GAMA, D. Estevão da (1505-1575)
Was the second male child born from the marriage between the Admiral of India, Dom Vasco da Gama, and Dona Catarina de Ataíde. His overseas career began in 1524, as a direct consequence of his father?s appointment for the post of Viceroy of India. Vasco da Gama, who was at the time the Count of Vidigueira, negotiated with King Dom João III the terms of his nomination, which included the appointment of Dom Estevão as Commodore of the Indian Sea. This was not unusual those days. It simply evinced a trend observed since the ruling of Dom Francisco de Almeida. In other words, the chief Portuguese rulers in the East used to foster the union between the political and the military spheres, preferring, therefore, to appoint for crucial positions people they could entirely rely on, usually close relatives. Nevertheless, Dom Estevão did not have the chance of learning much from his experience, due to his father?s sudden death on the 24th of December that same year. As a result, he was obliged to interrupt his mandate and to return immediately to Portugal on board of the fleet, which left the Subcontinent in the early months of the following year.
On the 21st of March 1532, the nobleman was granted the Captaincy of Malacca for a four-year period and 600.000 reais of salary per year. Benefiting from the status of Fleet Commodore, he then sailed to the East. Nonetheless, he was obliged to spend the winter in Mozambique. There, succeeding his brother Dom Paulo da Gama, he took command of the Malay fortress from 1534 to 1539. In this context, two events stood out. Firstly, he promoted actions of war against the Sultanate of Ujong Tanah (with whom he later made peace). Secondly, he planned the resistance against the sieges laid by the Sultanate of Aceh [the native Kingdom of Sumatra].
When his mission ended, Dom Estevão da Gama returned to India. Due to the death of the Viceroy Dom Garcia de Noronha and to the absence of Martim Afonso de Sousa, named the next in the line of succession, Dom Estevão became Governor of the State in April 1540. However, as soon as the Portuguese Court was informed of this, in January 1541, the Court began preparing the substitution of Dom Estevão by Martim Afonso, to whom King Dom João III had promised the succession. Thus, Vasco da Gama?s second-born son could not fulfil his regular three-year mandate, due to the unprecedented attitude of the Portuguese Crown regarding an installed governor. As a consequence, Dom Francisco da Gama, who was Dom Estevão?s brother and the second Count of Vidigueira, questioned the substitution with the support of his father-in-law, Dom Francisco de Portugal, the first Count of Vimioso and Treasurer. Nonetheless, another Treasurer, Dom António de Ataíde, who was the King?s favourite, supported Martim Afonso de Sousa?s claims. In a framework of intense political struggle right in the core of the Portuguese Court, this issue had to be sent to the Royal Council. The decision was unanimously in favour of the interests of Martim de Sousa, who set sail for India on the 7th of April to arrive in Goa after over one year.
During that time, Dom Estevão da Gama was engaged with several occupations. Among the most relevant ones stands the military contingent which was sent in 1541 to help Christian Ethiopia, threatened by the Muslims of the Somali territory, under the command of his brother, Dom Cristóvão da Gama, as well as the organization of a fleet, which the Governor himself commanded into the interior of the Red Sea. The expedition had two objectives: the retaliation of the siege laid to Diu by the Ottoman-Turks in 1538, and the attempt to destroy the new war fleet which was being prepared by order of the Sublime Door. Although [sem vírgula] the Portuguese were able to hit the Suez and the Sinai areas, they did not cause too much damage.
In the beginning of May 1542, Dom Estevão da Gama was confronted with the arrival to Goa of the new Governor, who made him some unpleasant comments. Due to the monsoon calendar, he was not able to depart immediately to the Kingdom. Hence, he spent the rest of the winter in Pangim, leaving from there to Kochi. On his request, the General-judge made the inventory of his goods and it was proved that since he had become Governor of Estado da India his personal wealth had in fact decreased.
When Dom Estevão da Gama arrived in Portugal in 1543, King Dom João III pressured him to marry. However, this idea did not please him and as a result he moved to Venice, where he stayed for an uncertain period of time. After this, he returned to Portugal, where he was enquired to repeat his experience as Governor of Estado da India. In spite of this, he refused determinedly the proposal. He died in 1575 and was buried at the Convent of Nossa Senhora das Relíquias, in the town of Vidigueira.
COUTO, Diogo, Da Ásia, Lisboa, Livraria Sam Carlos, 1974, V, vii-ix. COSTA, João Paulo Oliveira e & Vítor Luís Gaspar Rodrigues, Portugal y Oriente. El Proyecto Indiano del Rey Juan, Madrid, Editorial Mafre, 1992. PELÚCIA, Alexandra, Martim Afonso de Sousa e a sua Linhagem: A Elite Dirigente do Império Português nos Reinados de D. João III e D. Sebastião, Lisboa, UNL-FCSH, 2007, dissertação de doutoramento policopiada. SUBRAHMANYAM, Sanjay, O Império Asiático Português, 1500-1700. Uma História Política e Económica, s.l., Difel, s.d. Registo da Casa das Índia, ed. Luciano Cordeiro, 2 vols., Lisboa, Agência Geral do Ultramar, 1954.
Author: Alexandra Pelúcia
Translated by: Andreia Melo