SILVA, Dom António Teles de Meneses e (1600-?)
First count of Vila Pouca de Aguiar: governor of India (1639-1640).
Born around 1600, Dom António Teles de Meneses was the fifth son of Rui Teles de Meneses (c. 1560-1616), eighth lord of Unhão, and of Dona Mariana da Silveira. The assorted lots of his brothers clearly demonstrate the ascension of some members of Dom António?s lineage, in mid-17th century: the first-born, Dom Fernão Teles de Meneses (1586-1651), was granted the title of first count of Unhão by King Filipe II in 1630, having married Dona Francisca de Távora e Castro, daughter of the previous viceroy of India, Dom Martim Afonso de Castro; Vasco da Silveira had a doctorate in Canons by Coimbra and was prior of the Collegiate of Ourém; Manuel Teles de Meneses was the governor of the Castle of Viana; Dona Maria de Castro married the first count of Aveiras, Dom João da Silva Telo de Meneses, the last viceroy of India appointed by King Filipe III. This brother-in-law of Dom António not only replaced him but also sworn King João IV in all of Portuguese India after the Restoration of Independence in 1640. As Dom António was going to become a marquis, so was Dom João da Silva Telo de Meneses, but both died before the titles were granted. Dom António married twice, but had no legitimate children. The first wife, Dona Maria de Castelo Branco, was the daughter and heir of Dom Jorge de Castelo Branco, who had once been captain of Ormuz, and of Dona Maria de Mendonça. His second wife was his cousin Dona Helena de Castro, daughter of Álvaro da Silveira, knight of the Order of Christ, and of Dona Ana de Castro. He had just one son, born out of wedlock, by Dona Maria de Landrove and his name was Dom Aires Teles de Meneses; he would marry Dona Joana Maria de Castro, second countess of Vila Pouca de Aguiar.
The exact date of Dom António?s first departure to India is not known; what is known is that on the first time he was captain of Diu and general of the tall ships armada. His second return to India happened when Pedro da Silva was appointed viceroy in 1635. Dom António left with the purpose of taking him safely to the East. Once there, he was the most thriving nobleman of such ill-fated viceroyalty. In 1636 and 1637 he fought and defeated the Flemish fleets, except on one occasion ? when the captains of his fleet refused to fight. In 1638-39 he was sent by Viceroy Pedro da Silva to solve the problems raised by the death of the general of Daman and was responsible for the peace treaty signed with the Great Mogul. Finally, with the death of Pedro da Silva, on the 24th of June, 1639, he was appointed governor of India, via the second line of succession, since the first had named the recently appointed archbishop of Goa, the Franciscan friar Dom Francisco dos Mártires. Actually, while Dom António was away in Daman, the archbishop was in charge of Portuguese India until Dom António returned to Goa. Aware of the joint siege of Achen and of the Flemish to Malacca, he immediately sent reinforcements to the city, for those sent by Pedro da Silva had not been enough, due to similar events in Daman. Yet, when Dom António Teles de Meneses e Silva arrived, on the 30th of October, 1639, the port of Goa was blocked by the Dutch East India Company. After putting the enemy on the run, the governor committed himself to helping Malacca. But the arrival of his successor in September 1640, Dom João da Silva Telo de Meneses, first count of Aveiras, prevented him from proceeding with the intention and the responsibility was now his brother-in-law?s.
Dom António sailed back to the realm in 1640 and supported King João IV, who appointed him as member of the Council of State and of the Council of War, and granted him the title of first count of Vila Pouca de Aguiar, in 1647. In that same year he was appointed by the king for the general government of Pernambuco, having sailed to Brazil then. In 1656, with the death of the first count of Sarzedas, Dom Rodrigo Lobo da Silveira, King João IV tried to convince him to sail to India for a third time, promising him a marquisate when he returned. When the king died in 1656, he was one of the noble pallbearers; as far as it is known, the reigning queen Dona Luísa de Gusmão managed to convince him to sail to India for a third time. And, indeed he did, in 1657, taking with him his legitimised son, Dom Aires Teles de Meneses, but the count passed away during the journey. The title would disappear after the death of the wife of the legitimised son.
SOUSA, Manuel de Faria e, Ásia Portuguesa, volume VI, tradução de Maria Vitória Garcia Santos Ferreira, vol. VI, 4º Parte, cap. XVII, 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: Maria das Mercês Pacheco