Jorge Mascarenhas, 1º Viceroy of Brazil

Ana Paula Megiani (Universidade de São Paulo)

Date of Birth: 1579?

Date of Death: 1652

Iº Count of Castelo Novo

Iº Marquis of Montalvão

Iº Viceroy of Brasil (1639-1641)

The year of Jorge de Mascarenhas’ birth is uncertain, some claim to have been in 1570, others in 1585, or even in 1579, as indicated by the most reliable source (WHITE, 2004), son of the marriage between Francisco Mascarenhas (c. 1530-1608), Portuguese admiral and governor of Hormuz between 1569 and 1572, and Jerônima de Castro Lima e Pereira, niece of Francisco Barreto, governor of India. Jorge de Mascarenhas descended from a family of Portuguese noblemen ennobled between the late 15th century and the mid-17th century, and has been considered by historiography as one of the emblematic characters of the period of Portugal’s incorporation into the Hispanic Monarchy (1580-1640).

Since the times of the reign of D. Manuel I (1495-1521) the Mascarenhas were known and recognized as lords and plenipotentiaries in the kingdom, governors and viceroys in the empire of the East. Jorge, however, explicitly embodied the new trajectory profile of the Portuguese nobility that moved westward under the protection of the Filipes, with the posts in North Africa and Brazil as the main stages of ascent, until reaching the highest dignity of Viceroy of Brazil in 1639. His political position, considered ambiguous at the time of the Aclamation of D. João IV (1640), was also understood as a strategy to extend the favors he could attain, either from the Spanish Austrias or from the Bragança to their descendants. 

Although he was the second-born son of second-born sons, that is, far from receiving the direct transmission of titles and honors through heredity, Jorge de Mascarenhas lived his youth in satisfactory conditions, accumulating offices at court and commendations from inheritances that converged to him due to the death of his brothers, uncles and cousins. He received the first habit of the Order of Christ in 1594, in 1600 the commendation of Vila Cova in the archdiocese of Braga, and in 1604 the commendation of Santo Estevão de Aldrões in the bishopric of Porto. In addition, he had the value of his commendations increased and a new one granted by the Order of Christ in the year 1611 in Santiago de Torres Vedras. In 1614 Jorge de Mascarenhas became governor of Mazagão, and in 1615 he was appointed member of the Council of State (WHITE: 2004).

The fall of the Duke of Lerma, the rise of Count Duke Olivares and the death of King Philip III of Spain in 1621 did not damage Jorge de Mascarenhas’ trajectory, even though at times he was threatened by intrigues within the group of Portuguese close to the court. In 1622 he took office as governor and captain of Tangiers and in 1624 he was appointed President of the Senate of the Chamber of Lisbon by Felipe IV of Spain, III of Portugal. In August 1628 he was appointed President of the Portuguese East India Company, a position he held in Lisbon during its brief period of existence (SCHAUB: 2001, p.131). In 1631, by indication of Olivares himself, he was appointed President of the Board of the Treasury, where he remained until 1633 while waiting, unsuccessfully, to be elevated to member of the Board of Governors of Portugal. It is worth noting that in the original plan of the Junta de Fazenda, designed by Diogo Soares, was embedded the intention of creating a Junta of Pernambuco to finance the war in Brazil (SCAHUB, p. 131-132). It is assumed that it was from this point in the trajectory that Jorge de Mascarenhas began his involvement with Brazil’s relief against the occupation promoted by the WIC since 1630 in Pernambuco.  However, it is necessary to highlight the link of Jorge de Mascarenhas with Brazil already in 1627, date in which his arms appear registered in the manuscript of the Atlas of João Teixeira Albernaz, deposited in the National Library of France, and about whose connection it has not yet been possible to find evidence.

Jorge de Mascarenhas’ efficient career, which can be considered very successful for one lifetime in the context of power relations during the Early Modern Age, led him fortuitously to ennoblement. In 1628 he became the 1st Count of Castelo Novo and in 1639 he received the title of 1st Marquis of Montalvão, a title by which he became known in the history of Portuguese America. He was then named the 1st Viceroy of Brazil, on August 29, 1639 (see image of the letter patent), a position he would hold for almost two years, until August 15, 1641, when he was removed from Brazil and taken to Lisbon as a prisoner under accusation of treason to D. João IV and the brigantine cause.

Jorge de Mascarenhas married Francisca de Vilhena in an unidentified date, probably before 1614, because when he took office as governor of Mazagão he took the whole family to North Africa. D. Francisca was his second cousin and daughter of Manuel de Melo e Magalhães, governor of Malacca, from whom he would inherit commendations and morgados, passed on to her husband and children. With her Jorge de Mascarenhas had several children, some sources say there were six, others seven, and even eight. Despite this vagueness, we were able to identify, through collation and authors who investigated his life, seven, Francisco, Maria Manoel, Leonor, Pedro, Fernando, Jerônimo, Simão, and also news of two others who would have died in childhood and whose names we have not found. Jorge de Mascarenhas was also the uncle of the Count of the Tower, Fernando Mascarenhas, namesake of one of his sons, who succeeded him in the government of Brazil in 1639 after the resounding failure of the rescue armada to Pernambuco that he commanded (VALLADARES: 2006, p. 46 and ss). The competitive relations between uncle and nephew in the leadership position of the war against the Dutch occurred in the complex context of rupture between the crowns of Portugal and Spain.

It was also at this juncture that he received the title of Viceroy of Brazil, probably negotiated by the Marquis of Montalvão himself with Philip IV, since this position did not exist in the hierarchical and administrative structure of the Portuguese Empire. Before him, Miguel de Noronha, Viceroy of India (1629-1635) and 4th Count of Linhares, had received a nod from the monarch with this unprecedented title, as he could not be lowered in the hierarchy of power having been Viceroy of India, and had been coveted by the Count of the Tower himself. It is believed that the recognition of the services rendered to the crown and the ambition to extend his house were at the basis of the creation of the new viceroyalty, a fact that could have completely changed the course and place of Brazil in the overall Hispanic Monarchy.

The Marquis of Montalvão’s son, Fernando de Mascarenhas – homonym of the Count of the Tower – was in Brazil in 1640, and was charged with receiving his father on the occasion of his inauguration as Governor in Salvador da Bahia, which occurred on April 16, 1639. On May 26 of the same year Montalvão began his government with the difficult mission of ridding Brazil of the Dutch presence, a task practically impossible to execute at that time of events. Upon the arrival of the new governor and future viceroy in Salvador da Bahia, Father Antônio Vieira dedicated a welcoming sermon to him, the text of which reflects the mood of the local population.  Father Viera predicts: “How could the head of a province that had been defeated, ravaged, burned and in so many ways consumed, raise triumphal arches? Prudent was this city in its joys for not denying its state”. And Vieira adds: “It happened to Your Excellency with Brazil what happened to Christ with Lazarus; he was called to heal a sick person, and when he arrived he had to raise a dead person.

Jorge de Mascarenhas, however, did not have time to perform the miracle of resurrection, and remained only a few months in American territory. His task of calming tempers and strengthening relations between the State of Brazil and Grão-Pará and Maranhão to fight the Dutch in Pernambuco was abruptly interrupted. In February 1641, with news of the palace rebellion and the acclamation of King João IV in Lisbon, Montalvão “ordered the two Portuguese regiments of the garrison to form a parade with their arms, while the Spanish and Neapolitan units were confined to their barracks (….) and he summoned the principal authorities and authorities of Pernambuco to the city. ) and summoned the main ecclesiastical, military and civil authorities to assume the government of the house, showing to each new arriving individual the orders he had received and summoning all of them in a solemn conclave (…), it was decided to acclaim D. João as king (…) and the Spanish and Neapolitan regiments were disarmed without opposition and later embarked to the Antilles” (BOXER: p.158 ). At that time, his son Fernando de Mascarenhas was designated to take to Lisbon his father’s letter of adhesion and fidelity and the news about the acclamation of the new king in Salvador and Rio de Janeiro, this one governed by Salvador Correia de Sá e Benevides. Upon arriving in Lisbon, Fernando was arrested and accused of treason, a fact that announces the general distrust that hovered in the Brigantine court about the loyalty of Montalvão, suspected of commanding the supposed delivery of Brazil to Philip IV.

Thus, under great suspicion, the Marquis of Montalvão was taken as a prisoner, in chains, back to Portugal, where, due to the clarification of the facts of the acclamation in Brazil and the support of several supporters of King John IV, he was received with honors and homage, remaining at court from 1641 until his death in 1652. Throughout this time he was treated by the new monarch either as a loyal and faithful vassal, or as a conspirator and traitor. He was again appointed Vedor da Fazenda Real in 1642 and President of the newly created Conselho Ultramarino in 1643, positions that showed his enormous prestige also in the new political configuration of the monarchy. Jorge de Mascarenhas was a key piece in the complex chessboard of the War of Restoration (1640-1668); his attitudes, as well as those of his wife and children, were always closely watched in order to intercept communications about possible plots and coups coming from the Portuguese noblemen who stayed in Madrid (BOUZA: 2000, p. 207). Pedro and Jeronimo, his two sons who escaped to Madrid with the help of their mother, became Montalvão’s main link to the Philippine court, the former leading Castilian troops at the front, the latter residing inside the royal house itself as confessor to Queen D. Marina of Autria. (MEGIANI: 2019, p. 116 and 2020, p. 312 ff.).

The constant accusations of treason and maintaining relations with Madrid led D. Jorge to prison three times, the first time in 1641 on his return from Brazil, the second time in 1644 and the third time in 1649. Jorge de Mascarenhas died in the prison of St. George’s Castle on January 31, 1652, probably at the age of 73. He was buried in the convent of São Paulo in Setúbal, Portugal, but his tomb has disappeared.


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