MAGALHÃES, Fernão de (c. 1480-?)
He was a resident of the Royal House, whose name was associated with the first voyage of circumnavigation. Born around 1480 in northern Portugal, perhaps in Porto, he was killed on 27 April, 1521 on Mactan Island ? in what nowadays is the Philippines ? during his famous trip. Originally of Minhotan nobility, Fernão de Magalhães was the son of Rodrigo de Magalhães and Alda Mesquita. The family did not have many resources, which in 1492 dictated his entrance as a page into Queen Dona Leonor´s court, where he lived for thirteen years. Magalhães´ profile matches that of the sons of nobles who sought in the Orient opportunities to augment their status and income; as we will see later, he requested rewards for his services.
He departed the Kingdom in 1505 in the armada of the future viceroy of the Portuguese Estado da India, Dom Francisco de Almeida, accompanied by his brother, Diogo, and by Francisco Serrão, the future Portuguese factor in the Moluccas, to whom he became close. He remained in the Orient for eight years, and was involved in various campaigns. In October 1510, he was part of one of Afonso de Albuquerque´s councils, where retaking Goa was discussed, participating in its conquest the following month. In 1511, it was Malacca´s turn, also with Afonso de Albuquerque.
In December 1511, a first Portuguese expedition was sent to the Moluccan archipelago, in which Magalhães did not participate. During this expedition, Francisco Serrão was left behind and became established as factor in Ternate. At that time, the designation ?Moluccas? included the islands of Ternate, Tidore, Maquiem, Motir, and Bacan, which nowadays are part of the Moluccan archipelago in Indonesia. The importance of these islands resided in the fact that they were the only source of cloves in the world.
In 1513, Magalhães returned to Lisbon. Financial difficulties were the likely reason for his participation ? along with his brother ? in the Duke of Bragança´s expedition, which conquered the North African Citadel of Azemmour in September. Wounded in one leg, he was put in charge of managing the loot and was then accused of selling cattle that was under his responsibility. The rumors worked against him when he attempted to obtain recompense for his services from the Crown: between 1514 and 1516, he made at least two requests for advancement that were denied.
After this Fernão de Magalhães moved to Spain ? in order to do so, he publicly renounced his allegiance as a subject of King Dom Manuel ? arriving in Seville on 20 October, 1517. The navigator moved with the ambition of proving in Spain (misguidedly) that the Moluccan archipelago was located in the Spanish portion of the Tordesillas Meridian, taking advantage of the fact that this treaty, which was signed in 1494, had not established an anti-meridian. At the same time, he defined the possibility of reaching the archipelago from the west by going around the American continent from the south, thus avoiding the Portuguese oriental routes.
With these arguments he wanted to promote his project with Spain´s new King, Charles I (the future Charles V) and, to support it, he had gathered an endless wealth of information through Francisco Serrão, the cosmographers Rui and Francisco Faleiro, and the cartographers, Pedro and Jorge Reinel.
Through Diogo de Barbosa, a Portuguese merchant from Seville, who gave him his daughter Beatriz as a bride, Magalhães started negotiations with the factor of Casa de Contratacion [House of Trade], Juan de Aranda, who was decisive in assuring that the project reached the most significant players in Spanish politics.
The Faleiro brothers left Portugal in December 1517 and Rui Faleiro joined Magalhães and Aranda. Together, they traveled to Valladolid, where they signed a contract on 23 February, 1518. They obtained several audiences: with the Bishop of Burgos, Cardinal Adriano de Utreque, with Chancellor Jean the Sauvage, and finally with the King. The project obtained the sovereign´s favor, who signed the contract on 22 March.
The contract consisted of a series of impositions and concessions by the Crown: it gave the two Portuguese the title of governors of the lands to be discovered as well as a part of the profits. There was a pledge to equip five ships for the expedition, but the fleet would have to respect the lands that fell within the Tordesillas-delineated Portuguese boundaries, not being authorized to engage in commerce there. On the same day, Magalhães and Faleiro were issued the title of captain.
During the phase of preparation of the armada, Charles I advanced various sums and, when the Royal Treasury was inadequate, authorized private parties to finance the venture. Thus, the expedition was financed by the Fuggers, by Juan de Cartagena, by Duarte Barbosa himself, and by Cristobal de Haro ? significantly so by the latter, who was even charged with supervising all aspects of the organization of the fleet. The expedition counted on the participation and contribution of several Portuguese as well as on men of other nationaties, such as French and Italians.
The nominations to the various positions in the armada were completed in the first months of 1519. The other captains were Juan de Cartagena (also overseer of the fleet), Gaspar de Quesada, João Serrão, and Luiz de Mendonza. Magalhães was captain of the ship Trinidad.
The instructions from the King to Magalhães and Faleiro were dated 8 May, 1519. The instructions that the authors indicate to be a tool for homogenization of overseas operations, included general precepts related to navigation and concrete norms for that expedition. Several issues were encompassed by these: the hierarchical power structure aboard ship, navigation norms, respect for the Portuguese area agreed to in Tordesillas as well as for the local populations of the places they visited. They also addressed Magalhães´ activities in contacting other peoples and in establishing pacts: imprudent displays were to be avoided.
Before departing, Magalhães and Rui Faleiro received the habit of the Order of Santiago, in order to overcome the prohibitions around naturalization which were in effect in Castille. On 26 July, 1519, for reasons that are not entirely clear, Rui Faleiro was removed from the expedition by cédula real [Royal Decree]. André de San Martin replaced him as the expedition´s cosmographer.
On 20 September, 1519, the five ships ? Trinidad, Victoria, San Antonio, Concepcion, and Santiago ? left Sanlucar de Barrameda, at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River. Magalhães, who seemed to have demonstrated great skills as pilot and captain, led his fleet via the South Atlantic, passing by the Canary Islands. At the end of the year, he was in Rio de Janeiro and passed by Rio de la Plata in January 1520. In April, 1520, the fleet neared São Julião Harbor, where a mutiny occurred.
In May, the Santiago was lost during a tempest. The fleet left São Julião on 24 August. Between 21 October and 27 November, it crossed the Strait of Magellan ? named Todos-os-Santos [All Saints] at the time ? arriving at the ocean which they named Pacific. Meanwhile, there was a mutiny aboard the San António, and the ship fled the fleet.
Traveling along the Pacific, the remaining three ships arrived in the Philippines March 1521. In that archipelago, on the island of Cebu, Magalhães got involved with the native populations, against instructions from Spain. He participated in a skirmish against a group of natives from Mactan Island, dying on the beach on 27 April, 1521.
As the voyage continued, Juan Sebastian de Elcano was promoted to captain. Meanwhile, the Concepcion was dismantled. On 8 November, they arrived in the Moluccas, which was the goal of the expedition, casting anchor at Tidore, whose King received them and where the first acquisition of clover was made.
On 21 December, Elcano´s ship, the Victoria, left for Spain via the Indian Ocean, going around the Cape of Good Hope in May 1522. It arrived in Sanlucar de Barrameda on 6 September, 1522. The Trinidad unsuccessfully attempted to return to America. Thus, only the Victoria completed the voyage of circumnavigation to which Magalhães´ name became associated. The political success of the voyage was demonstrated by the fact that the King received Elcano in Valladolid.
Spain´s approval of Magalhães´ project evoked a response by Portugal. Among its assignments, Jorge de Brito´s 1520 Armada of India was charged with the construction of a fortress in the Moluccas, a reaction to the threat that Magalhães´ voyage posed to Portuguese interests in Maritime Southeast Asia.
The Spanish maintained contact with Tidore, and became established there; this gave rise to debate around the eastern anti-meridian and the question of the possession of the archipelago, which was legally resolved by establishing an anti-meridian in the 1529 Treaty of Zaragoza, in which Charles V gave up the islands in exchange for compensation.
Fernão de Magalhães´ expedition was the first voyage of circumnavigation and, even if the possession of the Moluccas became a difficult issue to resolve, the way was open for Spanish colonization of the Philippines and the definitive establishment of the Spanish spice route. As far as geographical knowledge is concerned, Magalhães´ voyage proved the existence of a strait connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, countering the beliefs that a connection existed either along Rio de la Plata or in the continuous strip of land stretching south; thus he opened the way to navigation of the Pacific.
BRAGA, Isabel Maria Ribeiro Mendes Drumond, Península Ibérica: Um Espaço, Dois Reinos (Interrelações na Época de Carlos V), tese policopiada, Lisboa, 1996. Fernão de Magalhães e a sua viagem no Pacífico. Antecedentes e consequentes. Actas VII Simpósio de História Marítima, Lisboa, Academia de Marinha, 2002. LAGOA, Visconde de, Fernão de Magalhães. A sua vida e a sua viagem, 2 vols., Lisboa, Seara Nova, 1938. MOTA, A. Teixeira da (org.), A viagem de Fernão de Magalhães e a questão das Molucas. Actas do II Colóquio Luso-Espanhol de História Ultramarina, Lisboa, Junta de Investigações Científicas do Ultramar, 1975. SUBRAHMANYAM, Sanjay, A Carreira e a Lenda de Vasco da Gama, Lisboa, CNCDP, 1998.
Author: Pedro Cerdeira
Translated by: Maria João Pimentel