Dom Lopo Vaz de Sampaio, Knight, Explorer, and Governor of India

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The father of Dom Iago de Sampaio y Belmonte dedicated his life to maritime exploration and trade between Portugal and the Far East during the XV and XVI centuries.

"The only truly dead are those who have been forgotten." - Proverb.

Lopo was born around 1450 in Portugal, in a family that descended from Count João Afonso Telo de Menezes, Lopo Fernandes Pacheco, Senhor de Ferreira de Aves, and King Sancho IV de Castilla y león. In existing genealogies he is listed also as a descendant of Charlemagne and William I of England[1.94][10]. Going further back in time, tradition would say that he was a direct descendant of Caius Asinius Nichomachus V Julianus[1.134] and that he would have Davidic blood thorough the line adscribed to Western royalty, but that is – at least now – unverifiable for reasons that we have already commented (see Dom Iago de Sampayo y Belmonte.)

He was the grandson of Lopo Vaz – names tend to repeat in this family - and the son of Rui Lopes de Sampaio[1.127], who was the Senhor de Ansiães. Lopo received his knighthood by king Afonso V, married Guiomar de Eca[1.117] and had one daughter, Mécia de Sampaio[1.128], and three sons, Pero[1.129], Iago[1.2] and Gaspar[1.130]. His mother was Constança Pereira[1.126].

There were two people named Iago – or Diogo – in his family; one was Dom Diogo de Sampayo Senhor de Ansiães[1.131], and the other was Dom Iago de Sampayo y Belmonte[1.2] who was his son. The other was probably Lopo's brother, albeit he could conceivably be his father as well. According to Gottheil et al[24] the Schoenberg family descends from the Senhor de Belmonte (see The First Schoenbergs in Warsaw).

Some sources indicate that Lopo Vaz was the son of Briolanja de Melo ad Diogo (Iago) de Sampaio[100.2]. However, the birth dates probably don't match. Both in the cases of Diogo de Sampaio[1.131] and Briolanja de Melo[1.132] the dates of birth are indicated about 1440, so they wouldn't be able to have a child at 10 years old. It is more likely that Diogo was a brother of Lopo Vaz and Isabel Pereira[1.133], who adopted her maternal surname, was his sister.

He fought on several occasions in North Africa and India, and was captain of Vasco da Gama and Albuquerque[102][103].

He became the sixth Portuguese governor of India[2] in replacement of Henrique de Meneses, whose administration was considered a failure; Henrique de Meneses wasn't a particularly good administrator and died from an untreated leg wound before his term was over[102]. During that time, the seas around India became infested with pirates and there was a serious security problem for Portuguese interests in the sub continent[101.1].

Although Lopo was considered a competent and honest leader, his position in practical and political terms was not strong. Originally, Pero Mascarenhas was chosen as governor of India, but his tenure as governor of Malacca made it impossible because he couldn't be reached in time to take over the vacant seat, so it became necessary to select alternate nominees from a list made in Lisbon, and Lopo was there.

Jayne[106.1], however, describes a situation in which Vasco da Gama, already knowing that he would die and suffering from chronic abscesses, especially in his neck, and following the advice of his confessor delegated his authority on Afonso Mexia and Lopo Vaz de Sampaio until a new governor became nominated. Then he died on Christmas eve, 1524. The death of the viceroy sent a sense of relief, for Vasco da Gama was more feared than loved. He was considered an arrogant by then[107.1]. In fact, Vasco da Gama had been sweeping corruption and enemies, aided by the Mexia and de Samaio for some time before his death; many Muslims and even Christians fled from his presence, out of fear[106.2], so we can assume that Lopo Vaz should have thought and acted similarly to Vasco da Gama, in general.

Dom Lopo Vaz de Sampaio
Lopo Vaz de Sampaio, by Faria e Sousa : Ásia portuguesa. Parte I 1666,
From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia, public domain[108].

Mascarenhas and his supporters contested Lopo's right to held the office of governor if India and hence he was limited in what he could do. Interestingly, his son Iago[1.2], born in 1493, had married Maria Andrea Mascarenhas[1.1] in 1522. Dom Iago de Sampayo y Belmonte was sent to Amsterdam, apparently in an official capacity – probably as a diplomat – and remained there the rest of his life; there might be several reasons for this:

A few years later he learned about his father's troubles and did not want to expose himself or his family to the same.

Ambassadors and diplomats usually lived very long periods of time on the countries where they were stationed at.

The Sampayos were "Marranos" so after the Inquisition gained power in Portugal there was not much to return to except a burning stake.

Despite that, Lopo Vaz accomplished the destruction of the fleet of the king of Cambay in 1528, organized a powerful fleet with which his successor as governor could gain the strategic initiative against Portugal's enemies in the region, and also seized the fort of Mahim Bay, in Mumbai, from the sultanate of Gujarat. The fort had been the place of a number of fights because of its strategic position[104].

During his tenure as governor of India, a man called António Tenreiro trekked from India to Portugal over the continents; this was a trip that many attempted, but few survived.

Lopo Vaz de Sampaio kept his office in India between 1526 to 1529. In that year he was substituted by a relative, Nuno da Cunha, and sent back to Portugal as a prisoner as a result of his political and commercial with Pero Mascarenhas and his supporters. He later petitioned his freedom to king João III successfully.

Perhaps reflecting a state policy targeted towards those who had lost the auspicies of the Portuguese court, as it happened in the case of Cabral, it seems that Lopo Vaz de Sampaio fell into relative obscurity after leaving India, despite his career and achievements.

The death of Lopo Vaz de Sampaio is still under debate; some authors put it in Lisbon, 1534, while in other cases the date of 18 Apr 1538, in his birthplace, Carrazeda de Ansiães, in Bragança, is mentioned.

Portuguese Carracks Off a Rocky Coast
Portuguese Carracks Off a Rocky Coast, abt 1540, Joachim Patinir?,
From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia, public domain[105].

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