MELO, Dom Rodrigo de (?-1545)
First count of Tentúgal and first Marquess of Ferreira de Aves, he was born in Castille, not before January 1487, and died on 17 August, 1545.
Son of Dom Álvaro of Portugal (the youngest son of Dom Fernando, second Duke of Bragança), and of Dona Filipa de Melo (daughter of Dom Rodrigo de Melo, first count and Chief Alcaide of Olivença, chief keeper of Dom Afonso V and first captain of Tangier). Thus, on his father´s side he had a connection to the royal family and, on his mother´s side, a past that was connected to the North African conquests.
With the ascension to the throne of Dom João II, who approved the suppression of the House of Bragança, some of its key players were persecuted and exiled. Dom Alvaro was among them, and left Portugal with his wife in May 1483, establishing his residence in Castille, where Dom Rodrigo would be born.
In 1496 with Dom Manuel I already on the throne, a process of reorganization of the Noble Houses related to the Crown was initiated. The King sent for the members of the House of Bragança who had taken refuge in Castille. Dom Alvaro and his family were among them. The nobleman´s former possessions and privileges were restored, namely the office of Judge of Casa da Suplicação [Portuguese Supreme Court], which would later be assigned to his heir. In 1500 Dom Rodrigo was part of the entourage that received Queen Dona Maria at the the frontier.
On 4 March, 1504, his father, Dom Alvaro de Portugal, deceased, an event that motivated the establishing of the County of Tentugal by Dom Manuel, based on one of Dom Alvaro´s properties. Around this time, Dom Rodrigo was still an adolescent, so that his mother managed the interests of his House.
It is unknown whether or not Dom Rodrigo de Melo was connected to Carreira da India commerce, as had been the case with his father, Dom Alvaro, who had an active role in organizing the first India fleets and had been one of the greatest private investors in this venture. One can suppose that Dom Rodrigo had not completely separated himself from his father´s business, though his involvement was much less extensive. There are also no references to vassals or agents of his in India during the Manuelan Period, nor is the Count referred to in regards to defining policies for the Orient or the nomination the main Crown Officials of the Estado da India. It can be said that Dom Rodrigo had little interest in India, independently of the business he may have conducted there.
The Count of Tentugal´s main point of interest would have been Morocco. When he reached majority, Dom Rodrigo sought honor for his name in the battlefield by repeating the feats of his grandparents, traveling to North Africa twice. In 1508, he participated in the expedition that sought to conquer Azamor, a venture that failed, having been wounded afterwards by a cannon shot, while the fleet he was part of aided Arzila.
In 1513, he returned to Morocco, and was accompanied by his cousin, Dom Jaime, Duke of Bragança, during the conquest of Azamor. There are several references to Dom Rodrigo´s servants and squires who by their bravery, distinguished themselves in Morocco, receiving letters of confirmation of the privilege of knighthood.
Dom Rodrigo de Melo was married when he was a little over twenty years old, having been betrothed to Dona Maria de Portocarreiro, an engagement that was cancelled on November 20, 1510 by the celebration of a new marriage contract with Dona Leonor de Almeida, daughter of Dom Francisco de Almeida, the first viceroy of India. That this marriage did not connect Dom Rodrigo to the construction of the Estado da Índia is worth pointing out, since at that time Dom Francisco de Almeida had already deceased. Like his father and grandfather, Dom Rodrigo married a noblewoman of lower rank but who had inherited her progenitor´s estate. Dona Leonor, Dom Alvaro, and Dom Francisco de Melo were born of this marriage, and the latter succeeded his father in the County of Tentugal, due to his older brother´s death.
In 1516, the year of his mother´s death, Dom Rodrigo took over the Military Magistracy of Olivença, and was confirmed as lord of the lands of Ferreira de Aves, Carapito, Vila Maior, Cadaval, and Peral thus finally concentrating his progenitors´ inheritance.
On 23 November, 1518, Dom Rodrigo de Melo was part of the party that met Queen Dona Leonor at the frontier.
In 1525 his wife, Dona Leonor de Almeida, deceased, and Dom Rodrigo married his second wife, Dona Brites de Meneses.
In 1533 he was granted the title of Marquess of Ferreira by Dom João III (charter of 6 March, 1532).
COSTA, João Paulo Oliveira e, ?O Conde de Tentúgal e a Linhagem dos Melos na Política Ultramarina Manuelina?, in A Alta Nobreza e a Fundação do Estado da Índia. Colóquio Internacional. Actas, org. João Paulo Oliveira e Costa e Vítor Luís Gaspar Rodrigues, Lisboa, CHAM-IICT, 2004, pp.9-32.FREIRE, Anselmo Braancamp, Brasões da Sala de Sintra, vol. III, Lisboa, Imprensa Nacional, 1973, pp. 367-369; 400.
Author: Pedro Martins
Translated by: Maria João Pimentel