REAL, João Pereira Corte (1580-1642)
1. The son of Matias de Carvalhal and D. Isabel de Perada. He is mainly known for his naval career and the written proposals or arbitrios he left on the subject of naval reforms. The former is believed to have started in 1603, in unspecified circumstances. The first concrete mention to his person puts him aboard the fleet sent in 1609 to relieve the Portuguese fortress of Quilon, on the Kerala coast, in India. From 1615 to 1619 he served as captain of the galleon Santo António, which made two round voyages between Portugal and India and back, in 1615-1616 and 1617-1618. A significant professional rise occurred with his nomination in 1621 to Admiral of the Armada de Portugal, the Portuguese fleet charged with the patrolling of Portuguese home waters (in the terminology of the time, ?Admiral? had the meaning of second-in-command to the actual commander of the fleet, who was called General). He occupied the post until 1624, when he was again sent to India, as Admiral of a large relief fleet. Back in Portugal, the King presented him with the Governorship of Cape Verde, where he remained from 1628 to 1632. His last naval post was that of commander (General) of a planned relief fleet to Brazil fitted out in 1636, which, for unknown reasons, did not go beyond Cadiz. He died shortly after being nominated to the War Council created by the new king, John IV, after the Portuguese Independence of 1640.
2. The complementary career of Corte Real as arbitrista on naval matters began in 1619, with the presentation to the king of a plan for regulating the Portuguese trade and navigation with India, which would subsequently be modified and expanded to form his Discursos sobre la Navegacion de las Naos de la India de Portugal?, published in 1622 in a restricted edition, intended to be read only in official circles. The two main proposals of the work were the replacement of the big four-deck carracks that served as Indiamen by smaller, handier three-deck vessels, and the implementation of a remuneration system for officers and crews based exclusively on wages that would put a stop to the abuses inherent to the existent system, in which privileges for carrying tax-free goods played a major part. The latter suggestion was only tried in 1645, after Corte Real?s death, and without much success. On the other hand, the proposal to enforce the building of three-deck ships was immediately adopted, with mixed results. Corte Real defended himself afterwards saying that the removal of the fourth deck had not been accompanied by the necessary modifications in the ships? design. Be that how it may, the two types of vessel continued to coexist until the end of the century, while the discussion about its comparative merits persisted.
3. João Pereira Corte Real has been considered a remarkable figure owing to his interest and knowledge of nautical matters, which historians assume to have been almost non-existent among people of his condition, even those who occupied naval posts. His own boasts about being the only known nobleman to have passed an exam of pilot seem to give credence to this opinion. But further research is needed to know with more precision how untypical he actually was in the context of his time (the same could be said of his like-minded fellow nobleman and contemporary D. António Ataíde, with whom would be interesting to compare him).
BOXER, C.R., "João Pereira Corte-Real (1580-1642) Capitão-Mor das Naus da Carreira da Índia and Almirante da Armada Real", in Actas do Congresso do Mundo Português, vol. VI, pp. 439-463, Lisbon, 1940. BOXER, C.R., ?Admiral João Pereira Corte Real and the Construction of Portuguese East-Indiamen in the Early 17th Century?, in From Lisbon to Goa, 1500-1750, London, 1984. VASCONCELOS, Frazão de, João Pereira Corte Real. Conselheiro de Guerra d`El-Rei D. João IV e as Naus da Carreira da Índia, Lisbon, 1921.
Author: André Murteira