CÂMARA, Rui Gonçalves (?-1535)
João Rodrigues and Inês Silveira?s son, Rui Gonçalves da Câmara inherited the captaincy of São Miguel from his father in 1502. When his father passed away, he was at the court, and the access that he had to it allowed him to climb the social ladder in a way that was typical of a society of the Ancien Régime, with his marriage to Dona Filipa Coutinho being the reason behind this process.
Being underage, he only started governing the island in 1504, with a conflict erupting on São Miguel Island in 1508, leading to the complaints of Martim Bulhão Pato (bookkeeper) and Fiar Bartolomeu (ecclesiastical judge) to King Dom Manuel I. The local society became divided; members of the Orders of Christ and Santiago supported the insurgents, whilst Rui Gonçalves da Câmara got the island?s nobility from Vila Franca do Campo behind him. The reasons behind this conflict remain unknown.
This conflict resulted in Rui Gonçalves da Câmara being called to the court in 1510, with the royal decision being clearly unfavourable to the captain?s intents; he was dismissed from his position, which was handed over again to his uncle. At the court, he got the support of Grand Huntsman Jorge de Melo, with whom he reached a marriage agreement; if Jorge de Melo were able to restore the captaincy to him, his eldest son would marry Rui Gonçalves da Câmara?s daughter. Jorge de Melo?s influence with King Dom Manuel I yielded positive results for Câmara?s goals, and he was reappointed as captain of São Miguel Island.
Nevertheless, the adversities that indelibly marked his political world-view and praxis were far from over. On 22 October 1522, São Miguel Island was violently shaken by an earthquake that killed the captain?s children, with the exception of Dom Manuel da Câmara. The earthquake was followed by an outbreak of plague, which started in July 1523 and was only contained in May 1531. Rui Gonçalves da Câmara responded to the calamity by ordering the evacuation and isolation of the areas infected by the plague.
He equally had to face renewed political opposition. In January 1524, men from the government of Ponta Delgada rebelled against his authority, with an insurrection of Moorish slaves taking place at the same time. He was able to solve both situations: one by dialogue and by making concessions and the other by force.
He passed away on 20 October 1535.
GUERREIRO, Ana, «Rui Gonçalves da Câmara, 5º Capitão de S. Miguel», in, A Nobreza e a Expansão, Estudos Biográficos; coor. João Paulo Oliveira e Costa, Patrimonia Historica, Cascais, 2000, pp. 119-141.
Author: João Neves
Translated by: John Silva