ALBUQUERQUE, Fernão de (1550-?)
Governor of India (1619-1622).
Born circa 1550, Fernao de Albuquerque was the son of Estevao de Brito, Chief Alcaide of Panoias, and of Dona Guiomar de Castro. His mother?s family held the commandery of Castro Verde, and she was the niece of Afonso de Albuquerque, the conqueror. This was a fact which could not be overlooked as Fernao de Albuquerque always made a point of highlighting this family connection. An only child, he left for India at a very young age. The exact date of his departure is not known, although it can be placed between the decades of 1570/80, as at the time of his nomination for governor he had already lived in Goa for 40 years and was 70 years old. Never having married, he had an illegitimate son, Jorge de Albuquerque (mother unknown). Due to having lived in India for so many years, this son would marry Dona Isabel de Sousa. Her father, Pedro de Sousa, had been the donatory captain of Malacca whilst her mother?s father, Dom Diogo de Ataide, had been donatory captain of Bassein. Fernão de Albuquerque started by being donatory captain of Malacca between 1600 and 1603, and was substituted by his personal enemy, Andre Furtado de Mendonça, shortly before the Dutch siege to that stronghold. At the time, he was given the captaincy of Colombo, and afterwards the captaincy of Daman. When Viceroy Dom Joao Coutinho, 5th Earl of Redondo, died, he was the donatory captain of Goa and found himself to be the first in line for succession. He was appointed governor on 11 November 1619.
By the end of 1619, his ruling started with the signing of a peace treaty with the Indian king of Porka (today?s Purakkad), a traditional enemy of the Portuguese India. However, the years of 1620 and 1621 were troublesome for the governor. Still, Ceylon?s events would attenuate the deeply negative image of Fernao de Albuquerque?s government, marked by the loss of Hormuz in 1622. In Ceylon, after the imprisonment of the sovereign of Jaffanapatnam by Filipe de Oliveira, during the administration of the 5th Earl of Redondo, new and decisive victories would be achieved. In the beginning of 1620, a baptized man named Dom Luis attempted to congregate the opponents to the Portuguese presence in the kingdom of Jaffanapatnam, by trying to proclaim the Prince of Remancor king of the territory. Filipe de Oliveira successfully fought against the Prince twice, always with the help of troops sent from Colombo, commanded by Andre Coelho and Luis Teixeira. Despite the defeat and imprisonment of the Prince, in December 1620, Filipe de Oliveira would still have to face another attack by the Prince?s supporters, instigated by the nayak Chingali, in February 1621. The confrontations ended abruptly when the last son of the legitimate ruler of Jaffanapatnam, who had been defeated in 1619, escaped the nayak and proclaimed himself vassal of the Portuguese king. Baptized by Franciscan friars, he took the name of Frei Constantino de Cristo, shortly before the nayak and his family were arrested and taken to Goa, where he would also be baptized with the name of Dom Filipe. This way, the war with the kingdom of Jaffanapatnam, which had begun due to their refusal to pay the required tributes to the Portuguese India, ended with its incorporation in the Portuguese domains in Asia. A first failure, which happened between 1620 and 1621, but was not related with the governor?s action, was the one concerning India?s fleet in 1620. Its captain, Nuno Alvares Botelho, would be the sole one to arrive at the subcontinent. The rest of the fleet, where the new governor of Mozambique, Jacome de Morais, travelled, suffered numerous drawbacks during the journey. It was assailed by Dutch ships and ended up being decimated by indigenous attacks as it arrived to Eastern Africa.
Simultaneously, events that would ultimately dictate the fall of Hormuz were set into motion. Since the failure to bring together the Dual Monarchy and the Safavid Shah Abbas II that the latter attempted to get closer to the British, as a way to proceed with his desired commercial and military expansion in the Persian Gulf. This alliance was eventually sealed with the opening of a British trading post in Jask, in 1616. So, it had not been haphazard the fact that the Shah?s troops had started to attack Portuguese interests in the region during 1615. In 1619, the reason presented by Abbas II to justify the attacks was based in the embargo of an old contract for trading silk by the Portuguese India. Unsatisfied with the situation, the Safavid sovereign became an ally of the British with the clear intent of forcing out the Portuguese from Hormuz. Both Governor Fernao de Albuquerque and the king knew of this threat, and in 1620, the latter sent a fleet to India, under the command of Rui Freire de Andrade, to head directly to Hormuz. Once he arrived to the region, Rui Freire de Andrade drove the British away, but he could not stop the Persian troops from taking Julfar and Doba, whose strategic locations prevented the water supply to Hormuz. Despite letters sent to the Governor, asking for help and reporting the situation with detail, Andrade ended up heading for Qeshm Island which was under a fortification process, initiated by treasurer Manuel Borges and Dom Francisco de Sousa, then the governor of Hormuz. The first aid to arrive from India was sent by the Governor, and it consisted of two galleons, under the command of Dom Manuel de Azevedo and Dom Joao da Silveira, being the latter a personal enemy of Rui Freire de Andrade, as was the Governor. The arrival of such aid allowed Freire to spread terror throughout the settlings on the Arabic coast which had supported the Shah?s intents. However, upon his return, Rui Freire de Andrade realized that the two captains sent by the Governor had abandoned the region because they did not recognise his authority as general, despite the fact of him having been appointed by the king. Meanwhile, as he returned to Qeshm to speed the fortification of the island, he was informed of the nearby siege of the Safavids. This was set in the end of 1621, and was rapidly reinforced by the British fleet in the region. In the beginning of 1622, new aid arrived with Simao Brito?s fleet, sent by Fernao de Albuquerque. On board, travelled Simao de Melo, whom the Governor had nominated to succeed in the captaincy of Hormuz, and who had express orders not to obey any command by Rui Freire de Andrade.
Despite being entitled to the city?s captaincy, due to having been appointed by the king with absolute powers to rule the region, as he was in Qeshm battling against the Anglo-Safavid coalition, Andrade had to accept Simao de Melo as the city?s new captain. However, Rui Freire de Andrade, along with the men of the island?s garrison, were forced to surrender and became prisoners of the British, after the destruction of the fortress. Soon after, the fatal siege to Hormuz started and it would dictate the fall of the city. Capitulation was negotiated by Luis de Brito and the Portuguese were authorised to leave for Muscat. Having escaped from the British, Rui Freire de Andrade managed to return to Muscat where he unsuccessfully tried to convince Constantino de Sá, the city?s governor, to resume the offensive against the lost city. Then, he moved on to Goa to speak with the Governor, but the city was under the blockage of Dutch ships. In June 1622, in Eastern Asia, other Dutch forces tried to seize the fleet leaving for Japan by the city of Macao, but they did not succeed. The stronghold was bravely defended, the Dutch left many spoils behind, and shortly after it was fortified. Not being able to help with the siege of Hormuz, which had been foreseen many years before, Dom Filipe II of Portugal tried to amend the situation by nominating Viceroy Dom Afonso de Noronha, in 1621. This Viceroy, grandson of the former viceroy by the same name (15th century), left for India in April 1621, ahead of a powerful fleet armed with the men and munitions that the Portuguese India so desperately needed. Nonetheless, due to problems during the journey, he had to return to the kingdom. Therefore, instead of being succeeded by Dom Afonso de Noronha, 4th Earl of Vidigueira, Fernao de Albuquerque was substituted by Dom Francisco da Gama, in his second term of office as Viceroy of India. Noteworthy is the fact that, in spite of having orders to aid Hormuz, Dom Francisco arrived too late. The delay in the process was due to his bad relationship with Dom Filipe II, who passed away in that same year (1621); thus, he was appointed by Dom Filipe III of Portugal. On 19 December 1622, Fernao de Albuquerque handed the government of Portuguese India to Dom Francisco da Gama, who would immediately start to inquire for responsibilities in the loss of Hormuz, something his predecessor had not done. This fact would imprint the mark of slackness on Fernao de Albuquerque?s government, despite the successes in Ceylon. Nonetheless, despite the impact the fall of Hormuz had at that time, it did not mean the end for the Portuguese presence in the Persian Gulf, but only its transfer to Muscat.
Fernao de Albuquerque died a year after the end of his government (1623). According to his instructions, he was buried at Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Serra, in Goa, in the exact same place where conqueror Afonso de Albuquerque had been.
SOUSA, Manuel de Faria e, Ásia Portuguesa, volume VI, tradução de Maria Vitória Garcia Santos Ferreira, vol. VI, 3º Parte, caps. XIX-XXI, 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