Coelho, Jorge de Albuquerque (1539–1601/2)

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Coelho, Jorge de Albuquerque (1539–1601/2)

Jorge de Albuquerque Coelho (April 23, 1539–1601/2) was the third lord-proprietor of Pernambuco (1582–1601). Albuquerque was born in Olinda in the captaincy of Pernambuco, a younger son of Duarte Coelho Pereira, Pernambuco's first lord-proprietor. He and his older brother, Duarte Coelho de Albuquerque, were sent for their education to Portugal, where Jorge soon gained a reputation for his military skills. In 1560 he accompanied his brother, second lord-proprietor of Pernambuco, to Brazil to deal with Native American threats to the family's captaincy. Albuquerque was placed in charge of the Portuguese offensive. After almost five years of fierce warfare, he managed to remove hostile indigenous peoples from the coastal region south to the Rio São Francisco as well as from much of the fertile interior. His task completed, he left Recife for Portugal in mid-1565 on the 200-ton Santo Antônio, never to return to the land of his birth. This four-and-a-half-month voyage, described by the sixteenth-century historian Frei Vicente do Salvador in his História do Brasil as "one of the worst and most dangerous seafarers had seen," was the subject of a famous Portuguese shipwreck narrative. By 1601 an account written by Afonso Luís had gone through at least two printings of a thousand copies each.

After recovering from the effects of the voyage, Albuquerque served at the court of young King Sebastian I. In 1574 he was a participant in the first of that monarch's two expeditions to North Africa. Wounded badly and captured, he and his brother were among the eighty nobles ransomed at great expense. He was back in Portugal by 1579. His brother, however, died in 1581 in Morocco on the journey home. Permanently crippled, Albuquerque officially succeeded him as lord-proprietor of Pernambuco in 1582.

By the mid-1580s, because of revenues from his captaincy, Albuquerque was considered one of the wealthiest of those men who gained their riches from Portuguese America. His captaincy of Pernambuco continued to prosper, especially from sugar. In 1591 a crown official reported that there were sixty-three sugar mills in that captaincy and tithes of 28,500 cruzados. Albuquerque encouraged the religious life of the captaincy and was generous to the Franciscans, the Benedictines, and the Carmelites. He was, however, an absentee lord-proprietor, and in his absence there were charges of corruption. From 1593 to 1595 a visitor from the Inquisition was stationed in Olinda, taking testimony from the inhabitants. In 1595 the English pirate James Lancaster seized Recife, sacking the port for several months before sailing on. As a result, Albuquerque suffered great financial losses as well as the loss of confidence of Pernambuco's inhabitants in the security of their port city.

After the death of his first wife, Albuquerque married the daughter of Dom Alvaro Coutinho, commander of Almourol in Portugal. From this union there were two sons. The first, born in 1591, was Duarte de Albuquerque Coelho, who became fourth lord-proprietor of Pernambuco and author of Memorias diarias de la guerra del Brasil (1654), the eyewitness account of the early years (1630–1638) of the struggle against the Dutch in Pernambuco. The second, Matias de Albuquerque, born in 1595, later became capitão-mor of Pernambuco and governor-general of Brazil. Jorge de Albuquerque Coelho died in Lisbon and was buried in the Church of São Nicolau.

See alsoCoelho Pereira, Duarte .


Boxer, Charles R. "Jorge d' Albuquerque Coelho: A Luso-Brazilian Hero of the Sea, 1539–1602." Luso-Brazilian Review 6, no. 1 (Summer 1969): 3-17.

Boxer. Charles R., ed. and trans. Further Selections from the Tragic History of the Sea, 1559–1565. Cambridge, U.K.: Published for the Hakluyt Society at the University Press, 1968. See Boxer's translation of "Shipwreck Suffered by Jorge d'Albuquerque Coelho, Captain and Governor of Pernambuco" (pp. 108-157) and his useful introduction to the subject (pp. 12-21).

Dutra, Francis A. "Notas sobre a vida e morte de Jorge de Albuquerque Coelho e a tutela de seus filhos." Studia 37 (December 1973): 261-286. Contains new information on the lord-proprietor's life and death.

Vicente, do Salvador Frei. História do Brasil, 1500–1627, 5th ed. São Paulo: Edições Melhoramentos, 1965.

                                        Francis A. Dutra

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Coelho, Jorge de Albuquerque (1539–1601/2)

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