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Rui Gonçalves da Câmara (c. 1430 – 27 November 1497), was the second son of João Gonçalves Zarco, and inherited the title of Donatary-Captain of the island of São Miguel in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. Rui Gonçalves da Câmara was made the third person to administer/manage the colonization of the island of São Miguel by regal charter on 10 March 1474 (becoming the first of the family Gonçalves da Câmara to obtain this title). After his 21-year mandate to administer the island of São Miguel, in which he was successful in promoting and establishing settlements throughout the colony, the Vila Franca do Campo received a foral (charter) as town.

Rui Gonçalves da Câmara
Rui da Câmara
1st Captain-Donatário of São Miguel
In office
10 March 1474 – 27 November 1497
Preceded byJoão Soares de Albergaria
Succeeded byJoão Rodrigues da Câmara
ConstituencySão Miguel
Personal details
Rui Gonçalves da Câmara

Died27 November 1497
Vila Franca do Campo
Resting placeChurch of São Miguel
CitizenshipKingdom of Portugal
Spouse(s)Maria de Bettencourt
ChildrenJoão Rodrigues da Câmara
ResidenceVila Franca do Campo



Early lifeEdit

Rui Gonçalves da Câmara was the son of João Gonçalves Zarco, one of the men identified in the discovery of the archipelago of Madeira.[1] Rui da Câmara married Maria de Bettencourt.[1]

Rui Gonçalves became a squire in the House of D. Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, and was favoured and confided by the Prince.[2]


Until 1474, the island of São Miguel was part of a larger fiefdom bequeathed to João Soares de Albergaria, the Captaincy of Santa Maria and São Miguel.[3] At that time, the island was a large, underpopulated and, therefore, unproductive possession of the Donatário Diogo, Duke of Viseu, nephew of King Edward: the Duke approved its transfer to Rui da Câmara, as his Captain on the island of São Miguel, during a period when João Soares de Albergaria was more preoccupied with the health of his wife, and looked to the sale as a way of improving his finances.[1] Albergaria had decided to sell his concession while staying with their family on Madeira.[1]

With broad physique and great intelligence, he occupied most of his administration with the establishment and settlement of his Capitania.[1] Rui da Câmara was an imposing figure on his horse, wearing fur bonnet and large overcoat; he was unafraid to visit his fiefdom along without scribes, servants or soldiers.[1] Apart from his small workforce that tended to his possessions, Rui da Câmara offered lands to settlers who were obligated to transform the uncultivated lands within a five-year contract.[1] Those were unable to fulfill the contract would forfeit their lands to another, who were under the same obligations.[1] It was through these conditions that the island was rapidly populated.[1]

Around the 16th century, the first cyclical agricultural activities began to appear, when colonists began to cultivate Lupin beans when the land was fallow, to improve the following seasons crop.[1] At the time wheat, sugar, potatoes and flax seeds were the primary crops, while herding cattle, fishing, hunting of wild game supported the smaller settlements.[1] At the same time, introduced by the Flem Josse van Huerter on Faial, the woad industry began to appear on the other islands.[1]

Governing since 1504, Rui da Câmara would outlive his mother (D. Inês) and his siblings whom disappeared in the shipwreck of their caravel on their return to Lisbon.[4]

Eighteen years later, during the early morning, Vila Franca was destroyed resulting the death of many and forcing the move of the provincial capital to Ponta Delgada.[4] For a while, though, he and his wife settled in the region of Caloura, in the Vale da Cabeças near the hermitage dedicated to Nossa Senhora das Dores[5] During his time with the sisters in the secluded valley Câmara resolved to assist in obtaining a papel bull to build a convent for the nuns, eventually resulting in creation of the Convent of Santo André.[5] The Captain-Donatário eventually established his residence in the buildings near the Church of São Pedro in Ponta Delgada, before taking-up residence along the Rua do Conde, given in honour of the Câmara family, who were made counts during the reign of Phillip II.[6]

Later lifeEdit

Yet, Rui da Câmara continued his governorship in the shadow of the fortress of São Brás, where he and his wife, were responsible for arming and fortifying the defenses against Castilian forces.[7] He exercised this role until his death (during the reign of Emmanuel of Portugal), where he was buried, alongside his wife, in the main chapel of the historic Church of São Miguel (ordered constructed by the Prince).[7] At the time of his death Rui Gonçalves this nobleman left no heirs, and contrary to the laws of inheritance, on 10 March 1474, D. Diogo authorized the bestowal of the Captaincy to this Captain's illegitimate sons.[2]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Carlos Melo Bento (2008), p.23
  2. ^ a b Susana Goulart Costa (2008), p.237
  3. ^ Carlos Melo Bento (2008), p.22
  4. ^ a b Carlos Melo Bento (2008), p.33
  5. ^ a b Noé, Paula (2012). SIPA (ed.). "Convento da Caloura/Recolhimento da Caloura (no.PT072101010007)" (in Portuguese). Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA – Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  6. ^ Carlos Melo Bento (2008), p.34
  7. ^ a b Carlos Melo Bento (2008), p.25


  • Bento, Carlos Melo (2008), História dos Açores: Da descoberta a 1934 (in Portuguese), Ponta Delgada (Azores), Portugal: Câmara Municipal de Ponta Delgada