Sunday, September 28, 2014

12-18, The Age of Discovery

 Number 5 in a series on Countries Named after Peeps

12. Ali Musa Mbiki (Musa Al Big), c.1500
The story goes that there was an island which named after its sultan, Ali Musa Mbiki, who was probably one of the Omani Arabs who were enthusiastic traders in that part of the Indian Ocean. Or, it may be that when Vasco de Gama’s expedition came through there and bombarded the island and kidnapped a couple of Arab pilots as guides, they got the name of the sultan and the name of the island confused. This is what the island looks like nowadays:
It is called ‘Mozambique’, and being about the first place taken by the Portuguese on the east coast of Africa, it gave its name to their whole colony there.

13. Cristoforo Colombo, 1451-1506
You’ve probably heard of him. A Genoan navigator, the second of the two peeps born in Italy to have countries named after them, after St Lucy. (St Marinus was supposedly born in what is now Croatia). It does not appear that his voyages in the Caribbean ever brought him within sight of the country named after him. It seems to have been a near thing whether he would have a country named after him, as none of the constituent parts of the first Republic of Colombia (1819-1831) kept that name on its disintegration. Modern Colombia was called a couple of other names before becoming the United States of Colombia in 1863.

14.  Amerigo Vespucci 1454-1512
The third Italian to have a country named after him, from Florence, was sent by the Medicis to look after a branch office of their mercantile empire in Spain, and ended up going on some indeterminate number of expeditions to the New World. Being one of the first to cotton on to the fact that the New World was a continent (or two) and not just islands off the coast of Asia, or the first to popularise this fact, he scored the enviable distinction of having two continents named after him. (Continents have to be female, and named in classical languages, so it is the latinised feminine form of his first name that has been preserved). As such his name features in the most populous country named after a peep, the United States of America.

15. Afonso, Prince of Portugal 1475-1491
Even younger at his death than the martyrs of the Diocletion persecution, the only legitimate son of King John the Second of Portugal had been married in childhood to Isabella, heir to the thrones of Castille and Aragon. His death in a horse-riding accident is sometimes attributed to the malign influence of his in-laws - the patrons of #13 and #14 on the list.
An island off the west coast of Africa, originally named after Saint Anthony by its Portuguese discoverers, was renamed after the Prince, and the taxes levied on the sugar produced on the island were made over to the use of the heir-apparent to the Portuguese throne. According to Wikipedia the renaming was actually done in 1502, so the Prince the island is named after may instead have been the future King John the Third of Portugal, Afonso’s second cousin once removed, who was the only extant Prince of Portugal in that year. Complicating the question further, Afonso’s father John II was said to perfectly embody in his life the principles outlined by Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ and was known as ‘the Perfect Prince’, o Príncipe Perfeito.
But Principe was definitely named after one of these Portuguese royals, and today is the junior island in Africa’s second smallest nation, which we have already seen because its larger island is also named after a peep.

16. Philip II 1527 –1598)
While their most Catholic majesties Ferdinand and Isabella are hanging around in the background of the lives of #13-15, their great-grandson Phillip the Prudent was the first member of their family to end up with a country named after him.
While he was still only Prince of Asturias (he later became King of Ireland, King of Jerusalem, Count of Friesland, Duke of Milan, and all manner of other things) the Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos named the islands of Leyte and Samar ‘Islas Felipinas’ after him, and over time this name was extended to the whole archipelago which Magellan had originally named after Saint Lazarus.

17. Maurits van Oranje 1567-1625
Phillip II was of course the arch-nemesis of William the Silent, founder of the royal house of the Netherlands. And William’s son Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange, also ended up with a country named after him: the island of Mauritius, named in his honour by Dutch explorers.He is the first Protestant on the list, and the only (ahem) German, having been born in what is now the German state of Hesse.

18. Jean Moreau de Séchelles 1690-1761
The only Frenchman to have a country named after him, and the only Minister of Finance.
He scored the smallest country ‘in Africa’, an archipelago which might have ended up being named after Vasco de Gama instead: but it seems like de Gama only spotted some of the smaller outlying islands of what is now the Seychelles and his naming them after himself only stuck with those.

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