serious revolt headed by the forces of Ismael Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur, commanded by Rasul Khan with the help of some of his countrymen. While he was absent in Malacca, Portuguese who opposed the taking of Goa had waived the possession, even written to the king stating that it would be best to let it go. Held up by the monsoon and with few forces available, he had to wait for the arrival of reinforcement fleets headed by his nephew D. Garcia de Noronha and Jorge de Mello Pereira.

On 10 September 1512, Albuquerque set sail from Cochin to Goa with fourteen ships carrying 1,700 soldiers. Determined to recapture the fortress, he ordered trenches to be dug and a wall to be breached. But on the very morning of the planned final assault, Rasul Khan surrendered. Albuquerque demanded the fort be handed with all its artillery, ammunition and horses, and the deserters to be given up. Some had joined Rasul Khan when the Portuguese were forced to flee Goa in May 1510, others during the recent siege. Rasul Khan consented, on condition that their lives be spared. Albuquerque agreed and he left Goa. Albuquerque kept his word, but mutilated them horribly. One of such renegades was Fernão Lopes, bound for Portugal in custody, who escaped at the island of Saint Helena leading a ‘Robinson Crusoe’ life for many years. After such measures the town became the most prosperous Portuguese settlement in India.

Return to the Red Sea, 1513

In December 1512 an envoy from Ethiopia arrived at Goa. Mateus was sent by regent queen Eleni following the arrival of the Portuguese from Socotra in 1507, as an ambassador for the king of Portugal in search of a coalition to help face growing Ottoman influence. He was received in Goa with great honour by Albuquerque, as a long sought "Prester John" envoy. His arrival was announced by king Manuel I of Portugal to Pope Leo X in 1513. Although Mateus faced the distrust of some of Albuquerque rivals, who tried to prove he was some impostor or Muslim spy, Albuquerque sent him to Portugal. The king is described as having wept with joy at their report.