Changing Allegiance

Magellan reenlisted in the summer of 1513 on a campaign to suppress insurgents in the Moroccan stronghold of Azzemour, where he received a severe leg injury that left him permanently lame. 

Magellan was accused of embezzlement, of trading illegally with the Moors and of returning to Lisbon without official leave. Although he was cleared of the charges, the Portuguese king refused Magellan any reward for his service. Magellan continuously petitioned the throne for a higher annuity or command of a vessel to return to the East. 

His requests were met with derision and dismissal. Magellan asked Manuel if he was free to take his services elsewhere. 

The Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494 had established a frontier between Spanish and Portuguese interests, drawing a line through the Atlantic. While the boundary was clear there, the situation on the other side of the globe was less certain, and wherever the equivalent meridian was, the Moluccas were close to it. 

The Portuguese claimed the Spice Islands were in their portion, but Magellan suggested Portuguese maps had been falsified to conceal the fact that they lay in the Spanish hemisphere. He offered to lead an expedition to the East Indies around the south of the American continent that would verify this notion. 

So, in 1517 the Portuguese Fernão de Magalhães became Hernan de Magallanes. Along with Ruy Faleiro, an eccentric astronomer and astrologer, he frequented Seville's Casa de Contretacion, the clearinghouse for information on pilotage, navigation and the geography of the Spanish Indies. 

While Magellan was sure that a western route to the Moluccas awaited discovery he was reluctant to disclose his exact plans to the Spanish authorities. A belief that the Pacific was narrower than it is encouraged him, as did letters from Serrao, who may have placed the Moluccas farther east than they are. 

While it is unclear what Magellan intended to do after he reached his objective it is unlikely that he planned to sail around the world since that would bring him back through Portuguese territory. 

After a disagreement with Faleiro, Magellan was interviewed by the royal counsellors, and he gained an audience with King Charles. 


© Ian Hughes 2017