MENESES, Fernão Teles de (1530-?)
Governor of India (1581).
He was born in 1530, the son of Brás Teles de Meneses ? chief alcaide of Moura, Lord of the Bedchamber, Chief Keeper and Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard of infant Prince Luís ? and of Dona Catarina de Brito. His grandfather on his father?s side, Rui Teles de Meneses, was the fifth lord of Unhão. Fernão Teles was the fifth son; his older brother, Rui Teles de Meneses, received from the father the office of chief alcaide of Moura; the second born, João Gomes da Silva, received the office of chief alcaide of Seia; the third born, Dom António Teles de Meneses, was the bishop of Lamego; the fourth brother, Luis da Silva Teles de Meneses, was the donatory captain of Tangiers; the younger sister, Joana da Conceição, was the first mother superior of the convent of Lamego. Coming from a noble family without a title, Fernão Teles de Meneses married Dona Maria de Noronha, daughter of Dom Francisco de Faro, treasurer of King Sebastião and of Cardinal-King Henrique. One of the sons of Dom Francisco de Faro, his namesake, would become count of Vimieiro by appointment of King Filipe II of Portugal in 1614. It is thus possible that the career of Fernão Teles has, together with the family?s career, contributed to the nomination. However, Fernão Teles de Meneses had no offspring from this marriage. He was a member of the Royal Council and was born in Santarém, but the date in which he went to India is unknown. Nevertheless, in 1568 he not only took part in the expedition organized by the viceroy Dom Antão de Noronha against the queen of Olaha, but also went with Dom Luís de Almeida to the Surat seas ? the viceroy ordered Dom Luís to survey the area and search for enemy vessels. In 1570, during the viceroyalty of Dom Luís de Ataíde, Fernão Teles de Meneses took part in the aid sent by the viceroy to the Chaul fortress. With the death of the third count of Atouguia, after his second government from 1578 to 1581 ? Dom Luís de Ataíde was so fond of Fernão Teles that he wanted him to succeed in the office, and tried to delay, as long as he could, his leaving for the captaincy of Diu; nonetheless, his nomination, through the succession of Dom Luís de Ataíde, still dates from the reign of Cardinal Henrique and was sent in the fleet that sailed from the Realm in 1579.
After swearing an oath of allegiance to the captain of Goa, Dom Tristão de Meneses, he started by sending a fleet to the Moluccas, a fleet which had already been prepared during the previous government. Soon after, Fernão Teles, who paid close attention to the internal affairs of the Bijapur sultanate (there was a civil war going on), received an embassy from one of the contenders; they asked for his help but, after a meeting of the council of captains, the governor denied it. Equally aware of the sultan of Aceh?s renewed intentions of laying siege to Malacca, the governor sent a fleet to Machilipatnam; it was captained by Gonçalo Vaz de Camões, who arrested a ship, loaded with ammunition and gunpowder, belonging to that sultan, and another one, carrying vast riches, belonging to the king of Pegu. None of the ships would be taken and Gonçalo Vaz then focused on the battles which opposed the kingdom of Pegu to the kingdom of Arakan, for Portuguese help was essential to help Arakan defeat its opponent. As reward for the aid provided by Gonçalo Vaz de Camões, the king of Arakan freed the Portuguese that had once been taken as prisoners. While he supplied that captain, the governor appointed Matias de Albuquerque, future viceroy, as commodore of the Malabar Sea, instructing him to collect supplies for Goa there. Not only did he take care of that but also, together with André Furtado de Mendonça and Dom Jerónimo de Azevedo, arrested several Malabar pirate ships at the mouth of the ?Carapatão? river. Soon after, in September 1581, the governor received word of the acclamation, during the Court of Tomar, of Dom Filipe I as King of Portugal; the news was brought by a ship arriving from Ormuz. In spite of favouring the Prior of Crato (as a child, the governor had been close to him, and was a relative of infant Prince Luís), he immediately made the Portuguese India state swear an oath of allegiance to the Prudent. Nevertheless, news of the death of Dom Luís de Ataíde hadn?t still reached Lisbon, and this is why the King put him in charge of the mentioned oath and promoted him to Marquis of Santarém. To that effect, Dom Tristão de Meneses, donatory captain of Goa, paid allegiance to King Filipe I by influence of Fernão Teles de Meneses. Then he sent proxies to the fortresses north and south so that these could also pay allegiance to the King. Amongst those who did so during the government of Fernão Teles de Meneses were (besides the afore-mentioned captain of Goa): Dom Pedro de Castro, representing the fortresses of Sofala and Mozambique; Dom Gonçalo de Meneses, donatory captain of Ormuz; Martim Afonso de Melo, donatory captain of Daman; Dom Manuel de Almada, donatory captain of Bassein; Dom Fernando de Castro, donatory captain of Chaul; Jorge Toscano, donatory captain of Kannur; Dom Jorge de Meneses, the ?Baroche?, donatory captain of Kochi; Manuel de Sousa Coutinho, donatory captain of Colombo; Diogo de Azambuja, donatory captain of Tidore; and Dom João da Gama, donatory captain of Malacca. But the government of Fernão Teles de Meneses did not end without witnessing an expedition of the Turk, Alibec according to Portuguese sources, against the then unprotected city of Muscat, which was plundered; the Portuguese people there remaining fled to neighbouring cities. The attacks of Alibec lead the afore-mentioned donatory captain of Ormuz, Dom Gonçalo de Meneses (after paying allegiance to the King) to organize a search fleet for Alibec. This fleet, captained by Luís de Almeida, loaded with ammunition and 400 men, plundered some cities of the Arabian coast but did not manage to capture Alibec. While all these events took place, the first viceroy appointed by King Filipe I arrived: Dom Francisco de Mascarenhas, first count of Santa Cruz, to whom Fernão Teles de Meneses gave way to on the 17th of September, 1581. His last political, as well as symbolic, act was the remodelling of the paintings of the Governors? Palace in Goa, put there since the time of Francisco Barreto.
In spite of being closer to the bastard son of his former master, Dom António, Prior of Crato, when Fernão Teles de Meneses returned to the realm he kept on spreading his web of influence and power. He was governor and governor-general of the Algarve, general of the fleet, State counsellor, chancellor of the ?Casa da Suplicação? High Court and president of the India Council. He died in 1605 and was buried, together with his wife, in the novitiate church of Cotovia, a novitiate he founded on behalf of the Society of Jesus.
From his government, which functioned as an interim administration for 6 months ? because Dom Francisco Mascarenhas was appointed by King Filipe I by letter of the 22nd of February, 1581, a phase in which Fernão Teles still wasn?t the governor ? it is known that his successor inherited a pacified India, with a vast fleet of warships, as it is described by Manuel de Faria e Sousa (SOUSA, Manuel de Faria e, Ásia Portuguesa, translated by Manuel Burquets, vol. IV, Parte 1, cap. XX, Porto, Livraria Civilização, 1945).
COUTO, Diogo do, Da Ásia, X, i, 1-8 e 10-14, Lisboa, Livraria San Carlos, 1974. SOUSA, Manuel de Faria e, Ásia Portuguesa, tradução de Manuel Burquets, vol. IV, Parte 1, cap. XX, Porto, Livraria Civilização, 1945. ZÚQUETE, Afonso, Tratado de Todos os Vice-Reis e Governadores da Índia, Lisboa, Editorial Enciclopédia, 1962.
Author: Nuno Vila-Santa
Translated by: Maria das Mercês Pacheco