NORONHA, D. Afonso de
Viceroy of India (1550-1554), the fourth son of the 2nd Marquis of Vila Real (1499-1524), D. Fernando de Meneses, and of Dona Maria Freire. The dates of his birth and death are unknown. His brother, Dom Pedro de Meneses, 3rd Marquis of Vila Real (1524-1543), assured the line of descent of the House he was born into. He married Dona Maria de Eça, lady of Santos-o-Novo, and among the couple?s children we find Dom Fernando de Noronha. Dom Afonso de Noronha was Knight Harbinger of Dom João III and a member of the Royal Council, the Lord and Knight Commander of Olalhas, of São Miguel and of São João da Castanheira. He was also donatory captain of Ceuta (1535-1549), replacing his brother, Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira, in that post. After having played an important role in that captaincy, namely as far as the building of the fortress of Seinal was concerned, and subsequent to the Portuguese having deserted the North African strongholds of Asilah and Alcacer Ceguer, in 1550, he received, on February, 18, 1550, a Royal letter appointing him Viceroy of India. He left in May that year, in a fleet of six ships, in the company of his son Dom Fernando and of his nephew, Dom Antão de Noronha, the son of his brother, Dom João de Noronha (c. 1485-1524). Two fellow voyagers in the same fleet were Dom Álvaro de Noronha, prospective captain of Ormuz, who would prove essential both in soundly advising Dom Afonso in political matters as in taking military actions, and Dom Álvaro?s son, Dom Diogo de Noronha, also worthy of mention with respect to military action. As he left Lisbon with the post of Viceroy he was the bearer of several orders by the monarch. Dom João III demanded the return of the New Christians who had left for India along with the thorough examination of some old Christians suspected of being Jews.
On November, 6, 1550, he started his rule making the first appointments and taking the first resolutions in Kochi. He arrived to Goa on the 20th of January, 1551, after having spent some time visiting the Portuguese strongholds in the western coast of India, especially Cannanore. Once in Goa, he was duly welcomed given his military prestige and his family links. After all, he was the grandfather of the 4th Marquis of Vila Real, Dom Miguel de Meneses (1543-1564), a member of the Kingdom?s highest nobility. The way he was received expresses the high expectations that were formed on the matter of his rule. 1551 started with a number of threats. In February, the former governor, Jorge Cabral, assisted by Manuel de Sousa Sepúlveda, repealed an attack launched by naires supported by the Zamorin of Calicut against the fortress of Kochi. Meanwhile, in the Persian Gulf, the Turks conquered the fort of Al Qatif, a strategic place for the defence of Ormuz, as was to be proved shortly after with the siege that was laid to that stronghold by the forces of the Sublime Door. Dom Afonso appointed his nephew commodore of a rescue armada, but when Dom Antão de Noronha arrived in Ormuz, the siege had already been broken by the captain of the fortress. Dom Antão replied with an attack to Basra and to the mouth of the Euphrates, an action which, by its turn, fostered further retaliations from the Turks. In the opposite extreme of Asia, in June 1551, Malacca was put under siege for three months by the Sultans of Bintão and Java. The siege would only be lifted by the military acts of Dom Pedro da Silva and Dom Garcia de Meneses, who had been appointed for the captaincy of Ternate. Bernardim de Sousa left for that captaincy conquering Gilolo through a siege that in the end would terrify the Moluccas into peace. By that time, the Raja of Chembe tried to prevent the Portuguese shipments of pepper supplies, with the help of the Zamorin of Calicut. For that reason, the Viceroy and Dom Antão de Noronha created an armada that would bring defeat upon the Raja. In Ceylon, local rivalries fostered problems of a diversified nature. The King of Sitawaka, referred to in the Portuguese sources as Madune, decided to break all previous agreements with Portuguese India after the King of Kotte died. The Viceroy designated several men to punish Madune, among whom Dom António de Noronha (son of the Viceroy Dom Garcia de Noronha and prospective captain of Kochi), Dom Fernando de Noronha and Dom Antão de Noronha, who joined the Viceroy in the long punitive voyage to Ceylon, a journey that spanned through the end of 1551, from the meeting in Colombo until the conquest of Sitwaka. During the war a search for the treasure of Colombo took place. The cousin of the King of Kotte became a Christian, and was eventually received by Dom João III who gave him his former possessions back.
Though most of the challenges taking place that year were to be solved, some would persist into the New Year. 1552 started with another Turkish threat in the Persian Gulf. The Pirbec of the Portuguese sources (best known as Epir-Bey/Piri Reis) had received an order issued by Istanbul to lay siege to Ormuz. Before accomplishing this goal, however, he surrounded Muskat and rapidly took over the stronghold, which at the time counted on just 60 men for its protection. In the meantime, Dom Álvaro de Noronha prepared the fortress?s defence. When the news reached Dom Afonso de Noronha, he turned to Goa for a loan in order to come to the rescue of Ormuz, but the help proved unnecessary as Pirbec lifted the siege after plundering the town. Dom Antão de Noronha remained at the command of the armada which after having reached its destiny should have been put under Dom Diogo de Noronha?s orders, the son of the captain of Ormuz. The Council, meeting in Diu, had refused to let the Viceroy lead the armada arguing that his presence in Indian soil was of the utmost importance. Meanwhile, early in that year, a Turkish deserter gained control over the factory of Ponicale, with the Zamorin of Calicut?s permission. The Portuguese took revenge by means of Gil Carvalho?s action, who gained control over the ships that transported the town?s sack. This was also the period when the problem of the succession in the captaincy of Malacca became a matter of dispute. Dom Pedro da Silva had still a year of service to carry out, but Dom Álvaro de Ataíde had set his mind on taking office after being appointed to the post. Dom Afonso de Noronha settled the matter in favour of Dom Álvaro, and Dom Pedro was appointed to the mission in the Strait of Mecca. In Ceylon, the father of the King of Kotte, the Tribuly Pandar of the Portuguese sources, notwithstanding being a Christian, had been put to prison on the grounds of a debt of 2000 ducats he never got to pay to Dom Duarte de Eça, captain-general of Ceylon. Dom Afonso de Noronha resented the fact that a Christian were treated in that way and decided to resign Dom Duarte de Eça for his insistence upon receiving the money back and ill-treatment to Tribuly Pandar. Finally, it dates back to that year the first allusion to the creation of a council aiming at helping the Viceroy with official affairs.
The conflicts with the Turks in the Persian Gulf were to be continued into 1553. In August another Turkish armada sailed due Ormuz, but didn?t succeed in defeating the Portuguese ships under the command of Dom Diogo de Noronha. During the conflict Gonçalo Pereira Marramaque played a decisive role for the Portuguese victory. Dom Afonso de Noroinha was compelled by Royal command to reinstate the King of Ceylan with all the possessions that had been taken from him. But the Viceroy?s attention focused on the reawakening of war between Kochi and the Raja of Chembe, a conflict that had now as before the support of the Zamorin of Calicut. Francisco Barreto, who had been put in charge of the shipments to the Kingdom the year before, had been unable to perform the task due to this Raja?s action against the Portuguese. In 1553, Dom Afonso de Noronha decided to march against him in battle-field and defeated him. Important names of this viceroyalty took part in the fight, such as Dom Fernando de Noronha, Dom António de Noronha, Dom Álvaro de Noronha, António Moniz Barreto e Francisco Barreto. The prestige of Dom Afonso was strengthened by the outcome of the battle. Also that year a group of Portuguese put into a port south of Canton, a circumstance that would lead to the establishment of Macao.
The last year of Dom Afonso de Noronha?s rule saw a peace settlement come into being with the Raja of Chembe, even if the final confirmation wouldn?t come until the following year. The Portuguese agreed to leave the islands that had belonged to the Raja, and in exchange the Indian sovereign allowed overland passageway through his territories for the Portuguese pepper shipments on their way to the carracks. Dom Fernando de Noronha, appointed commodore of an armada that should be sailing towards the Strait of Mecca, stopped in Ormuz waiting for the predictable Turkish attack. Once there, he plundered some settlements in the Arabian coast, and passed by Muscat on his return to Ormuz. A new Turkish captain tried to attack the Portuguese by surprise, the Alecheluby of the Portuguese sources (best known as Aley-Sebebuly), but the defeat fell upon him with the loss of six galleys. The Muscat Battle ended in a draw between the Portuguese and Turks, each unable to displace the other. But the most important event of the year was the death of the Sultan of Gujarat, and the subsequent internal wars for power that followed his death. One of the belligerent factions decided to attack the Portuguese interests in Diu, given the strategic location of the stronghold. Dom Diogo de Almeida, captain of the fortress at the time, was replaced by Dom Diogo de Noronha who regained control of the town, in spite of the opposition of the Abiscão of the Portuguese sources. On September, 23, 1554, the rule of Dom Afonso de Noronha officially ended. On his return to the Kingdom in January 1555, Dom Afonso de Noronha was appointed Lord Steward to Princess Dona Maria, the daughter of King Dom Manuel I and Queen Dona Leonor. He died in 1571 at the age of seventy-five and his body is buried in the Monastery of São Domingos in Santarém. He ruled for three years and about ten months. His deeds have been diversely assessed. If, on the one hand, his prompt response to simultaneous attacks that fell upon several strongholds (Ormuz, Diu, Malacca and Ternate, among others) is worthy of praise, on the other hand Manuel Faria de Sousa considers that his rule stood beneath the high expectations that were formed upon his appointment to the post: ?? with the result that the fruit of his rule proved very different from the hopes with which he was sent [to India]? (SOUSA, Manuel de Faria e, Ásia Portuguesa, translated by Manuel Burquets de Aguiar, vol. III, Part 2, chapter XIII, Porto, Livraria Civilização, 1945). Maybe this may explain the alluded to poverty in which Dom Afonso lived after his return to the Kingdom until his death.
COUTO, Diogo do, Da Ásia, VII, ii-v, Lisboa, Livraria San Carlos, 1974. EÇA, Duarte de, Relação dos Governadores da Índia (1571), edição de R. O. W. Goertz (Codex Goa 38), Calgary, University Printing Séries, 1979, pp. 9-11. SOUSA, Manuel de Faria e, Ásia Portuguesa, tradução de Manuel Burquets, vol. III, Parte 2, caps. XII-XIII, Livraria Civilização, Porto, 1945. 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