Enrique of Malacca Enrique of Malacca was the first person to circumnavigate the globe linguistically—he traveled so far in one direction (west) that he came to a place where his own language was spoken. Enrique may have also circumnavigated the globe completely, a full circle of the earth beginning and ending in Malacca or somewhere in the Philippines. 

Enrique departed Malacca on the Malay Peninsula in 1512 or 1513, taken as a slave by Ferdinand Magellan after the 1511 Portuguese invasion of the area trade hub. They went first to Lisbon and later to Spain before departing on the Magellan-Elcano expedition that first circled the globe. Enrique was last seen by Magellan's fleet at Cebu (Philippines), some 2,600 kilometers from Malacca.

1558 Carrack Pieter Bruegel the Elder

March 18, 2022

Magellan Wounded in Combat in Morocco, Defects to Spain

Conquest of Azamor, 1513.
Portugal's Conquest of Azamor, 1513.

(Profiles: Magellan, Part 2)

For Ferdinand Magellan, life moved swiftly from tropical amphibious combat in Southeast Asia to war in North Africa on horseback.

Magellan returned to Lisbon in 1512 or 1513, bringing with him Enrique, the slave he claimed at Malacca. Unfortunately, the Malay teenager was about all the fortune Magellan collected in seven years’ service in India, where a single shipment of spices returned to Europe could provide for a man's retirement.

Magellan invested the riches he collected in a trade deal that went sour, a slap in the face he learned of on return to Lisbon. (The 2022 Mark Wahlberg film Uncharted was way off; Magellan never “amassed a fortune.”)

In August 1513, Magellan was pressed into service in a cavalry unit sent to Morocco, along with his brother, Diogo de Sousa. To put down a rebellion in Azamor (Azemmour), southwest of Casablanca, King Manuel I launched a major assault on the coastal city. Magellan joined a force of 500 ships, 13,000 foot soldiers, and 2,000 cavalry—the largest ever sent from Portugal, which suddenly had substantial wealth pouring in from Asia and Africa at its disposal.

This was Magellan’s practical experience leading up to the circumnavigation: serving as a soldier in far-flung fleets, often huge. In 1505, Magellan sailed to India with the new viceroy Francisco de Almeida. That colonizing fleet consisted of 21 ships and 1,500 men, among them noblemen like Magellan, as well as slaves, convicts, not to mention merchants, shoemakers, carpenters, priests, judges, and physicians.*

View of Azamor, Georg Braun, 1572. Target of Magellan's attack in 1513.
Azamor, Georg Braun, 1572.

At Azamor, Magellan was among the first to land and reach the city walls, and as in the past, his spirit outpaced his luck. At the start, Magellan’s finances were such that he had difficulty affording a horse, and at Azamor his mount was quickly killed by an enemy lance. Shortly after, Magellan himself was hit by a lance, in the knee—an injury that left him with a permanent limp. It was one of several times he had been wounded in battle.

Magellan’s fortunes with King Manuel continued to deteriorate, and humiliated, Magellan finally followed through on his threat to reach the Moluccas “by way of Portugal or Castile.” In 1518, Magellan defected to the newly united Spain, the union of Castile and Aragon. His plan was to approach the Spanish crown for backing, just as Christopher Columbus had decades earlier.

Columbus won backing from Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. Magellan would be applying to their grandson, the new Spain’s new King Carlos I, a young Habsburg who would soon after become Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.  

In 1518 Magellan met with Charles and his advisers at Valladolid. There, he presented maps, documents, and people—including his slave Enrique, who probably spoke better Spanish than the 18-year-old monarch from Flanders.

Rui Faleiro, Magellan and Enrique co-commander.
Rui Faleiro.

King Charles agreed to fund the mission, naming Magellan and a partner, the astronomer Rui Faleiro, as co-commanders, though Faleiro was suffering from mental illness by this time and did not ultimately join the expedition.

Magellan may have won over Charles and his Flemish advisers, but Spanish officials were horrified at the thought of a Portuguese leading a major Spanish venture. They immediately set to work sabotaging the project. They made it difficult for Magellan to prepare his ships and hire crew, and merchants in Seville delivered only half the provisions paid for (which the fleet learned of only at Puerto San Julian when it was too late). 

More-deadly challenges loomed, as well. The Portuguese were likely trying to assassinate Magellan before he made it to sea, and they were expected to send ships to stop him if he did. Worse, going forward, the real enemy was within. The fleet set sail with a ready conspiracy among senior officers to mutiny at some point. 

Just getting his Armada de Molucca launched was a major feat for Ferdinand Magellan, before he ever set out across the Atlantic to sail south off the end of the map.

Read Part 3, coming soon.


* Today people debate whether to call Magellan, Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and others "explorers," "navigators," or "colonizers." The historian Yuval Harari offers the correct description in his book Sapiens: "explorer-conquerors." They set out to "explore" (to find and take over) and to learn.

By John Sailors

Enrique's Voyage


• Top: André Peres, via Wikimedia Commons.

Azamor: Georg Braun; Frans Hogenberg, via Wikimedia Commons.

Faleiro: FrotzYes, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

(C) 2022 by John Sailors. All rights reserved.

Enrique's Voyage Profile: Ferdinand Magellan

(C) 2022, by John Sailors.

Enrique's Voyage Profiles

On March 28, 1521, Enrique of Malacca became the first person to complete a linguistic circumnavigation of the globe—he traveled so far in one direction that he reached a point where his language was spoken. Enrique’s journey began a decade earlier following the sack of Malacca, when he became a slave of Ferdinand Magellan. Read more.

Pigafetta went far beyond chronicling the progress of Magellan’s fleet; his passion for learning about cultures and languages made him an early anthropologist of sorts. Antonio Pigafetta (c. 1491 – c. 1531) was the principal chronicler of the Magellan-Elcano expedition that became the first to circumnavigate the globe in 1519–1522. An Italian scholar-turned explorer, Pigafetta was among the 18 crew members who survived the journey and returned to Spain aboard the nao Victoria …  Read more.

Magellan's Real Circumnavigation, Enrique of Malacca Taken as Slave (Magellan, Part 1)

Schoolchildren around the world are taught the name Ferdinand Magellan[1]—“the first person to circumnavigate the globe”—many in grade school and again high school. But few people know Magellan's story, that he was killed in the Philippines halfway through that circumnavigation, and moreover, that he still came within 2,600 kilometers of fully circling the earth. Read more.

For Ferdinand Magellan, life moved swiftly from tropical amphibious combat in Southeast Asia to land war on horseback in North Africa. Magellan returned to Lisbon in 1512 or 1513, bringing with him Enrique, the slave he claimed at Malacca. Unfortunately, the Malay teenager was about all the fortune Magellan collected in seven years’ service in India. Magellan invested the riches he collected in a trade deal that went sour, a slap in the face he learned of on return to Lisbon … Read more.

Spain's King Charles named Magellan captain-general of the Armada de Molucca, but from the start he had to enforce his authority with an iron hand. In Asia a decade earlier Magellan had been more soldier than sailor. Now as commander of a naval fleet, Magellan relied on his military fleet background to maintain control of his own armada. Read more.

Holy Roman Emperor Charles V Backs Magellan's Armada

Ferdinand Magellan’s Armada de Molucca was financed by Carlos I (1500–1558), the newly crowned king of a unified Castile and Aragon. Carlos was an eighteen-year-old Habsburg from Flanders who barely spoke Spanish. Between the time he agreed to back Magellan's expedition and its departure, he became Charles V, Holy Roman emperor, and archduke of Austria.   Read More.

Juan de Cartagena Leads Mutiny Against Magellan

Juan de Cartagena, a native of Burgos, was the original captain of the San Antonio and one of the human obstacles Ferdinand Magellan had to overcome on the expedition. History labels Magellan and Columbus and other ship captains as “explorers” and “navigators.” Cartagena is identified as “an accountant and a ship captain” [1], not quite the swashbuckling image that inspires fifth graders in history class.   Read more.

(C) 2022 by John Sailors. All rights reserved.