LACERDA, Manuel de
Manuel de Lacerda, a nobleman of the royal house, was the son of Reimão de Lacerda (son of Nuno de Lacerda, Chief-Alcaide of Vidigueira and of Vila de Frades), and of Isabel Pereira, daughter of Gonçalo Cardoso. Cardoso held a majorat and was Queen Leonor´s overseer. Manuel de Lacerda went to the Orient in 1506, distinguishing himself early on. Even before arriving in India, he was prominent in the 1507 attack on Brava, on the African coast, attaining the rank of knight. He served in the Red Sea, where he participated in the conquest of Socorota and in the construction of the respective fortress. Immediately after, he joined Albuquerque´s armada, which had been deployed to the Persian Gulf in order to conquer Ormuz.
At the time of the conflict between Dom Francisco de Almeida and Afonso de Albuquerque, Manuel de Lacerda would not have asserted his position vehemently, though the evidence indicates that he sided with the latter, as is shown by subsequent events. In an attempt to deprive his opponent of some of his supporters, the viceroy, Dom Francisco de Almeida, detailed Manuel de Lacerda to deffend Cannanore, thus keeping him away from Albuquerque.
In 1509, the arrival of Dom Fernando Coutinho in India, which resulted in the removal of Francisco de Almeida as well as of many of his supporters, created an administative void in the Portuguese army. This situation together with the support given Albuquerque, allowed Manuel de Lacerda to rise in importance and, after the first attempt at conquering Calicut, he was promoted to captain.
A supporter of Albuquerque when it came to Goa´s conquest, he participated in the first attack, February 1510. After the city was recaptured by the Sultan of Bijapur´s troops, Manuel de Lacerda went through the ordeal of spending the winter in the estuary of the Mandovi River, being injured during an attack to the castle of Panguim, whose objective was to lessen the damage done to the Portuguese fleet by its artillery.
After an incident of disagreement with Afonso de Albuquerque due to the method of execution of a nobleman, Manuel de Lacerda is assigned to the corsair war in the Arabian Sea until 1510, when the second attack on Goa occurred. During the battle, Manuel de Lacerda fought heroically. When he was stricken in the face with an arrow, rather than collapsing due to his injury, he continued to fight, for which Afonso de Albuquerque kissed him on the cheek.
In 1511, when Afonso de Albuquerque left to conquer Malaca, he assigned Manuel de Lacerda to stay in India as Admiral of the fleet. It was in this capacity that he went to the aid of Goa, on the occasion of the siege by Idalcao troops, via the Palace of Benasterim. He shared the command of the deffense effort with Diogo Mendes de Vasconcelos who, though incarcerated by Albuquerque, was the only one who was capable of commanding the garrison of Goa after the death of its captain, Rodrigo Rebelo. Although Afonso de Albuquerque had planned his replacement by Manuel de Lacerda should he die, the order was never made known due to theft, and its fulfillment was incidental. In February 1512, when Afonso de Albuquerque returned, this situation was rectified. The siege of Goa by Idalcao continued until November 1512, when the palace of Benasterim was taken with the aid of reinforcements that had arrived one month prior to its conquest.
After regularization of the Goa situation, Manuel de Lacerda was removed from his post by Albuquerque, who was not willing to give up his service in the 1513 expedition to the Red Sea, whose goal was to conquer Adem. Manuel de Lacerda, nevertheless, seems to have resented Afonso de Albuquerque due to the removal. Despite this, in February 1513, he went to the Red Sea, in command of the ship, Frol da Rosa, participating in the Adem fiasco. In the aftermath of the failed conquest of Adem, Manuel de Lacerda as well as other captains were investigated; however, the investigation yielded no results.
In order to claim the privileges which he thought he deserved, he returned to the kingdom in 1514, but only in 1517 did he receive these, due to the political climate that prevailed in King Manuel´s court because of the Adem fiasco. He returned to India the same year, having been nominated to command a ship, awarded with the respective payment (quintaladas), and appointed to the Captaincy of Calicut. However, the greatest benefit he was granted, had it been accomplished, was the captaincy of the Red Sea fortress. From 1517 to 1519, he served under the orders of governor Lopo Soares de Albergaria, up to his transfer to Calicut, where he occupied the position of captain of the fortress until 1522, returning to Portugal then. In 1523, King João III grants him the Captaincy of Goa. Instead of traveling to the Orient, however, he remained in the kingdom, leaving again in 1527 as admiral of the India fleet. His ship ran aground offshore St. Lawrence Island (Madagascar). The survivors sought refuge on the island, where Manuel de Lacerda disappeared; hence, we are uncertain as to his end.
Manuel de Lacerda´s career is remarkable inasmuchas it exemplifies the rise in the ranks of the Portuguese nobleman to some of the highest positions of the overseas empire. On the other hand, the course of his life allows us to draw conclusions about the rationales behind the actions and motivations of the first Portuguese who went to the Orient.
Bibliography: PELÚCIA, Alexandra; Manuel de Lacerda, Guerreiro e Náufrago, in A Nobreza e a Expansão: Estudos Biográficos, coor. João Paulo Oliveira e Costa, Cascais, Patrimonia, pp. 253-271.
Author: Elias Pinheiro
Translated by: Maria João Pimentel