NORONHA, Dom Fernando de (1437-1445)
Dom Fernando de Noronha was the third son of Dom Afonso, Earl of Norõna and Gijón (bastard son of Dom Henrique II of Castile) and of Dona Isabel (bastard daughter of Dom Fernando, King of Portugal). Despite his birth date being unknown, it is believed that he was born in the first years of the 1400?s. Contrary to his brother Dom João de Noronha, armed knight in the conquest of Ceuta, Dom Fernando de Noronha did not participate in this enterprise because he was too young.
Grandchildren of kings, Dom Fernando and his siblings assumed great importance in the Portuguese society: Dom Pedro de Noronha became Archbishop of Lisbon; Dom João de Noronha fought side-by-side with Infante Dom Duarte in the conquest of Ceuta; Dom Sancho de Noronha, Earl of Odemira, was a captain of Ceuta; and Dona Constança became the second wife of the Duke of Bragança, Dom Afonso.
In 1418-19, Fernando went to Ceuta for the first time, with his brother Dom João, to help the stronghold under siege. Dom João stayed in Ceuta for about a year and was seriously hurt. Shortly after, he died in Almodôvar, leaving no heirs.
With his brother?s death, Dom Fernando became the oldest male in the family (except for the first ? born son, Dom Pedro, who had followed the ecclesiastical career), and his marriage should therefore be thoroughly planned. For that reason, in mid-1427, his marriage to Dona Beatriz de Meneses was arranged. She was the daughter and heiress of Dom Pedro de Meneses, the first captain of Ceuta, and of his first wife, Dona Margarida de Miranda. The mediator of this marriage was Infante Dom Duarte, as father and son-in-law both belonged to his House. Despite Dom Pedro de Meneses having married four times, he only had legitimate daughters; as a result, Dona Beatriz and her husband were to inherit his title, properties and the captaincy of Ceuta. To Dom Fernando de Noronha, this marriage brought wealth and legitimacy because, despite being grandson of kings, he was an illegitimate child and had no title of his own. In that time, Dom Pedro de Meneses was the only member of the titled nobility who was not part of the royal family. The marriage contract, confirmed by king Dom João I in 1430, included a term which made mandatory that the heirs of this union be called Meneses and not Noronha. The ceremony took place in Ceuta, where Dom Fernando stayed for a year, after which he returned to the kingdom with his wife.
In 1428, besides being a member of the King?s Council and Infante Dom Duarte?s Lord of the Bedchamber, he was entrusted by king Dom João I (his uncle) with the task of escorting Dona Leonor of Aragon, who had married the throne heir, to Portugal.
Later that same year, he commanded a Portuguese fleet that defeated corsairs who were threatening Ceuta?s safety, by the coast of Andalusia. In that same fleet, travelled Dom Fernando de Castro, governor of the House of Infante Dom Henrique.
In 1434, Dom Pedro de Meneses came to the kingdom for the second time, since he was appointed captain of Ceuta. King Dom Duarte granted him the title of Earl of Viana, which formerly had belonged to his father. The title of Earl of Vila Real was passed on to Dom Fernando de Noronha, the captain?s heir.
In 1437, Dom Fernando was one of the nobles who accompanied Infante Dom Fernando and Infante Dom Henrique in the attempt to conquer Tangiers, where Infante Dom Fernando was imprisoned. During the military campaign, the news arrived that Dom Pedro de Meneses had died. His son, Dom Duarte de Meneses, immediately travelled to the stronghold and assumed the duties of interim-captain, until his brother-in-law arrived in Ceuta. After the Tangiers disaster, Dom Fernando returned to the kingdom. He was appointed governor of Ceuta in a letter dated from 18 October 1437, and took office from his brother-in-law, Dom Duarte de Meneses, in the beginning of 1438. Dom Fernando left to Ceuta with instructions from the king to discontinue the war effort against the Moors and limit military action to defensive acts, to prevent Dom Fernando from suffering any punishment.
In that same year, in September, king Dom Duarte died. Despite not being one of the biggest opponents to the regency (as his brother, Dom Pedro de Noronha, Archbishop of Lisbon, and Duke Dom Afonso), Dom Fernando de Noronha did not share the opinion of Infante Dom Pedro on the devolution of Ceuta in exchange for Dom Fernando, who was held captive in Fez. The fact that the captain of Ceuta was against the delivery of the city brought serious problems to the negotiations being held between the regent Dom Pedro and the ambassadors of Fez. Therefore, it was agreed that the governor of the House of Infante Dom Henrique, Dom Fernando de Castro, and his son, Dom Alvaro, would go to Ceuta, where they would take the keys of the city from the hands of Dom Fernando and, then, deliver them to the Moors when Infante Dom Fernando arrived to Asilah.
That plan failed, as the fleet where Dom Fernando de Castro travelled was attacked near Cape St. Vincent by a Genovese fleet. The attack led to the death of the governor. Infante Dom Fernando died shortly after, in Fez, in 1443. In the dispute between the widowed queen and Infante Dom Pedro, Dom Fernando de Noronha was one of the noblemen who helped Dona Leonor the most, despite having a neutral position. He sent jewellery and money to Toledo where she was living in 1444.
Dom Fernando de Noronha died in Ceuta in the beginning of 1445. After his death, António Pacheco was appointed interim-captain of the stronghold. That same year, in October, the Earl of Arraiolos, Dom Fernando, was appointed captain of Ceuta.
Dom Fernando de Noronha had two sons: Dom Pedro de Meneses, his successor, who took his grandfather?s surname, and Dom João de Noronha.
He is buried in the monastery of São Francisco, in Santarém, next to his grandfather, king Dom Fernando.
MASCARENHAS, Jerónimo, Historia de la Ciudad de Ceuta: sus sucessos militares y políticos, dir. de Afonso de Dornelas, Lisboa, Academia das Sciencias, 1918. SILVEIRA, Luís Lobo da; Sousa, António Caetano de; Noronha, António de; Bem, Tomás Caetano de; Título da Família de Noronhas. TEIXEIRA, André Pinto de Sousa Dias, «Uma linhagem ao serviço da ?ideia imperial manuelina?: Noronhas e Meneses de Vila Real, em Marrocos e na Índia», A Alta Nobreza e a Fundação do Estado da Índia. Actas do Colóquio Internacional, ed. João Paulo Oliveira e Costa e Vítor Luís Gaspar Rodrigues, Lisboa, CHAM/IICT, 2004.
Author: Maria Dávila
Translated by: Marília Pavão