- Feb 4, 2006
30 May 1453 – Somewhere off the Coast of Africa
I hope you can hear me. This is Rupert Wainscoting, coming to you from the main deck of the Santiago Maior, somewhere off the Coast of Africa. Where? Well, that I can't tell you. The Portuguese are an insular lot, and I've been blindfolded for weeks! Now, the blindfold is off, and we're in a squall. Waves are literally crashing over the side, and we're all starting to look like so many drowned cats. Apparently, we spotted a turn in the coast a few days ago, and are following it. Captain Alvaro Fernandes, can you give us some idea of where we are?
Well, there you have it. A mystery inside an enigma, onboard a very small ship with a very small, smelly Portuguese man. Back to you in the studio.
Thanks for that, Rupert. We’re here with government minister Antonio Francisco de Brito. Now, reports are coming in telling us that the Medici family of Florence have been sending funds in support of Portuguese exploration. However, allegations have arisen that King Afonso’s cartographers have been sending the Italian city-state falsified maps. Mr de Brito, are you able to confirm your maps’ authenticity?
So, are you sending the Florentines false maps of Africa?
So, why then the guardedness over their authenticity?
You must see it from our view. There are things which are known. These are the known things. Then there are the things which are not known. These are the not known things. Between these two polarities sit the things which may and may not be. When we commission a map, ships are sent out. Points slide along this continuum. Things that are not known may now be, and things which previously only might have been become known. Beyond that, some known things might indeed become things which only might be, and things which might have been become known to not exist. Yes?
Well, there you have it… Whatever… it… was. We now go to… No, I’m sorry. We’re just getting word of some developments in Valladolid. We’re joined there by our correspondent Frances Franklin.
Yes, thank you, Nigel. We’re here with the Portuguese embassy in Valladolid where an alliance has been formed between the Castilian and Portuguese kingdoms. Following months of speculation and weeks of negotiation, the terms have been ironed out, the disagreements agreed, the paper signed, and the ink dried. Senor Ruiz, the Castilian Minister of State, has agreed to meet with us to discuss the impact of today’s developments.
Mr Ruiz, firstly, thank you for taking time out of your busy day to meet with us.
Quite an exciting day for you.
Do you think this agreement sees an end to tensions on your western borders?
We have no quarrel with the Portuguese. They are a cute little country.
So, would you say then that you don’t see your two states as equals in international affairs?
When one steps on an insect, one feels badly about the affair, but one does not question the worthiness of the particular insect’s existence. One merely wipes one’s shoe.
So, would you compare Portugal to an insect?
A most noble insect, to be sure. A butterfly perhaps. Not a small, ugly bug. A small, beautiful insect. We will try not to step on them. That is what today is about.
Thank you, Senor Ruiz. Well, there you have it. Perhaps not the air of mutual respect one might have hoped for, but a concord nonetheless. Back to the studio.
We’re actually going to turn you straight over to the Royal Palace in Lisboa, where King Afonso V has been meeting with top advisors. Can you hear me, Helen? What’s been happening?
Well, to be honest, we’re not exactly sure. The king called together his inner circle a few hours ago. That was followed by several hours of deliberation. Courtiers have been in and out all afternoon. The air is ripe with excitement. We’re hoping that Garcia de Carvalho, the minister who has been in charge of exploration since the passing of Prince Henry, can give us more information. Mr Carvalho? Mr Carvalho, would you wait a moment, please? Mr Carvalho…
(growing more distant) Our future lies beyond the seas, not in some dusty patch of North Africa!
Well, we’ve lost Mr Carvalho. It would seem that there was some sort of deliberation over Portugal’s somewhat archaic claims on North Africa. If Mr Carvalho’s outburst has carried any weight in the court, then we can expect more south, and less east, from Portugal in future. The Moroccans will be breathing a sigh of relief tonight.
Wait… just a moment. We have a courtier coming this way!
Excuse us! Sir? We’d just like to… (sound of a door opening and closing) No, I’m afraid we’ve lost him. No, wait. He’s just emerged again. Sir, could you give us any information as to that missive you were carrying?
That would be improper. And most likely illegal. (A cheer erupts from within the court) Well, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt. The Azores have received their civic charter. Our second colony is now part of our realm! It is a great day, Madam.
(the cries and cheers of a small group of people)
Hello! This is Victor McVitie, live in the Azores, where word of the civic charter went out some hours ago. The residents of the capital are out in their dozens, the wine has been opened, and the atmosphere is… well, I wouldn’t say electric. But the few people who actually live on this godforsaken bunch of rocks at the earth’s edge have certainly got their party hats on tonight!
Well, we’ve brought in our Portuguese expert, Carlos Gustavo, for analysis and insight. Carlos, exciting times in Portugal.
To be sure, Nigel. The southness and the westness of it all is wonderful.
Yes. You’re a bit of an insider. Can you give us any indication as to how far south the Portuguese intend on going?
How South is South? How long is a piece of string? Perhaps there is no end to South? Perhaps we will sail on forever. Perhaps we will find the end of the earth. Perhaps we will emerge at the top from the bottom. The only thing that is certain is that every new discovery brings new glory to great Portugal. It is our destiny to rule this world.
That’s a bit optimistic, isn’t it? I mean, Castile wouldn’t be happy to hear you say that.
Yes, but Castile? Really! Come now. Castile will never discover anything.
Well, there you have it. From the proverbial horse’s mouth. Portugal, one. Castile, nil point.