Enrique of Malacca

"Henry the Black" redirects here. For other uses, see Henry the Black (disambiguation).
Enrique of Malacca

Statue of Enrique in the Maritime Museum of Malacca, Malaysia
Other names Henrique, Heinrich
Occupation slave, interpreter
Known for probably being the first to circumnavigate the world as part of Ferdinand Magellan's voyages

Enrique of Malacca (Spanish: Enrique de Malaca; Portuguese: Henrique de Malaca), was a native of the Malay Archipelago who became a slave of the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in the 16th century. Italian historian Antonio Pigafetta, who wrote the most comprehensive account of Magellan's voyage, named him "Henrique" (which was Hispanicised as Enrique in official Spanish documents). Pigafetta explicitly states that "Henrique" was a native of Sumatra. His name appears as "Henrique",[1] which is Portuguese, and is probably the name given to him at his christening, as he was baptised a Roman Catholic by his Portuguese captors. His name appears only in Pigafetta's account, in Magellan's Last Will, and in official documents at the Casa de Contratación de las Indias of the Magellan expedition to the Philippines.

As set out in Magellan's document Last Will, Magellan acquired Enrique as a slave at Malacca, most probably at the early stages of the siege by the Portuguese in 1511. His Christian name, Henrique, may indicate that his capture was on 13 July, the feast-day of St Henry, which was several days from the start of the siege of Malacca by the Portuguese under the leadership of Afonso de Albuquerque.

Enrique's baptism is attested by Magellan himself in his Will, in which he states that Enrique was a Christian. Magellan also explicitly mentions that Enrique was a native of Malacca. Eyewitness documents of Antonio Pigafetta, Ginés de Mafra, the Genoese pilot, Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, Juan Sebastián Elcano, and Bartolomé de las Casas, and secondary sources such as João de Barros and Francisco López de Gómara, refer to him as a slave.

Magellan expedition

Enrique accompanied Magellan back to Europe, and onwards on Magellan's search for a westward passage to the East Indies, and he served as an interpreter for the Spaniards. Ginés de Mafra explicitly states in his first hand account that Enrique was taken on the expedition primarily because of his ability to speak the Malay language: "He [Magellan] told his men that they were now in the land he had desired, and sent a man named Herédia, who was the ship's clerk, ashore with an Indian they had taken, so they said, because he was known to speak Malay, the language spoken in the Malay Archipelago." The island in the Philippines where Enrique spoke and was understood by the natives was Mazaua, which Mafra locates somewhere near Mindanao.

Enrique the Traitor

The Genoese pilot of the Magellan expedition, states — wrongly — in his eye-witness account that the Spaniards had no interpreter when they arrived back to Cebu, because Enrique had died on Mactan along with Magellan during the Battle of Mactan in 1521. However, Enrique was very much alive on 1 May 1521, and attended a feast given by Rajah Humabon to the Spaniards. Antonio Pigafetta writes that the survivor João Serrão, who was pleading with the crew from the shore to save him from the Cebuano tribesmen, said that all those who went to the banquet were slain, except for Enrique.[2] A discourse by Giovanni Battista Ramusio claims that Enrique warned the Chief of Subuth that the Spaniards were plotting to capture the king and that this led to the murder of Serrão and others at the banquet.[3]


Enrique accompanied Magellan on all his voyages, including the voyage that circumnavigated the world between 1519 and 1521. On 1 May he was left in Cebu, and there is nothing more said of Enrique in any document.

Historians and others have often speculated that Enrique was the first to circumnavigate the world. The official and generally accepted view is that Elcano and his sailors were the first, according to Maximilianus Transylvanus and Antonio Pigafetta documents. Enrique is only documented to have travelled with Magellan from Malacca to Cebu, 2500 km and 20 degrees of longitude short of completing the circumnavigation. It is not known if he ever had a chance to complete it.

See also



  1. "Martín Fernández de Navarrete". Page 14. Retrieved 22 March 2009.
  2. Pigafetta, Antonio (1874), Lord Stanley of Alderley, ed., The First Voyage Round the World by Magellan and other documents, p. 104
  3. Pigafetta 1874, p. 201

External links

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