In the early 15th century European merchants have been accustomed to vast trade with various regions of the East and wanted to improve their productivity and route time by finding a shorter route to the east by sea. Many European nations were becoming maritime powers and were starting to invest in training and the production of boats that would be able to endure the long journey through the ocean. Portugal being the western most country in Europe with most of its borders to the west surrounding the Atlantic ocean made it a very popular destination for explorers, navigators and maritime enthusiasts.It was during this time that the prince of Portugal also known as Henry the Navigator was taking great interest in the possible expansion of the Portuguese empire, while hoping to find new riches for the Kingdom of Portugal. He founded a small nautical training school in the south of Portugal in Lagos. It was here that some of the best and most talented sea men came to study with the hope of persuading the prince to finance their possible voyages.It was during a coastal mission in 1419 with 3 of Portugal’s most famous navigators while sailing along the coast Africa that a storm is said to have blown the boat off track. It was only when day broke that they noticed a small coastline in the distance, where the young sailors studied and surveyed the island from their ship. Once they noticed that it was uninhabited and covered in the rare Laurasilva forest they were eager to return to Portugal and notify the King of their discovery. It is said when they returned and began to populate the island with herd animals they discovered the much larger island of Madeira. When they made land they began to start fires to clear the lands for cultivation. It took 7 years to burn some of the heavy forested lands to be able to begin cultivation and construction of homes etc.
The reward given to Joao Goncalves Zarco; a knight of the royal court of Portugal was the captaincy of half the island of Madeira with Funchal being the capital. The title gave him the highest powers to control and develop the island as he saw fit. A title that would be passed down from the 15th century until the extinction of the Portuguese monarchy in 1910. It was his love for the island he discovered that he insured that his heirs were aware of the great responsability they had in governing this island. It didnt take long for Madeira to become one of Portugal’s most profitable regions by the 16th century. The family began to climb the social latter in Portugal’s royal court and used their holdings in the Atlantic to gain influence in all aspects of Portuguese society. Tristao Teixiera was given the captaincy of the other half of the island of Madeira to govern and develop as he saw fit under the crown. A title passed on to his descendants.
Bartolomeu Perestrelo was given the captaincy of the island of Porto Santo which is located 25 km off the coast of Madeira. It was a title that had all the same privileges of a modern-day viceroy being able to govern and develop the island as he saw fit under the name of the crown. This title was passed on to his descendents.It was his daughter Filipa that married Christopher Columbus and gave birth to their son Diogo. Columbus was able to marry into Portuguese high society, where he resided in the Governor’s mansion until their home on the island was built. It was the material and vast maps of the Atlantic wind patterns of his father in law that intrigued Columbus. After studying the vast information that was passed on to him from his wife’s family, Christopher Columbus used it to capitalize on getting the financing he needed for his first voyage.