Biography of Enrique el Navegante o Enrique de Portugal (1394-1460)

Don Enrique el Navegante.

Portuguese Explorer, Prince of Portugal and Duke of Viseo, master of the order of Avis, better known by the nickname of the Navigator. He was born in Porto in March 4, 1394 and died November 13, 1460, he was the third son of Juan I the great, the first ruler of the dynasty of Avis in the Portuguese throne, and of Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of the Duke of Lancaster, Juan of Ghent, and sister of Henry IV of England. It was both brother King Duarte I of Portugal. He was educated in literature, politics and the war, and became a great promoter of science, especially nautical and astrology.

The infante Enrique of Portugal

When in 1383 the Burgundy dynasty became extinct in Portugal, a war broke out between Juan I of Castile, who claimed the throne for himself by his marriage with Beatrice of Burgundy; and the master of Avis, Juan, which would eventually be the winner and would amount to the throne with the name of Juan I, to reward the actions of his son, the infante Enrique, in this conflict, in 1415 granted him the title of Duke of Viseu and Lord of Covilhã.

Juan I at the behest of his wife Felipa of Lancaster started an expedition to North Africa, in particular to Ceuta in 1415. This expedition, Felipa never came to see as he died while still getting ready and meant the beginning of the expansion of the Portuguese Empire. Juan I put their boats, some two hundred, and his men, more than fifty thousand, at the disposal of his son Enrique, who barely had more than 20 years of age and the granted command of the fleet. When the Portuguese arrived in North Africa they took the city of Ceuta, and after taking her multitude of geographic data of the interior of Africa, he returned to Portugal.

Since his return to Portugal in 1416, the infante Enrique began to weigh the idea of undertake the exploration of the African coast. Enrique was, in addition to master of Avis, Grand Master of the order of Christ of Portugal. This order was direct heir to the defunct order of the Temple in Portugal had retained considerable assets of the Templars. Probably Enrique the Navigator will serve those goods to partly fund their expeditions.

In 1416, along with his brother the infante Pedro, Duke of Coimbra, founded in the Algarve, next to Cape Sagres, one of the first astronomical observatories in Europe and the famous nautical Academy of cartography and techniques of navigation and shipbuilding, which brought together numerous scholars, cosmographers and seafarers, and from which was projected and led the exploration of the West coast of Africa. He was also crucial in the Portuguese Atlantic explorations.

The Portuguese chronicler Gomes Eanes de Azurara, who wrote the initial events of the Portuguese expansion, he noted in his Chronicles that the Infante don Enrique, moved you their desire to see the existing lands beyond Cape Bojador and the Canary Islands; check whether there were Christians with whom trade; know where was the power of the Muslims in Africa and spread the Christian faith, converting unbelievers. Henry the Navigator sought to establish the nautical Academy reach the Eastern market of species around the African continent; It was also driven by the desire, shared with Castile, keep the fight against the weakened Islam and achieve widening the borders of the Kingdom, at the time that it was to wrest control of trade with the East, Arab hands since the Arabs, who benefited from its privileged position between cultures, levied heavy taxes to all products carrying the merchants through their territories. Finally, Enrique was chasing the dream of contrasting personally who had studied in his recent African adventure and to develop a rich trade with the inhabitants of Africa, since according to the news that they had in Europe, the African continent was unimaginable treasures.

Enrique settled thereafter in Sagres, next to the Academy, which liked to attend to learn about new discoveries and comment nautical advancements with the sea. Enrique contributed to the art of shipbuilding, providing many improvements. Among highlights from the Academy SAGRES must emphasize the design of the Caravel, the great ship of the Portuguese explorations.

In 1449 Enrique the Navigator was appointed Adviser to his nephew Alfonso V, son of King Duarte, after Alfonso killed on the battlefield to his uncle and tutor the infante don Pedro (another Henry brothers). He held office until 1460 date that died.

In 1448 Maciot de Bethencourt, descendant of Jean de Bethencourt , which conquered the Islands in 1402, the Navigator, sold Lanzarote tenure Enrique what created the first crisis between Portuguese and Castilians for control of the Canary Islands. On the one hand, the Canary Islands posed a formidable base for Prince Portuguese from which to carry out your project around Africa to control the sea route of trade with the far East. On the other hand, Castilla, who had recently that he had discovered the Islands, was not prepared to lose control of the archipelago for a neighboring power like Portugal. In 1448, Enrique the Navigator placed as Governor of Lanzarote to Antão Gonçalves. The Spaniards were not prepared to that their Governor was an alien by what broke out a revolt, in which the Indians also took part, and which forced the Portuguese to leave the island. Thus Enrique the Navigator had to give up using the Canary Islands as a basis for its African conquests.

The geographical discoveries

The background

Maps of Dalorto (1325) and Dulcert (1339) constitute proof that the Portuguese had news of the lands of the interior of Africa earlier expeditions of Enrique the Navigator. They also met the descriptions of the travels of Ibn Battuta to Tombouctou, Benjamin of Tudelaand Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Haukal. Other sources of information, possibly more direct, which Enrique the Navigator had access were the news of Muslim merchants and travellers as Isalguier Anselmo, than in 1413, returned to his hometown with a black Sudanese by wife; Antonio Malfante, who resided in the Saharan oasis of Tuat until 1448; the Florentine merchant Benedetto Dei reached by land, between 1462 and 1467, the region of Niger.

The causes

New needs, both economic and resources, that the new modern European States should make front, as well as the emerging capitalist economy, led to different countries to the problem of finding a few sources of income more stable and abundant that until those moments had needed the medieval States. This reason led to Portugal and then to Spain, to find a route that put them in contact with the far East and the delicious goods coming from there to Europe, spices, sugar, incense, silk and precious stones among others. Need to find a new trade route was also imposed by the instability that created the fact that the overland caravan route was controlled by the Muslims who were those who did bridge between the far East and Europe.

Besides the politico-economic incentive, it was religious; the desire to find the mythical Kingdom of Preste Juan, that for centuries it had a reputation for wealth unmatched in Europe. Was to find paradise on Earth somewhere in Asia or Africa; We sought the conversion of non-believers to Christianity, to all corners of the world as a reflection of the new missionary spirit that characterized the modern age in Portugal and Spain mainly religion.

A third component of this craving traveller that flooded Europe was the adventurous spirit encouraged by the fanciful stories of trips to prodigious countries, travel to the Amazon are interspersed with legends like the of El Dorado, the fountain of eternal youth, and an endless number of stories to more unlikely.

To all of the above should add greed for new knowledge of educated men of the Renaissance, its eagerness to know and understand the laws of the world that surrounds them. Technical developments occur at high speed; it recovered to Ptolemy of Alexandria, which stated that the world was spherical, but terribly wrong in terms of the distance that separates Europe and Asia by the West.

In Portugal, as in Spain, gave the conjunction of all these incentives together with a long maritime tradition and own navigation nautical advances by the Atlantic, as well as its special geographic location, in the western part of the European continent, which benefited greatly from these countries in moving from the Mediterranean world trade routes to the Atlantic. So were the States of the Iberian peninsula the appropriate figures and works such as those of Enrique the Navigator was developed in them.

Henry of Portugal, the Navigator

The great mercantile objective at the time was by sea to reach the India and thus have access to the wealth that so far the Muslims controlled exclusively by land route. Henry the Navigator, after the expedition to Ceuta in 1415, even sent a new expedition to Africa, specifically to Tangier, but since it did not obtain the expected results Enrique went on to direct his attention in the Atlantic Ocean and managed to his father, Juan I financed a series of expeditions, in which worked fundamentally the nautical Academy. These expeditions were quick and important successes. In 1418, João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristâo Vaz Teixeira reached the island of Porto Santo, from where saw the Pico Ruivo of Madeira, after suffering a storm that took them drifting for days. In 1419 Bartolomé Perestrello, following the indications of Gonçalves and Teixeira, reached the island of Madeira (Madeira would become the death of Enrique the Navigator personal Dominion of the descendants of the infant); Silves Diego came to the Azores in 1427 and Gonçalo Belho Cabral reached the eastern islands of the archipelago in 1431. In 1434 the expedition of Gil Eanes managed to bend the Cape Bojador; Nunho Tristão doubled Cape Blanco in 1441 and three years later, the own Nunho arrived in Senegal; Cape Verde was discovered in 1445 by Dionis Dias; in 1445 Álvaro Fernández de Madeira arrived in cabo Rojo. Other sailors arrived at the mouth of the Gambia River around the year 1446. In 1460 Antoniotto da Noli and Diogo Gomes began the colonization of the islands of Cape Verde. However, the India route was not completed until the expedition that Vasco da Gama made between 1497 and 1499.

The infante Enrique populated with Portuguese settlers discovered Islands, at the time who ordered the planting of sugarcane imported from Sicily. Sugar cane was one of the economically most successful crops of the season. Enrique always worry about promoting the culture and knowledge in Portugal, so at this time he even give the Palace had there so it became the headquarters of the University, which awarded it an income of twelve silver frames to increase the number of teachers to the city of Lisbon.

For some time the Crown of Portugal managed to keep secret the location of his geographical discoveries in order to be able to practice a policy of monopoly and commercial exclusivity, covered in a series of papal bulls unimpeded. The Pope Nicolás V Alfonso V granted a first Bull, called various Dum, by which he was authorized to wage war to the infidels, conquer them and even to enslave them.

In 1434 the Squire of the Infante, Gil Eanes, achieved what hitherto seemed impossible, doubling Cape Bojador, also known as Cape of fear. Multitude of marine had tried previously, but since none had succeeded, a multitude of legends existed on the site. Cape Bojador was a nightmare for Enrique the Navigator, since it was the major obstacle to fulfill his dream of sailing along the African coast. When Gil Eanes returned triumphant to Portugal, Enrique the Navigator received him as a true hero. A year following Gil Eanes sailed again to the South, this time in the company of Gonçalves Baldaia; both landed about 30 miles south of Cape Bojador, but what we found was bleak, there was human life, nor hardly vegetation or animals, had landed in a desert.

In 1440 Antão Gonçalves, in the company of Nunho Tristão sailed to the Río de Oro, place discovered by Alfonso Gonçalves Badayal four years ago. Nunho Tristão and Antão Gonçalves returned with a rich cargo of animal skins and some natives of the area. Henry the Navigator to learn it ordered that the men were immediately returned to the place where were found, but the Portuguese explorers, seeing the possibility of business, ignored the order of the infante and sold to the natives in return for gold dust. In this way, possibly, started trafficking in African slaves in Portugal. Gonçalves continued trafficking of men for more than ten years in which achieved a significant fortune.

In 1443 was established the first Portuguese factory in Africa, specifically in cabo Blanco, the factory was not only used to trade in objects, but that its most common use was the slave trade. In 1444 Tristão got arrived at the mouth of the Senegal, which he called Terra two black.

In 1445, Diego Alfonso sent to place a pedrão, the first of the stones that were to line the route of the Portuguese discoveries in cabo Blanco. In 1446 Álvaro Fernández reached Sierra Leone. During the following years scans stop, after a frantic pace in which each decade brought several discoveries to more significant. The reason is not clear, but we know that until the Portuguese claims were not sanctioned in 1454 by the Bull of Nicolás V Romanus Pontifex, which effectively put all lands discovered in the hands of Portugal, scans did not continue. In 1456, the new Pope, Callistus III, granted the order of Christ, which as we have already said Henry the Navigator was his grand master; the spiritual jurisdiction of the Islands, ports, land and places, from Cape Bojador to Guinea, and beyond its Southern beaches to the India.

While Enrique the Navigator did not realize her dream of sailing around Africa in search of the Spice route, his explorations gave an unexpected result since they led to the discovery of spices originating in Africa with which the Portuguese merchants made considerable fortunes and which are financed subsequent trips, including Vasco de Gama which eventually in 1498 the India reached by sea.

Enrique the Navigator died in 1460, the Portuguese Explorations suffered a setback, since the Portuguese infante had been increased support of sailors and men of science embarked on this project. On the other hand, the policy of the Portuguese monarch Alfonso V, more interested in exploiting the already discovered territory to take new explorations, contributed greatly to this unexpected brake of Portuguese discoveries, which were not resumed until the reign of Juan II.

Henry the Navigator left some manuscripts as: advice on the war in Africa and advice to his country when he left for Tangier.