Albuquerque, Matias de (1595–1647)

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Albuquerque, Matias de (1595–1647)

Matias de Albuquerque (b. 1595; d. June 1647), governor and capitão-mor of Pernambuco (1620–1626), thirteenth governor-general of Brazil (1624–1627), superintendent of war in Pernambuco and inspector and military engineer for the captaincies of the north (1629–1635). Born in Lisbon and baptized in the church of Loreto, Albuquerque was the younger son of Jorge de Albuquerque Coelho, third lord-proprietor of Pernambuco, and his second wife, Dona Ana, daughter of Dom Alvaro Coutinho, commander of Almourol. Later in life he changed his baptismal name, Paulo, to Matias in honor of his guardian, his father's first cousin, Matias de Albuquerque, viceroy of India (1591–1597), who was himself childless and named Matias as his heir. In 1604, after a papal dispensation was obtained because he was underage, young Albuquerque received a knighthood in the Order of Christ. In 1619, having served three years in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Straits of Gibraltar at his own expense, he was summoned to Madrid.

In March of 1620 Albuquerque was named governor and capitão-mor of his brother's (Duarte de Albuquerque Coelho) captaincy of Pernambuco, Brazil, and arrived there the following day. Three urgent problems awaited him in his new post. The first was the restoration of donatarial authority after almost a half-century of absenteeism on the part of the second, third, and fourth lords-proprietor of Pernambuco and after the last four governors-general had resided in his family's captaincy instead of in Bahia, the Brazilian capital. Second, there was the need to supply men, foodstuffs, and materials for the expanding Portuguese presence in northern and northeastern Brazil. Last, old defenses had to be rebuilt and new ones erected, and the local militias had to be trained to protect Pernambuco from threats of a Dutch attack. When the Dutch West India Company seized Bahia along with the governor-general, Diogo de Mendonça Furtado, in 1624, Albuquerque was named thirteenth governor-general of Brazil. From Pernambuco he helped wage war against the Dutch until the joint Spanish-Portuguese armada of 1625 succeeded in recapturing the Brazilian capital in May of that year. As governor-general, he continued to coordinate efforts to supply Bahia, put down Indian revolts in the interior of the northeast, and prevent Dutch reinforcements from establishing themselves in Baía de Traição in the neighboring captaincy of Paraíba.

On 18 June 1627, Albuquerque departed from Pernambuco for Portugal. During the next two years, while he was in that kingdom and in Spain, he penned a number of important memorials to the crown on such varied topics as navigation in the Atlantic and Brazil's fortifications, sugar industry, and lack of coinage. Because of reports of plans of another Dutch attack on Portuguese America, Albuquerque was sent back to Brazil in 1629, arriving there on 18 October. This time, he was given a new post, free from the control of the governor-general—that of superintendent of war in Pernambuco and inspector and military engineer for the captaincies of the north. Four months later, on 15 February 1630, the Dutch West India Company's force of approximately sixty-seven ships and 7,000 men attacked Pernambuco. By 3 March they had control of the towns of Olinda and Recife and the adjoining island of Antônio Vaz. Albuquerque rallied his outmanned and outgunned forces, and for the next two years, from his strategically located headquarters at the Arraial do Bom Jesus three miles away from both Olinda and Recife, he kept the Dutch, who were superior in numbers, hemmed in and unable to profit from the captaincy's rich sugar plantations. He was attempting to follow the successful policy that had enabled the Portuguese to recover Bahia from the Dutch in 1625.

But this time no Spanish-Portuguese armada arrived to challenge Dutch control of the sea. With the desertion by April 1632 of several important Brazilian soldiers and the arrival of substantial reinforcements from Europe, the Dutch soon expanded up and down the coast of Pernambuco and other captaincies to the north. The Portuguese fought back, but to little avail. By the end of 1634, the Dutch controlled the coast from Rio Grande do Norte to the Cape of Santo Agostinho, and a great number of Portuguese settlers had made peace with them. In 1635, Porto Calvo, the Arraial do Bom Jesus, and Fort Nazaré were captured, and much of the surrounding rich sugar land was in Dutch hands. Albuquerque and over 7,000 Portuguese settlers, their families, and slaves were forced to retreat to the southernmost part of the captaincy to what is now the state of Alagoas. In late 1635, Dom Luis de Rojas y Borgia, a former governor of Panama, landed with 2,500 soldiers in Alagoas, replacing Albuquerque as head of the forces fighting the Dutch. Albuquerque continued by land to Bahia before returning to Portugal in 1636. Blamed for the loss of Pernambuco, he was imprisoned in the Portuguese border town of Castelo da Vide. In late 1640, his place of incarceration was moved to Lisbon's Castelo de São Jorge. Soon after the acclamation of the Duke of Bragança as King João IV on 1 December 1640, Albuquerque was freed.

He pledged his loyalty to Portugal's new monarch and, because of his military background, was made a member of the newly established Council of War and given the post of mestre de campo general (commander in chief) of the army that was being raised to defend the Alentejo. In that province he continued to train the Portuguese troops and help with the fortifications. He was also active in the early fighting and was given the post of commander of the troops (governador das armas) in the Alentejo, the first of three times he held that position. However, Albuquerque was soon imprisoned again, suspected of treason because his brother, the fourth lord-proprietor of Pernambuco, had been in Madrid when the Portuguese revolution began and remained there and because Albuquerque was a close relative of several of those involved in the conspiracy of 1641 against King João IV. Eventually his innocence was established, and he was restored to full honors and made a member of the Council of State. On 26 May 1644, he led Portuguese troops to victory at the battle of Montijo in Spanish Extremadura—the first significant Portuguese victory in a war that lasted almost thirty years, until peace was finally signed in 1668. Soon after his victory, Albuquerque was named the first count of Alegrete. At about that time, he married Dona Catarina Barbara de Noronha, sister of the future first count of Vila Verde. They had no children. Albuquerque retired from active duty late in 1646 and died the following year.

See alsoPernambuco .


Helio Vianna's pioneering Matias de Albuquerque (1944) has been updated by Francis A. Dutra, Matias de Albuquerque: Capitão-mor de Pernambuco e Governador-Geral do Brasil (1976). Details of the struggle between donatarial authority and centralized government are found in Francis A. Dutra, "Centralization vs. Donatarial Privilege: Pernambuco, 1602–1630," in Colonial Roots of Modern Brazil, edited by Dauril Alden (1973). Defense problems are discussed in Francis A. Dutra, "Matias de Albuquerque and the Defense of Northeastern Brazil, 1620–1626," in Studia 36 (1973): 117-166. A valuable contemporary account of Portuguese America during Albuquerque's first tour of duty in Brazil is Franciscan Frei Vicente Do Salvador, História do Brasil 1500–1627, 5th ed. (1965). The Dutch campaigns of the 1630s are described by Albuquerque's brother, an eyewitness and fourth lord-proprietor of Pernambuco, Duarte De Albuquerque Coelho, Memorias Diarias de la Guerra del Brasil por discurso de nueve años empeçando desde el de M.D.C. XXX (1654). Also useful for understanding Brazil during this time period is Ambrósio Fernandes Brandão's classic account, Diálogos das Grandezas do Brazil (1618). There is a second edition of this title edited by José Antônio Gonsalves De Mello (1966); a good English translation is titled Dialogues of the Great Things of Brazil, translated and annotated by Frederick Holden Hall, William F. Harrison, and Dorothy Winters Welker (1987).

                                        Francis A. Dutra

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Albuquerque, Matias de (1595–1647)

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