Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Prince Henry the "Navigator" who set the stage for Vasco De Gama's first sea route to India!!

The Age of Exploration began with “Prince Henry.”BornSlidePlayer
Above image: Places "discovered" as the result of Prince Henry the Navigator's desire for Portugal to establish a sea route to the Orient................
Among the European countries in the 15th century, Portugal accounted for many important maritime discoveries and expansion.  Portugal played a major role to find the  sea route to Asia, in particular, India. The overland route  to India was a risky one, as it was mostly controlled by irate Muslims on one hand  and notorious robbers on the other. In order to get a strong grip on the maritime trade in Asia, King John wanted to spend sufficient money and  asked Prince Henry to take charge of the search of a sea route.
Portuguese Ship Caravel.
At that time, the ships built by  the Mediterranean  countries were  not good enough  for long and arduous voyages, not to speak of maritime explorations because they were heavy and too slow for long travel. It meant delay, storage of more food grains and  of more potable water, etc. The discovery of newly designed  ocean-going ship called Caravel was a big break through for the Portuguese. This lighter, but sturdy ship could not only sail faster but also sail near the wind or "in to the wind". The advantage the ship had was with better manoeuvrability it could sail independent of the prevailing wind. It had three masts and a la-teen, or triangular sail. The la-teen sail allowed the caravel to sail against the wind. The newly designed Caravel was versatile and  the Portuguese mariners, with considerable ease and confidence, explored rivers and shallow waters as well as the open ocean. 
Prince Henry the Navigator 1394 1460 Son of King João of Portugal.Alamy

Watertown Public Schools
Above image: Prince Henry founded the first school in Lisbon to train sailors in navigation. Lessons taught in Prince Henry's school were kept secret. If a sailor discussed the  lesson or school activities outside of the school, without remorse he was put to death. Utmost secrecy was maintained through out the training and later on deputations. Sailors, map makers, mathematicians, and scientists went to Lisbon to study. Prince Henry knew the Far East was much more advanced than Europe...................... 
The man who gave a fillip to overseas exploration, leading to many significant maritime discoveries  was Infante D. Henrique of Portugal, Duke of Viseu (4 March 1394 – 13 November 1460), better known as Prince Henry 'the Navigator' (Portuguese: Infante Dom Henrique, o Navegador). He was responsible for the Age of Discoveries  and was a ruler of repute
in the early days of the Portuguese Empire. Under his direction, the systematic exploration of Western Africa, the islands of the Atlantic Ocean, and the search for new routes was undertaken with much vigour.  Henry was the one who encouraged his father King John to give due importance to discoveries of new lands and long sea voyages.

The third son of King John I and Philippa of Lancaster, the daughter of John of Gaunt of England, Henry and his older brothers, the princes Duarte (Edward) and Pedro,  had their education under the supervision of their parents. Henry, in his early years, showed keen interest in  astrology, military and  sea voyages. In the later years. he had a great fascination for African coast and being a true Christian, the legend of Prester John gave him a lot of inspiration. Prester John, a legendary Christian patriarch, presbyter (elder) and a popular king in the 12th through the 17th centuries lost his Christian nation  amid the Muslims and pagans of the Orient, in which the Patriarch of the Saint Thomas Christians resided.
When Henry was 21 he was quite adventurous and along with his father and brothers  he captured the Moorish port of Ceuta in northern Morocco (1415), the Muslim port on the North African coast across the Straits of Gibraltar from the Iberian Peninsula. It was a notorious base  for Barbary pirates, a threat to cargo ships. It was a major and first  achievement by Henry.  They  captured their inhabitants to be sold in the African slave trade. His main goal  was West African gold trade and suppression of  pirate attacks on the Portuguese coast.
Portuguese exploration.
Above image:  Areas reached by explorers under the sponsorship of Henry the Navigator. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc...........................

Henry the navigator.
On his return to Portugal, Henry was made duke of Viseu and lord of Covilhã. On 25 May 1420, at the age of 26, he became the administrator general of the Order of Christ, which had replaced the Crusading order of the Templars in Portugal. This made him lead an ascetic life. Henry  encouraged private overseas expeditions and conquered the Canary Islands, which the Portuguese had claimed to have discovered before the year 1346. Later his navigators  explored the Madeiran  islands(1420), the Azores (1427) and Portugal became first European country to cross Cape Bajador.  With newly designed ship, Henry undertook major mercantile voyages  - 1444 to 1446. Cape Blanco in 1441 and later reached the Southern border of Sahara, circumventing Muslim dominated places and slave trade routes. Through Henry's efforts gold arrived in Portugal toward 1450 and by 1452, the steady flow  of gold, permitted the minting of Portugal's first gold Cruzado coin.
King Henry encouraged more private participation in mercantile expeditions to the Atlantic coast of Africa.  Alvise Cadamosto, an energetic Portuguese explorer, on his second voyage became the first to discoverer Cape Verde Islands (1456) and by 1462 they explored up to Sierra Leone. It was the farthest point reached  by Portuguese explorers during Henry's life time.  The credit goes to Bartolomeu Dias ( c. 1450 – 29 May 1500), a nobleman of the Portuguese royal, who twenty-eight years later, conclusively proved that Africa could be circumnavigated when he reached the southern tip of the continent, now known as the Cape of Good Hope.

Using the navigational skills and details of early explorations initiated by King Henry  along the west African coast, Vasco de Gama (c. 1460s – 24 December 1524), a Portuguese explorer circumvented the cape of Good Hope moved up along the East African coast and finally made the most important maritime discovery in world history in 1498 - the first ever sea route to India, the mystical land of spices, gold and gemstones.
Prince Henry, as he was commonly referred to, got the the nickname "Navigator"because of his vast contribution towards the discovery of new lands. In the annals of early European  Maritime exploration history and sea-faring,  King Henry is an immortal figure. The term Navigator was coined by two nineteenth-century German historians: Heinrich Schaefer and Gustave de Veer. Subsequently  two British authors with their biographies of the prince: Henry Major in 1868 and Raymond Beazley in 1895 made it popular.
 Henry is regarded as the patron of Portuguese exploration though some historians disagree with it.The truth is he  was mainly instrumental in imbibing the spirit of maritime adventure and exploration of new lands among the highly spirited Portuguese  mariners and navigators. After his death, there was a spurt in overseas exploration by the navigators from Portugal.
01. Henry became known as Prince Henry the Navigator because his school for navigation was so successful.
02. Though Prince Henry organized more than 50 voyages of exploration, he himself never went on one expedition.
03. He believed that to reach the Indian west coast, the ship had to circumvent the southern tip of Africa (The Cape of Good Hope).
04. African explorations brought in  new riches for Portugal.
05. In 1488, Bartholomeu Dias for the first time sailed around  the southern tip of Africa. His plan to proceed toward India was given up as his sailors were  frightened; so he  returned  to Portugal. The tip of Southern Africa was called the cape of Good Hope as the Portuguese were very close to discovering the new route to India. 

Henry's tomb in the Monastery of Batalha/
06. The unfortunate aspect of his exploration is he found a lucrative market for African slaves in Europe where they were used as servants. Besides, he was highly criticised for concerting African natives of some countries to Christianity.