ANDRADE, Rui Freire de
Rui Freire de Andrade was born in Beja in the 1590s, son of João Freire de Andrade, who served as Chancellor of India during the first decade of the 17th century. Nothing is known about the first years of Rui Freire’s life.
His first voyage to India, in Dom Jeronimo Coutinho’s fleet, took place in 1607. Once on the subcontinent, he served several times in the armadas of North Malabar. In 1613, he was named captain of Damao, a fortress under siege by the Rajah of Sarceta. Rui Freire de Andrade quickly distinguished himself in combat, forcing the Indian army to retreat. The following year, he was assigned to Chaul, which was also under attack, but the siege ended shortly after the captain’s arrival. In the same year, while still in Chaul, he met Viceroy Dom Jeronimo de Azevedo’s armada, on its way to fight the English in Surat. Rui Freire attempted to participate in the expedition, but the Viceroy declined his assistance. Prior to returning to the Kingdom of Portugal in 1617, he commanded the Armada of the North.
In view of the growing difficulty of the Portuguese situation in the Strait of Ormuz, a result of the ambition of the Safavid Shah Abbas I, as well as of the presence of English commerce in the Persian coast, King Felipe III dispatched a large armada to Ormuz. Rui Freire de Andrade was given command of the expedition, whose objective was to drive the English from those waters and strengthen the Portuguese position in the Strait. The armada left Lisbon on 1 April 1619 and met with various difficulties, even in the Atlantic: bombardment by Castilian ships that were not properly identified and a battle with a Dutch ship near the Cape of Good Hope, finally reaching Ormuz on 20 June of the following year. From there, Rui Freire de Andrade departed to Jasques, in command of the armada, to fulfill the first part of his objective of hunting down English ships. The confrontation resulted in a tactical victory for the English, as the Portuguese were unable to prevent British commercial activities in the Persian coast, much less remove the English permanently from the Strait.
Having failed to accomplish the first objective, Rui Freire de Andrade began preparations for the second one: to strengthen the Portuguese position in the Strait by building a fort on Qeshm, an island neighboring Djarun. Despite opposition from the Captain of Ormuz and the governor of Portuguese India, Fernão de Albuquerque, who feared the Persian reaction, Rui Freire carried out his plan, departing for Qeshm on 7 May 1621. After defeating the Persian forces that defended the island, he began construction of the fort. The Safavid response was not long in coming, as large numbers of Persian soldiers advanced on the island. As long as the Portuguese controlled the waters surrounding the fort, their position was secure. However, early in 1622, the arrival of English ships, which established a coalition with the Safavid authorities, changed the situation. Under siege on land and in the sea, the only option left to the Portuguese was capitulation. The Portuguese soldiers were disarmed and transferred to Ormuz, but Rui Freire de Andrade remained a prisoner of the English.
Even as the Anglo-Persian alliance placed Ormuz under siege, Rui Freire managed to escape his captors near the Indian coast. There, he was able to gather some ships and depart to Muscat, where he immediately received news of the fall of Ormuz. With Constantino de Sá de Noronha, who had been sent from Goa with reinforcements, and after giving orders not to abandon the remaining Portuguese positions in the Strait, Rui Freire departed to Goa, where various investigations were in progress to evaluate his participation in the loss of Ormuz. However, after the arrival of the new Viceroy, Dom Francisco da Gama, Rui Freire was quickly acquitted and sent back to the Strait, to take the office of Governor-general.
Arriving in the Strait in 1623, Rui Freire was quick to solidify the Portuguese position. As a result of the loss of Ormuz, which the Portuguese attempted to retake unsuccessfully in the years that followed, Muscat had become the new Portuguese center in the Strait. In 1623 and in 1624, the Governor-general undertook several campaigns along the Arabian coasts, taking several fortified strongholds: Soar and Julfar, among others, and driving the Persians out of the Arabian side of the Strait. Still in 1624, he sent an expedition to Basra, under the command of Dom Gonçalo da Silveira, with the purpose of aiding the local ruler – a subject of the Ottomans – in the war against the Persians. Thus, he was able to reestablish commercial relations with that important Asian commercial emporium.
In 1625, a confrontation took place in the waters of the Strait, between the Portuguese tall-ship armada, captained by Dom Nuno Alvares Botelho with the aid of Rui Freire, and the Anglo-Dutch forces. Although the battle, which was played out in three parts, resulted in a stalemate, the northern-Europeans realized that from that moment on the trips to the Strait would be much more difficult because of Portuguese opposition. The following year, though numerous reinforcements were sent to the Strait due to fears that Muscat would be attacked, no confrontation occurred at all.
With the northern-European threat in check and the situation of the Portuguese greatly enhanced, the Governor-general, between 1627 and 1629, restarted efforts to strengthen the Portuguese position in the Gulf. Thus he established an alliance with the governing Caliph and attempted, unsuccessfully, to retake Bahrein, in addition to ordering several attacks on the Persian coast. Abbas I died in 1629, and his successor, Safi I, needed to solidify his contested position, which led the Safavid authorities to propose a six-month truce with the Portuguese, to be repeated every year. In exchange, they offered the Governor-general the opportunity to establish a customs house in any port of his choice and to retain half the proceeds that would accrue from its operation. Rui Freire accepted the proposal, selecting the port of Congo (Bandar Kung) as the location for the new customs house.
Meanwhile, at the end of 1629, a new Viceroy, Dom Miguel de Noronha, Count of Linhares, began governing Goa. Dom Miguel understood the range of possibilities opened to the Portuguese by the truce in the Strait, which freed the large military contingent stationed there, as well as its charismatic leader, for other endeavors. Therefore, Rui Freire de Andrade was ordered back to Goa, to participate in an expedition for the purpose of military and financial oversight of the Northern Province fortresses, with the General Overseer of the Treasury, Miguel Pinheiro Ravasco. However, the death of the Overseer early in the journey, gave the Governor-general an excuse to return to the Strait, without the Viceroy’s permission. The loss of Mombasa in 1631 provided the Count of Linhares with a new reason to try to use the military resources of the Strait. There was even discussion in the Council of State that the main body of the expedition for the purpose of retaking that fortified stronghold should be comprised of troops from the Strait. Yet, the Governor-general’s artful use of the north-European threat to Muscat as an argument resulted in the plan being abandoned, as the troops for that unsuccessful expedition were recruited mainly in India.
Rui Freire de Andrade´s health had been deteriorating since 1631, culminating in a bout of dysentery, from which he died in September 1633. He was buried under a tombstone without inscription, in the church of the Augustinians in Muscat. Whether the simplicity of his tomb was of his own choosing, an act of complete self-emptying in death, or planned by his enemies in Muscat, with the intent of erasing all memory of the Governor-general, remains
- Boxer, Charles, “Anglo-Portuguese Rivalry in the Persian Gulf (1615 – 1635)”, in Portuguese Conquest and Commerce in Southern Asia (1500-1750), Variorum Reprints, Londres, 1985
- Comentários do Grande Capitão Rui Freire de Andrade, (ed,) José Gervásio Leite, Agência Geral das Colónias, Lisboa, 1940
- Ferreira, João Luís, Entre Duas Margens. Os Portugueses no Golfo Pérsico (1622-1653), Dissertação de Mestrado apresentada na FCSH-UNL, 2011
- Leite, José Gervásio, Rui Freire de Andrada, Agência Geral das Colónias, Lisboa, 1940
Author: João Ferreira
Translated by: Maria João Pimentel