Diogo de Azambuja
Diogo de Azambuja
Diogo de Azambuja (born Montemor-o-Velho, 1432; died 1518) was a Portuguese noble.
He was a knight of the Order of Aviz in the service of the Infante Dom Pedro, son of the Regent Infante Peter, Duke of Coimbra. After Peter’s defeat and death in the battle of Alfarrobeira (1449), he accompanied his master into exile. In 1458 he fought on the side of Afonso V in the conquest of Alcácer-Ceguer in Morocco. He received several honours and became a counselor of the king. They conquered the town of Alegrete from the Castilians, who were occupied with the war of the Castilian Succession. He was injured in the leg during this engagement.
In 1481 he was appointed by John II as captain of a fleet consisting of nine caravels and two ships with 600 soldiers and 100 masons and carpenters. They were sent, along with the necessary stone and other materials, to construct a fortress called Elmina Castle at the Gulf of Guinea. This became the best-known exploit of his long life. They chose a favourable defensive position for the fort, and construction was practically complete after only 20 days, in spite of resistance from the native population.
With the fortress finished, friendly contacts were established with the native population to establish trade. Diogo de Azambuja sent the fleet back to Lisbon with word that the mission has been successfully accomplished, and he remained behind as captain of the fortess with a force of 60 soldiers. He held this post until 1484.
He was rewarded by the king with the post of mayor of Monsaraz, and was also named to the Privy Council. Diogo de Azambuja remained attached to the Court and the king’s service for many years, in spite of his advancing age and disabled leg. He was already over the age of 70 in 1506 when Manuel I placed him in charge of building a fortress called Castelo Real at Essaouira, near Safi, in the south of Morocco, to protect Portuguese interests in the area. Diogo of Azambuja not only carried out the mission, he also took the city of Safi, where he remained as captain until 1509, at the age of 77 years. At that time he finally returned to Portugal, where he died in 1518.