BOTELHO, Nuno Álvares
Governor of India (1629).
Born in an unknown date, he was the second son of Diogo Botelho and of Dona Maria Pereira. His father had been a gentleman at the court of Philip II of Portugal, captain-general of tall ships armadas, captain of Tangier, ambassador to Savoy, in addition to Governor of Brazil between 1602 e 1607. He got married to Dona Brites de Lima, daughter of the 5th lord of Sarzedas, Dom Luís Lobo da Silveira, and of Dona Joana de Lima. Dona Brites?s oldest uncle, Dom Rodrigo Lobo da Silveira, was the 1st Earl of Sarzedas and Vicery of Índia from 1655 to 1656. Nuno Álvares Botelho?s single descendant was his son Francisco Nuno Álvares Botelho, entitled by Dom Philip III 1st Earl of São Miguel. His son would be married thrice before securing a successor. A member of the Royal Council, Nuno Álvares Botelho, nicknamed ?The Great? served in the fleet of the Kingdom from 1598 to 1616. Admiral of the 1617 and 1621 fleets of India, and after two journeys back to Kingdom, he travelled for the third and last time for India in 1624, in the same capacity. Before he left in 1624, the monarch granted him the distinction of being Knight Commander of Santa Maria de Mirandela in the Order of Christ, in recognition for his services. His presence in India was immediately noticed, as he managed to arrive in Goa with his fleet intact due to a journey without battles. At the occasion, Viceroy Dom Francisco da Gama, 4th Earl of Vidigueira, appointed him to assist Rui Freire de Andrade in chasing and fighting English and Dutch ships heading towards the Persian Gulf. Botelho stood out bringing to wreck enemy ships in the Persian Gulf and in Surat. He further engaged in naval actions against the same enemies the following years. In 1629, during the siege to Malacca, he volunteered to come to the rescue of that fortress, but the Governor Dom Frei Luís de Brito e Meneses refused his services. With the premature death of the Governor-Bishop and given the absence of the Viceroy, Dom Francisco Mascarenhas, meanwhile appointed by Philip III and deceased in the course of the voyage to India, the document with the name of the successor was disclosed and his name was chosen, since the first person mentioned (the deceased Bishop of Kochi) was obviously not eligible for the post. The name designated by the document was, however, that of Nuno Álvares Pereira. There was at the time only one Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira in India, who was captain of Mozambique. As he no longer used the family name Pereira, which he had inherited from his mother, the pressing circumstances of the political context of the time led Nuno Álvares Botelho into office.
Royal instructions had arranged for a tripartion of power among Nuno Álvares Pereira, the Archbishop of Goa, and the captain of the city, Dom Lourenço da Cunha. As the Archbishop refused to take office, the Governor appointed Gonçalo Pinto da Fonseca for the post. According to the scheme devised, Nuno Álvares Botelho would be in charge of the military component of the government, Dom Lourenço da Cunha would rule over the political sphere, and Gonçalo Pinto da Fonseca would be the head of justice. Such a division of powers matched Botelho?s interests, who accepted the post with the condition of providing immediate succour to Malaca. The name inscribed in the instructions remained, however, a problem. The matter was settled by the City Council and by the people of Goa, who elected Nuno Álvares Botelho as Governor, giving him further authority by reason of sharing the power with his two fellow rulers. A Council of State followed, which succeeded in making official the before mentioned tripartition of rule in India. Nuno Álvares Botelho?s rule began on 2 August 1629, the day he was officially invested with power, and came to an end with the arrival to Goa of Viceroy Dom Miguel de Noronha, the 4th Earl of Linhares, on 21 October.
Even before his rule became official, Nuno Álvares Botelho requested to the City Council of Goa permission to run to the aid of Malacca. Only in the beginning of September would that happen, though. Nuno Álvares Pereira left from Goa on 20 September, with a powerful fleet, and arrived in the vicinity of Malacca on 22 October, at the exact moment when he was supposed to leave office, due to the arrival of Dom Miguel de Noronha to Goa. However, the new Viceroy would come to consider him as a kind of governor of the South, one upon whom he could bestow powers and who he eventually charged with important missions.
Nuno Álvares Botelho?s reputation caused a part of the enemy forces, led by Lassamane, a general of the Sultan of Achin, to flee, as soon as he arrived in Malacca. After some combat actions led by Botelho, in which many of the captains on his side showed bravery and valour (as is, for example, the case of Dom Jerónimo da Silveira), the enemy took to definite retreat on 25 November. Nuno Álvares Botelho refused, however, to sign a peace agreement without the Portuguese ambassador?s release from prison. Pedro Abreu had been made captive in April that year, by the forces of Achin. When the King of Pahang arrived to help in the release of Malacca, not only was the enemy completely defeated, as the assistant general of Lassamane, Marraja, had been killed. At last, after another attack in which the Portuguese took possession of the booty, Nuno Álvares Botelho was rewarded with a warm welcome in Malacca, in which participated the King of Pahang and an embassy from the King of Pera, a former tributary of the Sultan of Achin who now offered tribute to Estado da Índia. In December, Nuno Álvares Botelho was informed that Dutch ships sought to capture Portuguese ships heading towards the Heavenly Empire. His effort to come to their assistance proved tardy. This failure, dated January 1630, would, nevertheless, be countered with the capture of Lassamane and of one of the greatest lords of the Sultanate of Achin, though at the hands of the King of Pahang. Nuno Álvares Botelho dispatched António de Sousa Coutinho on a mission to Portugal, and in the meantime wrote to the Viceroy asking for men and munitions in order to carry on his activity against the Dutch in the region. The valuable aid from the Viceroy arrived in April 1630, shortly after the assault to Jambi, led by Nuno Álvares Botelho, in which several enemy ships were seized. With the arrival of the reinforcements, the captain intended to launch an attack against Jakarta, an important seat of power in the region, but on the way to Jakarta he met a Dutch ship and lost his life trying to save, in vain, Dom António de Mascarenhas. The expedition to Jakarta was put off and the rest of the captains returned to Malacca.
When he heard the news of his death, Philip III not only regretted it more sadly than he had the Queen of Poland?s death, as he passed on to his son the following benefits: the title of Earl of São Miguel, the revenues from the captaincy of Mozambique, a lifelong donation of the goods he possessed at the time of his death, a four generations succession right for the commanderies, and a grant of one thousand ducats to his descendants. Giving credit to the words of Faria e Sousa when he quotes a letter by Philip III, the King would willingly distinguish him with the position of Great of Spain, had the state of the royal treasure not called for austerity.
Nuno Álvares Botelho, capitão geral das armadas de alto bordo e governador da Índia, edição de A. Botelho de Sousa, Lisboa, Agência Geral das Colónias, 1940. SOUSA, Manuel de Faria e, Ásia Portuguesa, volume VI, tradução de Maria Vitória Garcia Santos Ferreira, vol. VI, 4º Parte, caps. VI-VII, 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