Admiral of Portugal

The high office of Admiral of the Kingdom of Portugal (Portuguese: Almirante do Reino de Portugal) as the head of the Portuguese navy was created by King Denis of Portugal in 1317 (or 1322) for the Genoese nobleman and naval officer Manuel Pessanha (Emanuele Pessagno).[1] Although there is evidence that such a title existed before (e.g. Afonso I appointed his half-brother Fuas Roupinho to the title in 1184), it seems to have been of only a temporary character, for fleets assembled in times of war.[2] The exception was perhaps Nuno Fernandes Cogominho who seems to have been appointed admiral by King Denis in 1307, and still had that title at his death in 1316, although the conditions are unclear. Nonetheless, Manuel Pessanha was the first person known to hold the title of Almirante-mor (Chief Admiral) as a permanent office for a permanent fleet. All the king's galleys were under his jurisdiction. The conditions of the Pessanha's title stipulated that he must maintain a corps of at least 20 Genoese naval officers at all times and was obliged to serve the king in military service on land as well as sea.[3]

The office of Almirante-mor became a hereditary benefice in the Pessanha family - passing successively through his sons Carlos, Bertolomeu and Lançarote. After the disastrous handling of the Portuguese fleet in the blockade of Seville in 1369, Pessanha's son Lançarote Pessanha temporarily lost the admiral title to João Afonso Telo de Menezes (Count of Barcelos), but was later restored by King Ferdinand of Portugal. The title then passed on through Lançarote's sons Manuel II and then Carlos II, the last of the male line. Carlos II had no male heirs, but only two daughters (Genebra & Brites) and a niece (Catarina, daughter of his late brother Antonio, who had died at Aljubarrota).[4]

In 1433, the title of Admiral went as dowry in the marriage of Genebra Pereira (daughter of Carlos II Pessanha) to D. Pedro de Menezes.[5] After Menezes death in 1437, the title was passed on to his nephew Lançarote da Cunha (the young son of Carlos II Pessanha's other daughter, Brites Pereira), but the office was de facto exercised by Brites's husband, Rui de Mello da Cunha. Being pre-deceased by his son, Rui de Mello was appointed admiral de jure in 1453.[6]

After Mello's death in 1467, the title passed to Nuno Vaz de Castelo Branco, king's chamberlain and son of Catarina Pessanha,[7] who in turn passed in on to his own son Lopo Vaz de Castelo-Branco, c.1476. After the treason and assassination of Lopo Vaz de Castelo Branco, John II of Portugal handed the title to Pedro de Albuquerque in 1483.[8] But Albuquerque himself fell into intrigues and was soon deprived of the position.

In 1485, John II gave the title of admiral to Lopo Vaz de Azevedo, a knight of the Order of Aviz (and a relative of the Pessanhas), and made it hereditary in the Azevedo family.[9] That line having lost male issue by 1646, it was passed via female lines to D. Luis de Portugal, Count of Vimioso, and then after his death in 1660, it passed on by female line to the house of Castro (Counts of Resende).

Around 1373 (exact date uncertain), the King created the office of captain-major of the fleet (capitão-mor da frota), initially a complementary position, covering the command of the alto-bordo ('high-sided',or sail-powered) ships of the fleet, leaving the Admiral exclusively in charge of the oar-powered galleys. The first capitão-mor was Gonçalo Tenreiro.[10] During the reign of John I of Portugal, Tenreiro was succeeded Afonso Furtado de Mendonça (appointment date uncertain) and, in 1423, by Álvaro Vaz de Almada (Count of Avranches). The letter appointing Avranches designates a more extensive capitão-mor, covering the royal galleys and infringing on the traditional jurisdiction of the almirante-mor, thus suggesting that by this time, the title of almirante had become purely honorific, and the de facto high naval command had been absconded by the capitão-mor.[11] However, the letter appointing Ruy de Mello da Cunha as 'admiral' in 1453 temporarily restored his authority, including the 'alto-bordo' ships. In 1460, the admiral was deprived of his jurisdiction over arraes (fishing boats), which were passed to local councils.[12]

The title of 'Admiral' was made more specific with the establishment in 1502 of the Admiral of the Indies (Almirante das Indias), a second, separate Portuguese admiral title for the East Indies. Back in 1492, Christopher Columbus had been granted the ornate title of 'Admiral of the Ocean Sea' by the Catholic monarchs of Spain. Evidently, King Manuel I of Portugal felt that if the Spanish had an admiral sailing around, then surely Portuguese should have one too. So, in January 1502, just before the departure on the 4th India Armada, Manuel I bestowed upon the fleet captain Vasco da Gama the overwrought title of Almirante dos mares de Arabia, Persia, India e de todo o Oriente ("Admiral of the Seas of Arabia, Persia, India and all the Orient" - or 'Admiral of the Indies' for short).[13] The original 'Admiral' title became thereafter referred to narrowly as Admiral of the "Lusitanian Sea" (mar lusitano) (or simply, "Admiral of Portugal"). The Admiral of the Indies title remained hereditary with Gama's descendants, the Counts of Vidigueira.

List of the Admirals of PortugalEdit

The following is the list of title-holders of the "Admiral of the Reign/Portugal/Lusitanian Sea". The date refers to the approximate year of appointment

  1. Nuno Fernandes Cogominho - 1307 (not normally counted in the admiral numbering)
  2. Manuel Pessanha - 1317/22
  3. Carlos Pessanha - c.1340
  4. Bartolomeu Pessanha - c.1340?
  5. Lançarote Pessanha - c. ?
  6. D. João Afonso Telo de Menezes, 4th Count of Barcelos, 1st Count of Ourém, 1st Count of Viana do Alentejo - c. 1369
  7. Lançarote Pessanha (restored)- c. 1380
  8. Manuel (II) Pessanha - c. 1384
  9. Carlos (II) Pessanha - c. 1400?
  10. Pedro de Menezes, 1st Count of Vila Real, 2nd Count of Viana do Alentejo - 1433
  11. Lançarote da Cunha - 1437
  12. Rui de Mello da Cunha - 1453 (de facto since 1437)
  13. Nuno Vaz de Castelo Branco - 1467
  14. Lopo Vaz de Castelo Branco - c.1475
  15. Pedro de Albuquerque - 1483
  16. Lopo Vaz de Azevedo - 1485
  17. António de Azevedo - c. 1502?
  18. Lopo Vaz de Azevedo again?
  19. António de Azevedo again? - 1518
  20. Lopo de Azevedo, 1544
  21. João de Azevedo - 1580
  22. D. Luis de Portugal, Count of Vimioso, 1646
  23. D. João de Castro - 1660/62
  24. D. Francisco de Castro - c. 1650
  25. D. João José de Castro - c. 1675
  26. D. Luís Inocêncio de Castro - c. 1680
  27. D. António José de Castro, 1st Count of Resende - 1719
  28. D. José Luís de Castro, 2nd Count of Resende - 1744
  29. D. Luís Inocêncio Benedito de Castro, 3rd Count of Resende- 1777
  30. D. António Benedito de Castro, 4th Count of Resende - 1820
  31. D. Luís Manuel Benedito da Natividade de Castro Pamplona, 5th Count of Resende - 1844
  32. D. António de Castro Pamplona, 7th Count of Resende - 1877
  33. D. João de Castro Pamplona, 8th Count of Resende - 1882
  34. D. Maria José de Castro Pamplona, 9th Countess of Resende - 1908
  35. (de jure) D. João de Castro de Mendia, 10th Count of Resende - 1946

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Quintella, p.18; Vasconcelos de Saldanha (1988); Caetano de Sousa, 1735, vol. 1, p.207. Exact date is ambiguous.
  2. ^ Pereira and Rodrigues (1904: p.313-15)
  3. ^ Quintella, 1839: p.19-20; Vasconcelos de Saldanha, 1988
  4. ^ Caetano de Sousa, (vol. 3, p.54)
  5. ^ Monumenta Henricina, vol. IV, p.211
  6. ^ Baquero Moreno p.863-65; Caetano de Sousa, vol. 1 p.209; vol. 3 p.54, Vasconcelos de Saldanha (1988)
  7. ^ Baquero Moreno, p.754. According to Caetano de Sousa (vol. 1, p.208), Nuno Vaz's mother, Catarina Pessanha, was the daughter of Antonio Pessanha (died Aljubarrota, 1385), the son of the admiral Lançarote Pessanha.
  8. ^ Pereira & Rodrigues (p.142); Caetano de Sousa (vol.1, p.246)
  9. ^ Pereira & Rodrigues, p.937. According to Caetano de Sousa (vol. 1, p.208), Lopo Vaz de Azevedo was son of Gonçalo Gomes de Azevedo, alcaide of Alenquer, and Isabel Vaz Pessanha, the sister of Nuno Vaz de Castelo-Branco and daughter of Catarina Pessanha.
  10. ^ Quintella, p.32
  11. ^ Quintella, p.41-42
  12. ^ Pereira & Rodrigues, p.739
  13. ^ João de Barros (1552–59) Décadas da Ásia: Dos feitos, que os Portuguezes fizeram no descubrimento, e conquista, dos mares, e terras do Oriente. Dec. I, Lib 6, p.24
  • Baquero Moreno, H. (1980) A Batalha de Alfarrobeira: antecedentes e significado histórico, 2 vols.
  • Caetano de Sousa, A. (1735–37) Historia Genealogica Da Casa Real Portugueza, 3 vols.
  • "Almirante" in J.M. Esteves Pereira and G. Rodrigues, editors, (1904) Portugal; diccionario historico, chorographico, heraldico, biographico, bibliographico, numismatico e artistico Lisbon: Romano Torres. p. 313-14
  • Quintella, Ignaco da Costa (1839–40) Annaes da Marinha Portugueza, 2 vols, Lisbon: Academia Real das Sciencias. vol. 1
  • Severim de Faria, M. "Da Milicia Maritima e do officio de Almirante", in Noticias de Portugal ecritas por Manoel Severim de Faria Lisbon: A Gomes vol. 1, p. 139.
  • Vasconcelos de Saldanha, A. (1988) "O Almirante de Portugal: estatuto quatrocentista e quinhentista de um cargo", Revista da Universidade de Coimbra, vol. 34, p. 137-56. offprint