December 16 – Afonzo de Albuquerque

December 15, 2022

Albuquerque, Afonzo de (also Dalboquerque), surnamed “the Great”, b. in Portugal, in 1453; d. at Goa, 16 December, 1515. He was second son of Gonzallo de Albuquerque, lord of Villaverde, and became attached to the person of the king of Portugal. He went to Otranto with Alphonso V in 1480, and made his first voyage to the far East in 1503, returning to Lisbon 1504. When Tristan de Cunha sailed for India in 1506, Albuquerque was one of his officers. He formed the plan to monopolize trade with East India for Portugal, by excluding from it both the Venetians and the Saracens, and therefore sought to make himself master of the Red Sea. For that purpose he seized the Island of Socotra and attacked Ormuz, landing 10 October, 1507, and raising fortifications.

Afonso began building the Fort of Our Lady of the Conception, on Hormuz Island, Iran.

The attack was repeated in the year following, also at Cochim in December. When the Viceroy of India, d’Almeida, returned to Portugal, 1509, Albuquerque was appointed in his place. In 1513, King Emmanuel calls him “protho-capitaneus noster”. Annoyed by constant hostilities of the people of Calicut, he destroyed the place on 4 January, 1510. To secure a permanent foothold on the coast of India, he took Goa in March, 1510, abandoning it two months afterwards, only to return in November, when he took the place again, and held it thereafter for the Portuguese. Once safely established on the eastern coast of what is generally comprised under the name of Dekkan, Albuquerque turned his attention to the organization of the colonies and to discoveries towards the farthest East. He took Malacca in July, 1511, and attempted to explore the Moluccas in the same year. In pursuance of his policy to prevent other nations from intercourse with India, he occupied a strong position at Aden, on the Red Sea, March, 1513, but about the same time the Turks had conquered Egypt and effectively barred access to the far East to all other nations except by sea.

Statue of Afonso de Albuquerque, symbolically standing on a stack of weapons, referencing his reply in Hormuz.

While Albuquerque was thus establishing Portuguese colonization in India on a firm footing, and planning advances beyond Eastern Asia, the Crown of Portugal was listening to intrigues to his prejudice. Still it may be that the state of his health, greatly impaired through climate and strain, induced King Emmanuel to provide for a successor. Albuquerque was manifestly broken down physically. So Lope Suarez was sent to supersede him. The news of what he considered an act of ingratitude prostrated him, and although King Emmanuel recommended, in forcible terms to his successor to pay special deference to the meritorious leader, expressing, at the same time regret at having removed him from his high position, Albuquerque pined and died at the entrance of Goa, 16 December, 1515. Fifty-one years later his remains were transported to Lisbon, where a more worthy resting place had been prepared for them. Among the distinguished leaders and administrators that sprang up in southern Europe at the end of the sixteenth century, Afonzo de Albuquerque holds a very prominent position.

The Conquest of Malacca, 1511.

His achievements, from a military standpoint, were more remarkable than any of the so-called conquerors of the New World; for he had to cope with adversaries armed very nearly like the Europeans, with hosts that were superior to any that were encountered by Cortez or Pizzaro, and had at his command forces hardly more numerous than those that achieved the conquest of Peru and Mexico. His enemies opposed him at sea, as well as on land, and they might, at any time, obtain succour from powerful Mohammedan states interlying between Europe and Asia. His only route for communication and relief was around the Cape of Good Hope. When, during the last five years of his life, he could at last turn to organization and administration, he proved himself a great man in this respect also. His religious zeal was not the less notable. He built churches in Goa and had Franciscans and a famous Dominican with him. The church of the Blessed Virgin at Goa, which he built, is called by Father Spellmann, S.J., “the cradle of Christianity, not only in India, but in all East Asia”. (Kirchenlexicon, V, s.v. Goa).

Perhaps the earliest mention of Albuquerque and his achievements in the Far East is due to King Emmanuel himself in his letter of “idus Junias”, 1513, Epistola Potentissimi Regis Portugalensis et Algarbiarum, etc., De Victoriis habitis in India et Malachia (Rome, 9 Aug., 1518), wherein the King calls him (perhaps a misprint) “Albiecherqe”. There are several editions, some without place or date; Joãn de Barros, Asia (second decade, Lisbon, 1553); Fernão Lopez de Castanheda, Historia do descubrimiento & conquista da India (Coimbra, 1552), II, III; Damião de Goes, Chronica do Serenissimo Senhor Rei d. Manuel (Second ed., Lisbon, 1749, by Reinerio Bocache). An important, but of necessity partial source is the work of his natural son (Albuquerque was never married) Braz, who took the name of Afonso the Younger, Commentarios do Grande Afonso Dalboquerque, capitan geral que foy das Indias Orientœs, etc. (First ed., Lisbon 1576, second ed. ibid., 1776), English tr. by Hakluyt Society, 1875–84. The commentaries of the great Afonso Dalboquerque, four vols.; Biographie universelle (Paris, 1854), I; Silva, Diccionario bibliografico portuguez (Lisbon, 1859), I.

Ad. F. Bandelier (Catholic Encyclopedia)


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