FAQ: What Was Enrique of Malacca’s Cause of Death?

Cebu (Philippines).

It’s not known how Enrique of Malacca died. Enrique was present at the massacre on Cebu on May 1, 1521, where 27 crew including many top officers were ambushed. One officer, Juan Serrano, was dragged to the beach alive. Apparently shouting from shore he reported that all were dead except for Enrique.

Ferdinand Magellan’s chronicler, Antonio Pigafetta, wrote later that Enrique of Malacca had instigated the ambush following a dispute with Duarte Barbosa, Magellan’s brother-in-law. Barbosa and Serrano were elected co-commanders after Magellan's death at nearby Mactan five days earlier. But after the report from Serrano, the fleet departed immediately for fear of a further attack, so no investigation was done. Serrano was abandoned on the beach, and Enrique never seen.

At this point Enrique of Malacca disappeared from history. It’s possible he was killed in the ambush, and it’s possible he was held for a time or permanently. 

But Enrique had circumnavigated the globe at least linguistically, arriving where a home language was shared. He had come to within 2,600 kilometers of Malacca; he certainly could have found transport back to Malacca, or to somewhere nearby that was safe from the Portuguese. Enrique’s knowledge of the Spanish and the Portuguese would have been invaluable, as would his language skills.


Magellan's Cross Pavilion: By Carlo Joseph Moskito - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71722256

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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