Biography of Fernando de Magallanes

Fernando de Magellan, 16th century Portuguese explorer and navigator, Fernand de Magellan is the initiator of the first round-the-world trip. Discover the story of his journey.

 Fernando de Magallanes

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Brief biography of Fernand de Magellan – 16th century Portuguese navigator, Fernand de Magellan was born on January 1, 1480 in Sabrosa (Portugal).

He undertook the first trip around the world in 1519: Charles V had then entrusted him with the direction of an expedition of 5 ships to reach the Spice Islands (Indonesia) by the western route.

The expedition left Spain in September 1519, arrived in Brazil in December 1519, discovered the Strait of Magellan in October 1520, and reached the Philippines in March 1521.

Only one ship of 18 sailors returned to Spain in September 1522, having completed the first circumnavigation of the world in history.

His determination to find, on behalf of Spain, a way through the West to Indonesia allowed Fernand Magellan to discover the strait that bears his name, as well as the Philippine archipelago. He died on April 27, 1521 on the island of Mactan in the Philippines.

History of Fernando de Magallanes

Fernand de Magallanes was born in 1480, into a small noble family. He began his career as a page at the court of Portugal and then devoted himself to the profession of arms.

In 1505 he was commissioned as an officer to sail to India, probably on Francisco Almeida’s expedition.

This first maritime experience seems to have awakened in him a passion for navigation and adventure. Already in 1506, he participated in the expeditions of the Portuguese navigator Alfonso de Albuquerque to the East Indies.

Appointed a captain in 1510, he participated in other military expeditions to India and Malacca. Around 1512, he came into conflict with the authorities and had to return to his homeland.

The respite was brief as he was sent to Morocco in 1513. During the conflicts in which he was involved, he seriously injured his knee.

He was also accused of embezzlement and lost the favor of the court. The king refused to increase his lifetime income for all the services he had rendered to the country.

Magellan’s ambition was to discover a new route to India, but his project was also rejected by the king. He chose to go to Spain.

Magellan’s Journey

Leaving a country that seemed too ungrateful to him, Magellan offered his services to the King of Spain, the future Charles V, in 1517.

He hopes to realize his dream of exploration. Above all because he knew how to convince the sovereign of his usefulness.

In fact, at the end of the 15th century, Portugal and Spain shared their future overseas territories under the Treaty of Tordesillas.

Thus, the territories to the west of the Atlantic were assigned to Spain, while those to the east returned to Portugal.

If, on behalf of Spain, Magellan were to discover a route from the west to the Spice Islands (Indonesia), the country could legitimately claim these lands.

The young king liked the idea, especially because the spice trade was an ideal way to enrich the country.

Despite the Portuguese intervention, Magellan managed to leave Spain on September 20, 1519, with five ships and a crew of several hundred men at his command.

The Magellan World Tour

Embarked on the Trinidad ship, Magellan sails towards America and finds the way to cross the continent towards the west.

After reaching the east coast, he stops in Brazil, and then explores the estuary of the Rio de la Plata, hoping to find a passage to the sea. Without success.

Therefore, he decided to set foot in South America, in Patagonia, for a few months.

Tired and having lost hope, some of the crew are exasperated by their captain’s determination.

They mutinied, but Magellan managed to suppress the revolt. Having returned to the sea, the navigator finally reached a strait towards the western ocean. He gives it his name.

But the crossing of this passage turns out to be long and difficult. One ship ran aground, while the other mutinied and returned to Spain.

After more than a month, on November 28, 1520, the expedition finally reached the ocean. Surprised by the extreme tranquility of its waters, Magellan gave it the name “Pacific”. He continued on his way, far from imagining the immensity of the Ocean.

It took three long months to cross it and it was a hungry and exhausted crew that arrived in Guam, in the Mariana Islands, on March 6, 1521.

Magellan, however, preferred not to stay in the area too long and go back to sailing. On March 16, he discovered the Philippines, and then the island of Cebu, where he made a stopover.

Death

Having gained ground among the natives of Cebu Island, Magellan set about gently converting the inhabitants.

Once he succeeded, he agreed to assist the local sovereign. The latter sought to establish his dominion on the nearby island of Mactan.

Taking up arms again, Magellan throws himself into a battle from which he does not emerge alive. After the death of his captain, two ships rushed back to sea, while a third was set on fire.

Both arrived at the Moluccas, but only one of them, commanded by Elcano, sailed around Africa through the Cape of Good Hope and returned home on September 6, 1522.

It thus became the first ship in history to have completed a circumnavigation (round-the-world trip).

Although Magellan could not complete his journey, he remains the sole instigator.

In addition to the feat accomplished by one of his ships, his journey confirms in concrete terms that the Earth is truly round.

He also contributed to the development of trade between America and East Asia.

Key dates

January 1, 1480: Magellan is born.

Fernão de Magalhaes was born in Sabrosa, Portugal, into a small aristocratic family. Very soon, his father managed to take him to the court of Queen Eleanor as a page.

March 25, 1505: Magellan sets sail for India

A man of action, Fernand de Magallanes embarks on the expedition of Francisco de Almeida, explorer and viceroy of the Portuguese Indies.

Sent by the King of Portugal, Manuel I, the mission of the expedition was to ensure the country’s hegemony in the Indian Ocean.

Almeida was later replaced by Alfonso de Albuquerque. Magellan will then, it seems, pass under the orders of the latter.

1510: Magellan is promoted to captain.

Thanks to the military actions he led in the East Indies on behalf of Portugal, Magellan was promoted to captain. He continued to participate in military expeditions to Albuquerque before returning to his country in 1512.

September 1, 1513: Magellan is sent to Morocco.

As soon as he returned to Portugal, Magellan was sent to Morocco as part of the Duke of Bragança’s expedition.

He participated in several battles, but in one of them he was seriously injured in the knee. He will keep the after-effects of this injury for the rest of his life.

During the expedition, Magellan was also accused of illegal trade and lost the favors of his superiors.

1517: Magellan presents his project to Spain

Disappointed by the many refusals of the Portuguese king, Magellan decided to deny his origins and proposed his project to Spain.

He plans to reach the Moluccas, one of the spice islands, from the west.

Convinced of the rotundity of the Earth, Magellan thought he could discover a new route to what would later be called the Pacific Ocean.

Rejected initially by Spain, his project will arouse the interest of the young king, Charles I (future King Charles V) the following year.

Magellan was able to convince him by showing him that the lands discovered when passing through the west could legitimately return to Spain.

The country could then become rich thanks to the spice trade.

September 20th 1519 : Departure from Magellan to the Indies

The expedition under the command of the Portuguese navigator Fernand de Magallanes leaves the Andalusian port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

Convinced that Asia could be reached by avoiding the lands of the New World discovered by Columbus in 1492, Magellan, on behalf of Charles V, had to prepare the way for the route of the spices.

He will fulfill his mission admirably, but he will never return to Spain because he will die during his journey.

Only one of the five ships of the expedition returned safely three years later, completing the first circumnavigation of the world.

October 21st, 1520: Magellan crosses his strait.

For the first time in history, a European will cross the strait in South America that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean.

Indeed, the Portuguese explorer and navigator Fernand de Magellan has just discovered a passage to the west towards the Spice Islands (Indonesia).

He will enter there on November 1st and will reach the Pacific Ocean on November 28th.

He will give his name to this strait, which will be widely used before the opening of the Panama Canal.

In reference to the date of Magellan’s entry into the Strait, it was called for a long time the “Strait of All Saints”.

March 16, 1521: Magellan discovers the Philippines.

At the head of an expedition of three ships (he lost two on the way) with a Spanish flag, the Portuguese navigator Fernand de Magallanes came to see the Philippines.

Starting on September 20, 1519, Magellan managed to reach Asia by the western route. He landed in the Philippines and evangelized the local population of that country.

March 31, 1521: Magellan arrives in Patagonia.

Fernand de Magallanes and his expedition arrive at Puerto San Julián, Patagonia. Thus, he is the first European to set foot in this region of southern Argentina.

Magellan decides to stay on site for several months. But during this period, he will have to face the discontent of some of his men, who mutiny.

However, he managed to restore the situation, sometimes using force. It is said that during the stopover, Magellan and his crew saw huge men with giant feet.

It is said that they were called “Patagones”, which means “Big Feet”.

April 27, 1521: Magellan dies in the Philippines.

The Portuguese navigator Fernand de Magellan is killed by a poisoned arrow on the small island of Mactan (Philippines) by natives.

He had gone there with the aim of helping the sovereign of the island of Cebu to establish his dominion over the territory.

Editor’s Note

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