Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Corte Real Family & Portugal

The Portuguese pioneered the European exploration of the Atlantic Ocean. The Corte Real family and their contributions during the age of discovery are enshrined in history forever.


Coat of Arms of the Corte Real Family

It is believed that the name “Corte Real” was originally a nickname given because these nobles were always to be found in the “Corte Real” or “Royal Court”; another version relates that the surname was given as a title because the family had distinguished itself in many royal services. The Corte Real family was always very close to the Royal House of Portugal and there fore took an active part in the conquests and the initial discoveries of the New World. Either way the genealogy of the Corte Real family dates back to 1367 beginning in the city of Tavira (the Province of Algarve).

João Vaz Corte Real wanted to establish himself in the Island of Terceira because he knew the favorable geographical position of that island in the North Atlantic. The navigators accurately calculated that Terceira was situated on the same latitude as Lisbon.


João Vaz Corte Real had landed at Terceira in 1472 after he returned from the land of Bacalhaus (Codfish) or by some considered Newfoundland. Corte Real wished to have a navigational outpost and also more income to further finance the search for the Northwest Passage. Indeed the island of Terceira became the center from which many voyages radiated out into the Atlantic for the purpose of exploring the Americas.

On May 4, 1483, Dom Manuel, grandmaster of the Order of Christ and later King of Portugal confirmed the Charter of 1472 given to João Vaz Corte Real for “the many services he performed for Prince Henry”, and in addition gave him the Island of St. George.
For almost 25 years João Vaz Corte Real continued to explore the North Atlantic, at the same time sharing his experience of navigation with his sons. When he died, in 1496, he left to his sons the governorship of Terceira and St. George, and also the fruits and legacy of his explorations. João Vaz Corte Real had 3 sons:

Gaspar Corte Real
Miguel Corte Real
Vasco Anes Corte Real

As was customary during the Medieval era young nobles completed their education living with a high born member of the nobility. Gaspar Corte Real lived in Lisbon as a Knight to the Duke of Beja, who then in 1491 became King Manuel I of Portugal. The Corte Real brothers spent much time at the Royal Court in Portugal while administrating over their lands in the Azores.



Gaspar Corte Real received a charter from King Manuel to discover and claim jurisdiction over lands in the New World. Evidence that Gaspar Corte Real left Lisbon for North America can be seen on the Royal Charter of May 12, 1500, given by King Manuel I. This document today lies in the Torre do Tombo, or Portuguese National Archives. It states that
“the ships and crew were obtained at the expense of Gaspar Corte Real who wanted to continue to look for, discover, and explore more islands and continents.”
Gaspar's first voyage was with one ship where he landed on a snow covered, cold land in the North Atlantic. His second expedition was with 3 ships where he arrived at a land filled with big green trees, naming it "Terra Verda" which translates to Greenland!

On returning to Europe, Gaspar's ship separated from the other 2 ships, and was seen heading south. Never less, Gaspar's ship never arrived in Lisbon. Gaspar's brother Miguel left in 1502 to search for him and disappeared as well. Both assumed had been lost at sea and had died, until in 1918 when a Professor at Brown University Edmund Delabarre discovered a rock that had been submerged under water for centuries which was named Dighton Rock. Dighton Rock is located in Dighton, Massachusetts. The stone 10 feet by 4 feet has many insriptions in it. One of the inscriptions bears the date 1511, together with the Portuguese Coat of Arms and name "Miguel Corte Real" which would mean that Miguel lived at least 9 years after his disapperance.

Statue of Gaspar Corte Real in Newfoundland, Canada


We know that Gaspar Corte Real was successful in his voyages because King Manuel I (January 27, 1501) gave a letter of promotion to João Martins for his outstanding participation as a crew member in Gaspar Corte Real’s voyage to Newfoundland.


The earliest documents connecting the Corte Real family with the Azores Islands are the charters of February 17, 1474 and April 2. 1474 granting João Vaz Corte Real, the father of Gaspar and Miguel, the governship of the Island of Terceira.

Cha Corte Real was one of the initial 14 tea plantations in the Azores island of Sao Miguel. Hermano Mota of Cha Gorreana was raised at the Cha Corte Real estate where the knowledge of tea production had been passed down for generations. Now Hermano Mota of Gorreana continues with the knowledge and love of tea from his childhood roots producing premium Black and Green organic teas in the Azores since he began running Gorreana in the 1970's to present.

1 comment:

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