Aubrey F. G. (Aubrey Fitz Gerald) Bell.

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In that low shady quinta, embowered amongst those tall
alcornoques, once dwelt John de Castro, the strange old
Viceroy of India. — George Borrow, The Bible in Spain.

Castro was still a schoolboy when Albu-
querque died. Born in 1500, the son of
D. Alvaro de Castro, in high office under
Kings Joao II and Manoel, and a daughter
of the Count of Abrantes, he studied with
the famous mathematician, Pedro Nunez,
and had a scientific as well as a classical
education. There is every reason to be-
lieve that he was a promising and fervent
scholar, but the victories of Dom Duarte
de Meneses in North Africa appealed to
him even more than did the figures of
K 129

Portuguese Portraits

Euclid, and in 15 18 he " took the key of
the fields " and fled to Tangier. There
he served with the greatest distinction for
nine years, and stood high in favour with
the Governor, Meneses, who knighted him
and on his return to Portugal in 1527 fur-
nished him with a glowing recommenda-
tion to the King.

Of the next few years of his life com-
paratively little is known. He received a
comenda from the King, was employed on
various service, and married D. Leonor de
Coutinho, of noble family but poor. Prob-
ably he was able to devote considerable
time to quiet study. In 1535 he com-
manded one of the twenty-five Portuguese
ships in the Emperor Charles V's victorious
expedition against Tunis. It was on this
occasion that Castro's lifelong friend, the
gallant poet Prince Luis, followed his ex-
ample of 15 1 8 and ran away to join the
expedition against the wishes of his brother
King Joao II I. ^

^ The Emperor, who was the Prince's cousin and brother-
in-law, welcomed him with open arms at Barcelona. On one


Dom Joao de Castro

In the autumn Castro was back in his
favourite Cintra. There he himself planted
a quinta, to which his thoughts, later in
India, constantly turned. Those who go
along the delightful shady road of orchard
and running streams, rock and woodland
from Cintra to Monserrate and CoUares
come in a few minutes to an archway and
green door on the right. It is here, in the
quinta now known as Penha Verde, over-
looking the fertile plain of Collares to the
sea, that Castro, hke Pitt planting by
moonHght or Garibaldi in his island, in-
dulged his love of husbandry.

" Here," says one of his early bio-
graphers, " he entertained himself with a
new and strange kind of agriculture, for
he cut down fruit-bearing trees and planted
wild woods, perhaps to show that he was so
disinterested that not even from the earth
would he expect reward. Yet it is no
wonder if one who disdained the rubies and

occasion, when neither would go through a door before the
other and the Emperor insisted on Prince Luis being the
first to pass, the latter seized a torch from one of the pages
and so preceded him.

Portuguese Portraits

diamonds of the East should think little
of the products of Cintra's rocks." It was
to the 7natos of the Serra de Cintra that
he longed to return in 1546. But he cer-
tainly did not despise the fruits of the soil,
and probably occupied himself with graft-
ing experiments.

In the spring of 1538, as perhaps pre-
viously in the spring of 1537, he sailed to
India as captain of a ship. The fleet
arrived at Goa in September 1538 and
went on to the relief of Diu. In March of
the following year he returned to Goa, and
two years later accompanied the new
Governor, Dom Estevao da Gama, to the
Red Sea.

On all these occasions Castro kept a log
or roteiro, from Lisbon to Goa, from Goa
to Diu, and from Goa to the Red Sea.
The}^ display a strong scientific interest, a
spirit thoroughly modern — nothing, how-
ever small it might be, was to him neces-
sarily unimportant or negligible — or per-
haps ancient, since he complains that in
his day the scientific investigations of the


Dom Joao de Castro

ancients were no longer in vogue. The
logs are written with that vivid directness
which mark his letters, " written," he said,
" not for the ladies and gallants of the
Court and royal palaces, but for the
mariners ol Lega and Mattosinhos."

His descriptions are precise and accurate,
which does not prevent them from being
often picturesque. He notices many birds,
including one white and grey which, he
says, the sailors call frades (monks). " I
pay great attention to eclipses of the
moon," he writes, as also to longitudes
and latitudes, fishes, seaweeds, currents,
winds, the colour of the Red Sea, and
every detail that might concern the art
of navigation, to the delight of his friends
Dr. Pedro Nunez and Prince Luis, who had
furnished him with special instruments and
other assistance for his voyage.

In the summer of 1542 he was back at
Cintra, but in December of that year he
was appointed to the command of the
coast fleet, the main duties of v*^hich were
to keep clear the coast of Portugal from


Portuguese Portraits

pirates, such as Mondragon, who per-
petually hovered in wait for the priceless
spoils and cargoes of Portuguese ships
homeward bound from India. He seems
to have gone to sea before the end of the
year and held this post for two years, with
a brief interval in 1543 when he commanded
the Portuguese fleet sent to co-operate
with the Spanish against Barbarossa. They
did not come to an engagement, and Dom
Joao, after visiting Ceuta, returned to

He was at Cintra in the beginning of
1545 when the unwelcome news reached
him that he had been appointed Governor
of India. Most unwillingly he accepted
this new post, the difficulties and disquiet
of which he had been able to gauge at first
hand during his former sojourn in Goa.
His young sons were to accompany him.

A picturesque story of the Governor-
elect cannot be better told than in the
words of the historian Couto, who served
under him in India: "Passing one day
by the door of a tailor [in Lisbon] he noticed


Dom Joao de Castro

a pair of very rich and fashionable velvet
breeches, and pulling up his horse asked
to see them. After examining their curious
workmanship he asked whose they were.
The tailor, not knowing whom he was
addressing, answered that they were for
a son of the Governor who was going to
India. Dom Joao de Castro thereupon in
a rage took up a pair of scissors and cut
them into shreds. " Bid that young man
buy arms," he said to the tailor, and so
passed on.

At the end of March the fleet sailed.
The number of men actually enlisted was
eight hundred, but many more who had
been rejected for some defect or were escap-
ing from justice succeeded in embarking as
stowaways. In the Governor's ship alone
there were nearly two hundred of them,
and they required to be fed during a voyage
of many weeks. The Governor was ad-
vised to cast them adrift in the provision
ship or to maroon them in the Cape Verde
Islands, but humanely and persistently


Portuguese Portraits

He had not been long at Goa when, in
April 1546, news was brought that a for-
midable attack was being prepared against
Diu, the fort commanded by the heroic
Dom Joao de Mascarenhas. Castro sent
his son Dom Alvaro with a strong fleet to
its rehef. The fleet was delayed by violent
storms, and when it Anally reached Diu
there was little of the fortress left. The
walls and bulwarks were levelled with the
ground, most of the defenders dead, and
those who remained either wounded or ill.
No one but Mascarenhas could have held
on in such conditions, and even so " six
more days," wrote Castro to the King,
" and relief would have come too late."

Most of the nobles in Diu were dead, and
among them Dom Joao de Castro's other
son, Fernando, who had been blown up
with many others on a mined part of the
wall on which they had rashly remained,
although warned by Mascarenhas of their
danger. " He should have obeyed Dom
Joao," wrote Castro stoically to the King,
and he added : "Of what Dom Fernando


Dom Joao de Castro

did till the time of his death I will say
nothing to your Highness, for it cannot
be that men are so wicked but that some
among them will inform your Highness of
the services and great exertions that my
sons undergo in your service."

The King of Cambaya still boasted of
victory, and Dom Joao de Castro himself
sailed north with a powerful fleet from
Goa. After striking terror into the enemy
by ravaging the coast of Cambaya, setting
it all aflame and, in his own words, " spar-
ing no living thing," he left these shores
covered with dead and crossed to Diu.

The fortress was now again invested by
an army of 60,000 Moors, and in the battle
with the besieging force the Governor was
himself more than once in the greatest
danger before the enemy was routed. In-
deed, it was his personal exertions which
largely decided the day, and with pardon-
able pride he wrote to the King that it
was " the greatest victory ever seen in all
the East."

He sent the King a long Hst of those


Portuguese Portraits

who had conspicuously distinguished them-
selves, and for himself he asked for the
reward or alviQaras which it was customary
to give to a general who had won a battle
or taken a city. " And because your
Highness may give me one unsuited to
my nature and mode of life, I will ask for
it specifically, and it is that you should
grant me a chestnut-grove which you have
in the Serra de Cintra, by the King's Foun-
tain, bordering on my quinta, that my
servants, having chestnuts to eat on my
estate, may not go plundering what does
not belong to them. Its value may be ten
or twelve thousand reis, but to me it will
be worth many thousands of crusados."

There may be something a little theatri-
cal and fantastic (contemporary historians
call him bizarro and janjarrdo) in some of
Castro's actions in India, in his Albu-
querquian prowess on the coast of Cam-
baya, the pawning of his beard (again in
imitation of Albuquerque), his triumphal
entry into Goa, his preparation of stakes
on which to spit the Sultan as Pacheco had


Dom Joao de Castro

prepared one for the Samuri of Calicut ;
but there can be no doubt of the sin-
cerity of his desire to obtain this Cintra

After his victory he besought the King
not to prolong his term of office beyond the
ordinary three years, and to allow him to
return to the Serra de Cintra, and in his
will he says: "I have near Cintra a
quinta, called the Quinta of the King's
Fountain, which I made, and to which I
am greatly devoted because I made it and
because it is in a country where my father
and ancestors were born," while his letters
contain several pathetic references of the
same kind.'

After his victory over the Moors, Dom
Joao de Castro set about rebuilding Diu,
and to obtain money sent an appeal to the

1 In a letter to King Joao III from India he recalls all his
services since the age of eighteen and says : " For the love
of God and in reward for these services I beg your Highness
to allow me to return to Portugal to live with my wife and
children and end the few troubled days that remain to me
in the Serra de Cintra," and in 1540 he writes to Prince Luis
that only the arrival of a Turkish fleet in India will prevent
him from returning to Portugal.

Portuguese Portraits

citizens of Goa with some hairs of his beard
in pawn/ since it was impossible to send
the bones of his son, as he had first in-
tended, his death being but recent. The
citizens of Goa responded nobly to the
appeal, and when the Governor returned
to Goa in the spring of 1547 received him
with great rejoicing. His barbaric " tri-
umph " has been often described.

" Pie was richly Cloath'd, giving the
season its due, and became them as well
and sprightly as his Arms. He had on
a French suit of crimson satin, with Gold
twist about the Slashes and Seams, and,
not to forget he was a Souldier, he put on
a Coat of Mail wrought on Cloth of Gold
with Buttons of Plate [i.e. silver].

" The Magistrates of the City received
the Governour under a Canopy and pre-
sently a Citizen of Quality, reverently
bowing, took his Hat from his Head, put-

1 Then, as in the Middle Ages, the beard was considered an
honourable pledge, and men swore by it as Zeus might swear
by the River Styx. Albuquerque in India had given some
hairs of his beard to a soldier and afterwards redeemed
them by a payment of money.


Dom Joao de Castro

ting him on a Crown of Triumph and in
his Hand a Palm.

" The ladies from their Windows sprinkled
the Triumpher with distilled Waters of
diverse Spices." ^

In Portugal, too, the news of the victory
before Diu was received with universal
exultation. The King raised Castro to the
dignity of Viceroy — the fourth Viceroy of
India — granted him ten thousand crusados,
and gave his son Dom Alvaro the command
of the Indian Sea. But instead of allow-
ing him to return he prolonged his term
of oifice for another four years. Castro
was ill at the time, and shortly afterwards
this " saint and hero," as the modern
Portuguese historian Oliveira Martins calls
him, died at Goa in the arms of his friend
St. Francis Xavier (June 154S).

Thus Albuquerque, whose ties with Por-
tugal had been gradually replaced by those
that bound him to Goa, which he had

^ From Sir Peter Wyche's picturesque seventeenth-cen-
tury translation of Jacinto Freire de Andrada's Life of
Dom Joao de Castro,


Portuguese Portraits

made, as Castro his quinta, died with the
bitter knowledge that, if he Hved, he must
spend his 3^ears in Portugal, a whale among
minnows, and watch his work being un-
done by others ; Castro, with his thoughts
ever turning to the rocks and woods of
Cintra and the study of philosophy in hi^
beloved quinta, died in a foreign grandeur
at Goa. He died in poverty, for, ever
disinterested and humane and generous
towards others, he had spent his money on
the soldiers whom the State neglected to
pay, and himself remained penniless.

The last scene of his life in which he
addressed the chief officials and magis-
trates of Goa is almost as famous as the
pawning of his beard. "I am not asham'd,
gentlemen, to tell you that the Vice
Roy of India wants in this sickness those
Conveniences the meanest Souldier finds
in the Hospitals. I came to Serve not to
Traffick in the East, I would to your Selves
have pawn'd the Bones of my Son and did
pawn the Hairs of my Beard to assure you
I had no other Plate or Hangings in the


Dom Joao de Castro

House to buy me a Hen, for in the Fleets
I set forth the Souldiers fed upon the
Governour's Salary before the King's pay,
and 'tis no wonder for the Father of so
many children to be poor. I request of
you during the time of this Sickness to
order me out of the King's Revenue a pro-
portionable maintenance and to appoint
a Person of your own who may provide
me a moderate allowance." ^

It may be said that for the Governor of
a great Empire to leave himself without
the means "to buy me a Hen" was the
height of extravagance, but that is only
the cavil of a more mundane spirit, in-
capable of attaining so heroic a subhmity,
and his countrymen, at least, have always
been grateful to Castro for ostentatiously
proving that amid all the prevailing cor-
ruption there remained one honest man.

Like Albuquerque and Gama, he died
in harness. But, great as Castro was as
a soldier, he would in all probability have
been no less celebrated for his services

^ Wyche's version.

Portuguese Portraits

to literature had it been granted him to
spend his old age in the quiet of his shady

Couto ends his portrait of the Viceroy
thus : " And for his great charity, temper-
ance, disinterestedness, exceeding love of
God, and other qualities of a good Chris-
tian, it may be affirmed that he will be
receiving in glory the prize and guerdon
of all his trouble and toil." By his energy,
vigour of thought and action, by his
splendid character, humane and resolute,
he closed the most brilHant half-century of
Portugal's history with a key of gold.

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Online LibraryAubrey F. G. (Aubrey Fitz Gerald) BellPortuguese portraits → online text (page 6 of 6)