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Afonzo de Albuquerque

B. in Portugal, in 1453; d. at Goa, 16 December, 1515

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Albuquerque, AFONZO DE (also DALBOQUERQUE), surnamed “the Great”, b. in Portugal, in 1453; d. at Goa, December 16, 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 da 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 October 10, 1507, and raising fortifications. The attack was repeated in the year following, also at Cochim in December. W hen 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 the constant hostilities of the people of Calicut, he destroyed the place on January 4, 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 is 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. 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 to the bay of Goa, December 16, 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 fifteenth and in the first half of the sixteenth century, Afonzo de Albuquerque holds a very prominent position. 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 encountered by Cortez or Pizarro, 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 his attention 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 Spillmann, S.J., “the cradle of Christianity, not only in India, but in all East Asia” (Kirchenlexikon, V, s.v. Goa).


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