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Prince Henry the Navigator

also known asCivilization:Hispanic: Portugal

Enrique of Portugal

Era: Exploration
1394–1460Field of Renown:explorer: Africa

 Prince Henry the Navigator

Prince Henry the Navigator was the third son of King John I of Portugal. He is widely credited with being the mastermind to the exploration of the African coast undertaken by Portugal during the 15th century, which lead first to the discovery of a sea-route from Europe to Asia and shortly thereafter to the discovery of the New World.

The technology most responsible for the exploration of the Altantic was the development of the caravel, a ship large and maneuverable enough for long-range ocean voyages. But the inspiration to push for ocean exploration, in dangerous uncharted waters, along a desert coastline, to trade with a land inhabited by savages, wild beasts, and deadly fevers, is strongly attributed to Prince Henry. He trained and financed numerous expeditions, and recorded with great care the logs of the returning travelers. He hired a cartologist, made maps of his new discoveries, and encouraged innovations in ship design and navigation.

For over thirty years, under Henry's direction, the Portuguese made continual geographical discoveries, and improvements in ship-design and sea-faring methods. It took nearly twenty years for Henry's sailors to navigate down the coast of Africa, as far as Cape Blanco beyond the Sahara desert,but this opened up the way to trade with sub-Saharan Africa, and attracted commercial, as well as scientific exploration. The west coast was particularly difficult due to rough tides, frequent storms, and a lack of protected bays, but Prince Henry faced every challenge and pushed on.

Two of Henry's most famous pilots were Nuno Tristan, who sailed as far as Guines-Bissau and brought the first African slaves to Europe; and Cadamosto, a venetian who explored the Gambia river and discovered the Cape Verde islands, but there were many more who made important discoveres.

Prince Henry died almost 30 years before the southern tip of Africa was discovered, but the legacy he left, of fearless and persistant exploration, enabled the Portuguese to achieve his dream of finding a sea-route to Asia, and ending dependence on the Moslems for trade.

Key events during the life of Prince Henry the Navigator.

Year Event
1394 Birth of Prince Henry, as the third son of John I of Portugal.
1415 Participated in the conquest of Ceuta, a Moslem trading port south of Spain.
1420 Appointed governor of the 'Order of Christ' a wealthy military order.
1420 Madeira Islands are discovered and colonized by Portuguese.
1427 Azore Islands are discovered and colonized by Portuguese.
1434 Portuguese explorer sailed south of Cape Bojador.
1436 Led a failed expedition against the Moors at Tangier.
1441 Nuno Tristan reached Cape Blanco—beyond the Saharan desert.
1444 First private merchant ships sent to trade direction with Sub-saharan Africa.
1456 Cadamosto discovers Cape Verde Islands.
1460 Death of Prince Henry the Navigator.


Story LinksBook Links
The Constant Prince  in  Red Book of Heroes  by  Lang
Land of Prester John  in  South Africa  by  Colvin
Rediscovery of West Africa  in  Land of the Golden Trade  by  Lang
Prince Henry the Navigator  in  Story of the Thirteen Colonies  by  Guerber
How Brave Men Went Sailing upon Unknown Seas  in  Our Empire Story  by  Marshall
Changes Caused by the Discovery of the New World  in  Story of Europe  by  Marshall
Sea of Darkness  in  Discovery of New Worlds  by  Synge
Prince Henry of Portugal  in  Book of Discovery  by  Synge

Image Links
Prince Henry  in First Book in American History

Contemporary Short Biography
John I of Portugal Founder of the Aziz dynasty in Portugal and father of Henry the Navigator.
Saint Fernando Brother of Prince Henry the Navigator. Chose to remain in prison rather than allow Portugal to cede a Moslem city captured previously.
Alvise Cadamosto Early Portuguese explorer who, under the direction of Prince Henry the Navigator, discover Cape Verdes and the Gambia river.
Nuno Tristan Portuguese explorer, sent by Henry the Navigator, who sailed as far south as Guinea in 1445.