FAQ: What was Enrique of Malacca’s Real Name?

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Enrique of Malacca’s original name is unknown. Ferdinand Magellan christened him Enrique after taking the boy as a slave in 1511 or 1512. Historians later added Malacca to identify his origin. The Portuguese version is Henrique de Malaca; the Spanish is Enrique de Malaca. Other variants of Enrique’s name include the Malay spelling of the city, Melaka.

In his last will and testament (1519), Magellan listed Enrique as “…my captured slave Enrique, mulatto, native of the city of Malacca …” (In his will, Magellan decreed Enrique free upon Magellan’s death.) 

At around the same time, Enrique was listed in the fleet’s rosters as just Enrique, an “interpreter,” one with a salary equal to officers in the fleet.

Enrique of Malacca has picked up other names over the past century, most prominently the name Panglima Awang, given the character as envisioned by the Malay author Harun Aminurrashid (1907–1986). Aminurrashid’s historical novel Panglima Awang caught people’s imagination in Southeast Asia—an Austronesian hero to learn and teach about. Other names such as Henry the Black have also been used.

The English equivalent of Enrique is Henry. Some have speculated Magellan named the boy—at the time a teenager sailing halfway around the world (Malacca to Portugal)—after the Portuguese prince Henry the Navigator (Dom Henrique of Portugal, Duke of Viseu, 1394–1460), who began Portugal’s maritime exploration push. Though Henry himself “navigated” very little, he was introduced to navigation and geography by his British mother, Philippa of Lancaster (1360–1415). Philippa in turn had become acquainted with navigation through tutoring by Geoffrey Chaucer when she was a child.

Over the decade after leaving Malacca, it’s possible Enrique rarely heard or spoke his original name. On Magellan’s flagship Trinidad, the name Enrique would have been spoken in varying accents by Castilians, Portuguese, Genoese, possibly the French gunners, and maybe by the one Englishman in the ship’s crew (who would have been speaking Spanish).

It’s a curious thought: When Enrique reached Limasawa after circumnavigating the globe, when for the first time in a decade he was using a near-native language or dialect, how did he introduce himself? Enrique? Or perhaps Panglima Awang, a name chosen for a Malay hero?[1]


• Malay: Enrique dari Melaka
• Chinese (traditional): 馬六甲的恩里克
• Chinese (Simplified): 马六甲的恩里克
• Pinyin: Mǎliùjiǎ de ēn lǐ kè

1. My own guess is Enrique introduced himself in Malay as "Where can I get rice and some decent food around here?"

People interested in Enrique of Malacca FAQs may also be interested in Enrique Voyage Profiles.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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