PORTUGAL, D. Francisco de (1483-1549)
1st Count of Vimioso.
Born around 1483, he was the son of Dona Filipa de Macedo, an unwed lady, and Dom Afonso of Portugal, the illegitimate son of Dom Afonso, 4th Count of Ourém and 1st Marquess of Valença, and grandson of Dom Afonso, 1st Duke of Bragança. At the time of Dom Francisco´s birth, his father had secular status; however, beginning in 1485, he became a clergyman as a result of having the Bishopric of Évora imposed on him by his cousin and King, Dom João II, presumably with the intention of controlling the destinies of those he placed in the sphere of influence of the House of Bragança, which had been suppressed in 1483, after the execution of Duke Dom Fernando.
The aura of illegitimacy surrounding Dom Francisco´s birth, would be formally ended by a letter of legitimation from Dom Manuel I in 1505 and was attenuated by his family ties, which linked him to the royal family. These two factors explain his entry into service in the court, at the end of the reign of Dom João II.
Under the aegis of King Dom Manuel I, Dom Francisco began to develop his public image and gain acclaim. He accompanied the King and Queen Dona Isabel on the trip to Castile and Aragon in 1498. Twelve years later, he received the first in a series of sizable benefits: the Lordship of Vimioso, administrative center of the county that he would be granted next (1515), and the military magistracy of Tomar (1518). Meanwhile, in 1516 in a mutually agreed transaction with the Count of Vila Nova de Portimão, Dom Martinho de Castelo Branco, which was confirmed by King Dom Manuel I, the Fortunate, he became one of the treasurers of the Kingdom.
During his career, Dom Francisco had the opportunity to collaborate in the project of Portuguese expansion, both on the practical and the theoretical levels, as he took part in the discussion of strategic directions for the enterprise. Still young and undoubtedly motivated by the desire to perfect his skills in the art of war and to gain honor, he remained in Asilah as governor between 1509 and 1510, participated in the successful campaign to conquer Azemmour in 1513, and became its commander when the expedition leader, the 4th Duke of Bragança, Dom Jaime, returned to Portugal.
According to the historical data, however, it was during the reign of King Dom João III, while he was a treasurer of the Kingdom and member of the Royal Council, that the overseas issues required greater intervention by Dom Francisco. Morocco seems to have been his favorite geographical domain, as is indicated by the wishes he expressed to be the sole manager of the petitions from the Morocco staff, the reports that he issued regarding the geostrategic situation in the territory, and the contacts that he maintained with a network of local informants. Among the opinions that King Dom João III collected over time about what direction to give to Portuguese presence in North Africa, not one is signed by Dom Francisco de Portugal. Based on the data presented above and on his constantly opposing another of the Kingdom´s treasurers, his cousin Dom Antonio de Ataíde, 1st Count of Castanheira, who supported abandoning the fortified strongholds of Morocco, the supposition that he advocated for a strategy of retaining their administration is plausible.
The issue of the nomination of the government of Estado da India, which arose in the Portuguese court in 1541, after the arrival of the news of the death of viceroy Dom Garcia de Noronha and substitution by Dom Estevão da Gama, was a high point in the tense relationship between Dom Francisco de Portugal and Dom António de Ataíde. As soon as he heard the news, King Dom João III nominated another cousin of the Count of Vimioso for Martim Afonso de Sousa´s position, ordering him to depart in the spring of the same year. The timing of the nomination denied Dom Estevão the option to serve a full three-year term. In this context, Dom Francisco de Portugal and his son-in-law and 2nd Count of Vidigueira, Dom Francisco da Gama, joined efforts to safeguard the rights of the governor in office. Martim Afonso de Sousa´s position was firmly supported by the Count of Castanheira, having prevailed in the end over the alliance established between the Houses of Vimioso and Vidigueira around their common interests.
This outcome can be partly understood in light of the favoritism that Dom António de Ataíde enjoyed with King Dom João III and the distance separating the Pious King from Dom Francisco de Portugal. Despite having been awarded the the military magistracy of Vimioso (1530), the lordship of Aguiar da Beira (1534), the military magistracy of Pias (1539) and the position of Lord of the Bedchamber of the princes Dom Manuel and Dom João, Dom Francisco felt and acknowledged his distance from the Pious King. This sense of marginalization was so accutely felt that he sent Dom João III an accounting of the services he had provided the Crown, taking the opportunity to point out that he had not been fairly compensated for these.
King Dom João III´s final attempt to reward Dom Francisco de Portugal occurred in 1543, when the King proposed that he accompany Princess Dona Maria to Castile and remain there as Lord Steward of her house, after her marriage to the Heir to the Throne, Prince Dom Filipe. The King´s proposal, however, was declined by the Count, as the marriage did not meet with his personal approval.
He died on 8 December, 1549 and his body was placed in the chancel of the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Graça, in Évora.
FREIRE, Anselmo Braamcamp, Brasões da Sala de Sintra, 3 vols., Lisboa, IN-CM, 1996. 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, FCSH-UNL, 2007 (dissertação de doutoramento policopiada). SOUSA, D. António Caetano de, História Genealógica da Casa Real Portuguesa, vol. X, Coimbra, Atlântida Livraria Editora, 1953. TOCCO, Valeria, «D. Francisco de Portugal, 1º Conde de Vimioso: Documentos para uma Biografia», in Poesias e Sentenças de D. Francisco de Portugal (1º Conde de Vimioso), Lisboa, CNCDP, 1999, pp. 9-35.
Autor: Alexandra Pelúcia
Translated by: Maria João Pimentel