Ferdinand Magellan and me (54)

How it beganMagellan's ship Trinidad

Bad news for Magellan

Tenerife gave both Magellan and me the opportunity to top up with water and fresh food but we avoided the villainous cactus wine said to be a feature of 16th century life. The wine nowadays is quite acceptable.
Magellan received a surprise visit here. A new ship arrived in port with disastrous news. The ship had been chartered in Seville by Diogo Barbosa, Magellan’s mentor and father-in-law. Her captain had carried every rag of sail he could manage in order to catch up with the Armada de Maluku. He presented Magellan with a letter written in Barbosa’s hand; the wax seal genuine and unbroken. Magellan’s own hand must have trembled as he read the brief, clear and devastating message.

‘It has come to my knowledge,’ Barbosa wrote, ‘that friends of our enemies have begun boasting, immediately upon departure of the fleet, that your position as captain general is forfeit to Fonseca’s men: Cartagena, Mendoza and others. The conspiracy is not known but a quarrel will be provoked, swords drawn and blood will flow, for which you will be blamed. Should this plot fail, then spies will carry news of your intended course to a Portuguese fleet that left Lisbon before you. To Duarte, salutations. Beatriz, Rodrigo and self are well.’

Never one to shrink from a challenge, Magellan wrote a note thanking Barbosa for his warning and added, ‘Whatever may befall, I shall do my duty by God and the king.’ That night, he called a conference of his captains as required under the Spanish regulations. It must have been a tight squeeze in Trinidad’s cabin but Magellan was on his guard and had Espinosa, the Master-at-Arms, standing by. Cartagena, young, handsome and arrogant, one of Fonseca’s bastards, took control of the meeting. He was operating under the claim that he was equal in authority to Magellan – Conjunta Persona and Inspector General of the fleet. Magellan rejected these claims but he seems to have kept his temper as his captains criticised him for sailing too fast or too slow and failing to signal alterations of course in a timely manner. They agreed among themselves that the course over the next leg of the voyage was to be south west. The meeting went off without the threatened attack but Magellan knew the matter was by no means finished.

    following Magellan in Tenerife


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Sailor from wayback with a Master's degree in Technology Management. Prefer classical music to rap and chicken curry to steak.

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