COUTINHO, Dom João (?-1619)
5th Earl of Redondo: Viceroy of India (1617-1619).
Born in an unknown date, Dom João Coutinho was the son of a former Viceroy of India, Dom Francisco Coutinho (1561-1564), 3rd Earl of Redondo, and of Dona Maria Blaesvelt. On his father?s side, he descended from a family entitled by King João III; on his mother?s side, he was a descendant of the lord of the captaincy of Machico , Francisco de Gusmão, his grandfather. The title of Earl of Redondo was inherited by his older brother, Luís Coutinho, upon his father?s death, in Goa, in 1564, while still holding the post of Viceroy of India. His brother held the title until he died in the battle of Alcácer-Quibir. As his brother was childless from his union with Dona Mécia da Silveira e Meneses, and his oldest brother, Dom Francisco Coutinho, died at a very young age, he came to inherit the title of Earl. A member of the Royal Council from the time of Kind Sebastian, he was with this monarch in the 1578 expedition, but survived and contrived to escape captivity. Once back in Portugal, after the establishment of the Dual Monarchy, he held, among others, the post of Master of the Hunt in Philip I and Philip II royal households. He got married to Dona Francisca de Meneses, daughter of King Sebastian´s Chief Ensign, Dom Luís de Meneses. From this union an offspring of three ensued. Having died childless, the heir to the title of Earl, Dom Francisco Coutinho, passed it on to the youngest sister alive, Dona Luísa Coutinho, who being married Dom João de Castelo Branco, associated the title to her husband?s family. Appointed Viceroy of India by letter dated 21 March 1617, he left Tagus river on 21 April, and arrived at Goa on 18 Novembro.
The Earl?s first act of government was to imprison the former Viceroy, Dom Jerónimo de Azevedo, who was sent back to the Kingdom, in fulfilment of royal orders. From the very beginning of his rule, a tendency to compare his performance with his father?s, a former Viceroy who had left a long-lasting reputation, could hardly be avoided. This tendency would be reinforced by Dom João Coutinho?s death, since, like his father, it occurred while still holding office. By the end of 1617, and in the context of the wars near Mangalore, which started during the vicereign of Dom Jerónimo de Azevedo, the Queen of Olala, after a victory obtained in August, launched an assault against the native ruler of Banguel, an ally to the Portuguese. The attack gave rise to a reaction by Dom Francisco de Miranda and Luís de Brito e Melo, who tried, though in vain, to besiege the stronghold of Olala. Both were killed in the Portuguese retreat, while most of the Portuguese and their slaves were beheaded. After this event, dated the early days of 1618, a number of protests and accusation sheets were posted in Goa against the Viceroy and the highest figures of authority of Estado da India. Dom João Coutinho began, thus, his vicereign facing a charge of weakness. Yet, that was the year when orderliness was restored in the captaincy of Mozambique, after having been severely damaged during the former vicereign due to the conflicts that had opposed the captains and the judges sent there to reinstate order. After the execution of Salvador Vaz da Guerra became known, the judge who was his ally and had been arrested in Goa, managed to evade from prison and to break into Moorish territory, a fact which brought into further disrepute and discredit the most highly placed officials of Estado da Índia. The Viceroy decided to put the Company of Jesus in charge of ordering and buying war material, in an attempt to spare the government to further scandals and robbery. He also sent an embassy to the Great Mughal, led by the Jesuit Manuel Pinheiro. In spite of the envoy?s failure to convince that sovereign to refuse shelter to the Dutch and the English in his ports, Estado da India got free from the military pressure that Emperor Jahangir had exerted upon the strongholds of Daman an Diu, and therefore Portuguese navigation in the region was resumed. Another episode occurred at the time which contributed to harm the reputation of state officials, in addition to those previously mentioned and to the several natural catastrophes which fell upon Portuguese Asia in 1618 and 1619. Manuel Ribeiro, one of the captains of the 1618 fleet of India, handed over 8000 pesos to an English general, in order to avoid a confrontation with the English. He was also complying with their demands of compensation for the losses suffered at Surat, during the time of Jerónimo de Azevedo. The captain got arrested upon his arrival in Goa by order of the Viceroy.
Meanwhile, in Malacca, rumours were being spread that Achin was preparing an attack against the Portuguese stronghold, and the fleet of captain Lopo de Sousa set out for the seas of Sumatra. After the sack of the Dutch trading post in the kingom of Jambi, several settlements at the sea-shore were attacked. In the Far East (Macao), a force of 400 Portuguese was recruited in order to help the Ming faction to face the Manchu threat in the North. This contingent arrived to the imperial court in 1619, under the command of captain Gonçalo Teixeira and the Jesuit João Rodrigues. Even though the Chinese had met with defeat in battle agains the Manchu army the year before, the Emperor of the Heavenly Empire would not allow the Portuguese presence in that war.
In Ceylon, Constantino de Sá took office as captain, replacing Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira, who had been chosen as head of the conquest of the rivers of Cuama. The new captain strove to erect a fortification at Suffragan, and was immediately attacked by the king of Sitawaka. The Portuguese set in pursuit of the defeated king, entered his town and sacked it, a feat they repeated on a second attempted attack by the same king, after the plunder had ended. As a revenge, the King of Uva, a traditional ally of Estado da India, was executed by the enemy king. After that, Constantino de Sá engaged himself in providing aid to Malabar, where a descendant of the privateer Cunhale, who had been defeated and arrested by the Portuguese, in Goa, during the vicereign of Dom Francisco da Gama, had captured Portuguese ships. Captain Vitório de Abreu was sent by Sá, but failed to chase after the relative of Cunhale, who assumed control of one of the ships carrying the tributes of that region to Goa. Meanwhile, in Ceylon, the King of Jafanapatao endeavoured to gain the support of the Kings of Sitawaka and Kandy to better oppose the Portuguese, and refused to trade with the latter. Filipe de Oliveira was sent to that kingdom in order to settle the dispute, and managed not only to defeat the local king as also to take him prisoner. He then acted as provisional governor of Jafanapatao until the official declaration of sovereignty was proclaimed by Dom João Coutinho. The former sovereign became a subject to Estado da India.
After a successful attack against a Danish ship, the Viceroy?s primary concern focused now on Maritime Southeast Asia affairs. Some Portuguese, including the governor of Angola, had been taken prisoners by the Dutch. Agostinho Lobato left with a fleet, with the purpose of avenging the affront, but the attack against the Dutch fortress of Bimas and the battles at Solor were disastrous for the Portuguese, and Lobato died there, betrayed by a Japanese. In Malacca, some news arrived informing of a threat from Achin, but rumour was that the Viceroy was engaged to lead personally an attack to that kingdom. That happened at a time when fights involving the Dutch and the English were common, and the Portuguese were having a hard time opposing both enemies, which favoured the establishment of the French presence in the Malay archipelago. The Viceroy would never leave for Martime Southeast Asia ? and it is uncertain whether this was due to his premature death, on 10 November 1619, or to any other reason. His last act of government was to dispatch Gaspar de Melo in an aid mission to Mangalore, where he would succeed in destroying the fortress that the enemies were trying to build in the vicinity of the town.
Faria e Sousa described the vicereign of Dom João Coutinho as one which, notwithstanding his high aristocratic attributes, could hardly stand up the hardship of the times and the comparison with his father?s rule.
 Madeira island [translator?s note].
SOUSA, Manuel de Faria e, Ásia Portuguesa, volume VI, tradução de Maria Vitória Garcia Santos Ferreira, vol. VI, 3º Parte, caps. XV-XVIII, Porto, Livraria Civilização, 1947. ZÚQUETE, Afonso, Tratado de Todos os Vice-Reis e Governadores da Índia, Lisboa, Editorial Enciclopédia, 1962.
Author: Nuno Vila-Santa
Translated by: Leonor Sampaio da Silva