MASCARENHAS, D. Vasco de (?-1678)
2nd Viceroy of Brazil.
The Count of Óbidos was born in the beginning of the 17th century and died on 4 July, 1678.
Dom Vasco de Mascarenhas was the son of Dom Fernão Martins Mascarenhas, the Lord of Lavre, and of his wife, Dona Maria de Lencastre.
While still under Spanish domination, the Count of Óbidos served in Flanders before going to Brazil. When he returned to the Kingdom he was granted the title as a reward for his service in the colony.
The 1st Count of Óbidos was Counsellor of War during the reign of Dom João IV, Counsellor of State, by appointment of Dom Afonso VI, Knight Commander in the Orders of Christ and Santiago, chief Alcaide of Óbidos, and Lord of Selir, in Oporto.
He returned to Brazil in 1639, in the armada of the Count of Torre, as artillery General and Field Marshal. From 30 November to June 1640, he replaced the Count as governor-general, when the latter took part in the expedition intended to free Pernambuco from the Dutch rule.
Back in Portugal he supported Dom João IV, and was appointed governor of Algarve by the monarch. In 1642 he was transferred to the military government of Alentejo. He was again holding the government of Algarve when his appointment for the viceroyalty of India came, in 1652.
He arrived in India in September 1652, with a squadron of four ships. His severe manner of ruling caused several disorders and soon was replaced in the position by the Count of Sarzedas.
He took office as Viceroy of Brazil in Bahia, on June 24, 1663, and ruled in that capacity until 1667.
His main concern was the reorganization of the colony?s administration, since his predecessors had been predominantly occupied with fighting the Dutch. Corruption had risen, ill conduct and abuse were rife and incontrollable in the public treasury department.
He acted with a view to increase the value of currency in Brazil so that funds were kept in the colony, and ordered the increase of coinage under regulation measures that he implemented. He also noticed that not all the fifths of gold from São Paulo passed by the Royal Treasury, as the governors of southern captaincies used their power for their own benefit. In consequence to this, he ordered the cancellation of the extraordinary powers held by these governors.
His time in Brazil was also one marked by a violent epidemic of smallpox that decimated a large part of the colony?s inhabitants.
When he came back to Portugal, in 1667, he was appointed Master of the Horse of Queen Dona Maria Francisca Isabel of Savoy, a position that he occupied until his death, in 1678.
The Count of Óbidos married twice. His first marriage took place in Spain, to Dona Jerónima de La Cueva y Mendoza, a lady in the court of Queen Elizabeth of Bourbon, the daughter of Dom Luís de La Cueva y Benevides, Lord of Bedmar, and of Dona Elvira de Mendoza, and the sister of Cardinal de La Cueva. Only a daughter was born from this union. His second marriage was with his niece, Dona Joana de Vilhena, daughter of the 3rd Count of Santa Cruz. He fathered several children by his second wife, among whom Dom Fernando Martins Mascarenhas, who became his successor in the title.
CAMPO BELO, Conde de, Governadores Gerais e Vice-Reis do Brasil, Lisboa, Agência Geral das Colónias, 1935. Nova história da expansão portuguesa, dir. Joel Serrão e A. H. Oliveira Marques, vol. VII, O império Luso Brasileiro: 1620-1750, coord. de Fréderic Mauro, Lisboa, Estampa, 1991. VARNHAGEN, Francisco Adolfo de, História Geral do Brasil: antes da sua separação e independência de Portugal, São Paulo, Ed. Melhoramentos, 4ªed., 1948. ZÚQUETE, Afonso Eduardo Martins, Nobreza de Portugal e do Brasil, Lisboa, ed. Enciclopédia, 1960-1989.
Author: Rita Domingues
Translated by: Leonor Sampaio da Silva