MENESES, Fr. Luís de Brito (1570-1629)
Governor of Índia (1628 ? 1629)
Born circa 1570, Dom Frei Luis de Brito e Meneses was the only child of Sebastiao de Brito e Meneses and Dona Francisca da Costa. Little is known of his biography previous to reaching the position of Governor. Being an eremite friar of the Order of Saint Augustine, it is not certain when he left for India. On 18 May 1615, he was confirmed as Bishop of Mylapore, and shortly after, elected bishop of Cochin, although he was never confirmed as such. In the absence of the king?s appointee for the position, he was the second prelate to govern India. However, his control over the Portuguese Asia was different from the one given to Dom Frei Aleixo de Meneses. Around the sixth year of his second viceroyalty, Dom Francisco da Gama, 4th Earl of Vidigueira, handed over the government to Dom Frei Luis de Brito e Meneses on 8 March 1628, after knowing that king Dom Filipe III of Portugal had nominated a new Viceroy to succeed him. This happened because the newly appointed Viceroy, Dom Francisco de Mascarenhas, was on his way to the kingdom when he was chosen; therefore, the Viceroy in office decided to hand over the government to the prelate. Sent once more by the king to the seas of Asia, Dom Francisco de Mascarenhas died during the journey, and as a result the Augustinian friar occupied the position of Governor until he died.
Information about his government date from 1629, a year marked by the events relating to Malacca and by the failure of Constantino de Sa in Ceylon, where he tried to imprison the king of Candia for the damages previously caused to the Portuguese. He succeeded, but ended up destroying the city of Candia by fire. In Maritime Southeast Asia, events leading to the preparation of the last big siege to Malacca were set into motion. The latter, known as the 1629 siege, happened before the eviction of the Portuguese from that stronghold in 1641. In May, the sultan of Aceh, Iskandar Muda, incarcerated the Portuguese ambassador, Pedro Abreu, and hastened the preparations for the beginning of the siege, in which he wanted to participate actively. The besiege to the Portuguese fortress started in July, but the stronghold?s donatory captain, Gaspar de Melo e Sampaio, along with Antonio Pinto da Fonseca, managed to repel the first attack, despite the lack of troops. The siege was already expected by Goa, where the letters from the Bishop of Malacca piled up since the beginning of the 1620s, alerting for this possibility. Despite having died on 29 July 1629, Dom Frei Luis de Brito de Meneses was informed of the siege without ado in June, but decided to delay the help to that stronghold until September, due to the impossibility of sailing to Maritime Southeast Asia during that period of the year. The Governor?s controversial decision, in conjunction with his early death, led many gentlemen of his time to think, maybe not wrongly, that he was trying to prevent the nomination of Nuno Alvares Botelho, which had promptly offered his help to Malacca?s stronghold. In fact, Dom Frei Luis de Brito de Meneses postponed that nobleman?s departure authorization until he died. He was buried in the monastery of Saint Augustine, in Old Goa.
SOUSA, Manuel de Faria e, Ásia Portuguesa, volume VI, tradução de Maria Vitória Garcia Santos Ferreira, vol. VI, 4º Parte, caps. III-IV, 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: Marília Pavão