Book 2, Chapter 17

[215]                Of the birth of the Queen Donna Barbara called Cambo, and how she came to be Queen, and to rule            Chapter XVII

Donna Barbara was born of Ginga Bandi Angolla the eighth King of Dongo, and Guenguella Cancombe his concubine, and called at her birth Cambo, name of a relative of hers, in about the year of grace MDCVIII.[1] She was brought up with great diligence according to the customs of Ethiopia, and at a young age was taken prisoner in war by the Portuguese with her sister named Funghi, at the time when her brother King Ngolambande was ruling the Kingdom, and remained a prisoner for six years,[2] after which, with her sister and her brother’s principal concubine who was also a prisoner, she was sent to the King by the Governor who at that time ruled the Kingdom, and the King on making peace with the Portuguese sent her to Loanda to be baptised, and she was given the name of Donna Barbara and her sister Funghi that of Donna Gracia, and they returned baptised to the Court of the King their brother with great joy and celebration, but as she lacked a teacher to instruct her in our holy faith, she pursued the laws, rites and customs of her ancestors, and indulged in carnal pleasures which are not a new but an old custom of the inhabitants of this black interior Ethiopia, a model of lechery both because of natural inclination and climate, and the presence of naked individuals most provocative of indecency, and while she was spending her days thus in licentious life, the wars between the Portuguese and her sister Queen Ginga revived, and while they were circling round each other the Queen was defeated, and the Portuguese, recaptured the two sisters,[3] and the Queen fled having lost many battles and goods; the Portuguese, seeing the losses they had received and dealing with them rather than the loot they still had acquired, discussed killing [216] the two sisters, but there was no lack of people who pleaded their cause, and so they were both left in the care of citizens.  Our Barbara was placed in the house of Captain Diogo Gomez Zampaia where she stayed fourteen years as you have heard elsewhere until she was recalled by the Queen her sister in the year 1656.  So when Donna Barbara was at the court of the Queen her sister, after she was married in holy matrimony as the Holy Mother Church orders, she suddenly decided to give a husband to Donna Barbara, and brought this about giving her as a husband her General named Ginga mona,[4] and baptismally D. Antonio.  He was the son of a woman who was wet-nurse to the Queen so he was called her Collaccio, meaning foster-brother, for they had both sucked the same milk, and he was much loved by the Queen, and esteemed as a great soldier, and as her General; he was barbarous and cruel by nature, a true observer of the laws, rites and customs of the Giaghi and experienced in all their diabolical superstitions, not to say a master of them and their high Priest; according to Queen Ginga he was feared in everything and respected.  With this man Donna Barbara was joined in matrimony and endured much distress as she did not enter into it of her own free will, but did not avoid marrying him because she did not want to disobey the Queen her sister; finally in the year 1662 she grew blind, for which she blamed her husband entirely, and on the death of her sister Queen Ginga she was chosen as Queen although she was blind, because there were no other close relatives who could rule, and also to prevent all the disturbances which usually occur in such circumstances.

It is customary, dear reader, among Ethiopian nations when a Lord dies first to elect the successor, enthrone and crown him in their fashion, and proclaim this before the death of the Lord.  This custom was observed at the death of Queen Ginga, because they first elected Donna Barbara the dead Queen’s sister as Queen, and proclaimed her assumption of Royal dignity, and following that [217] the death of the Queen as you have heard in the previous chapter.  You must know [marg.: it was not possible to ... the body of the Lady so the new Queen passed beneath the ... and similarly in the square (words missing) as a Royal Queen] that the word “crowned” has more meanings among these Ethiopians, for in former times Kings and Emperors were accustomed to be crowned not with a crown but a band two fingers wide, so that someone who tied up one leg through pure necessity was accused of having done so to insult the Royal Crown, and what Kings wear on their heads they wore on their legs, and this the Ethiopians wear as a sign, and as a woman’s dress, even if it is made of tree bark, and call quitundo;[5] others used crowns of gold and silver;[6] others crowns of ivy and laurel like the Emperors.  But among these Ethiopians to call oneself crowned it is not necessary to wear one of the above-mentioned Crowns on one’s head, but it is enough to wear a piece of clothing of one’s ancestors, which they keep in a chest called Missette, and so he is crowned, although this cannot be done without the consent of electors, but someone crowned in this manner can finish quarrels, sentence, condemn and pardon people as he pleases, and without this he cannot even if he has a gold or silver crown on his head.  Now, dear reader, we return to the new Queen, I cannot here describe to you the tragedy of the Ethiopian Vassals, you know and I can affirm that not even the brush of the great Timante could depict it, not the melancholy of Coliante, not the sorrow of Ulysses, not the heart-break of Menelaus, not the pain of the afflicted Father, for everywhere rang with the cries of confused and frightened people because death had dared to take away their Queen and Lady; they were distracted, their melancholy, sorrow, and heartbreak showed on the black mask covering their faces and formed of charcoal dust, ashes, grasses, and even white and red colour added round the eyes; not even the brush of Timante could depict the pain of the dead daughter, and he did not try to, but painted over the head of the father a black veil which covered it, but this would not have helped the new Queen because she was not dressed in mourning; and her head was covered not by a black veil but a curious cap of forty Cruciati in value with a red feather [218] as an insignia of Royalty, nor did she have a black drapery round her breast, but a red one, nor was there a black cloth falling in front in the Ethiopian manner but instead she wore a sheepskin spotted with black and white, a royal insignia of the Kings of Dongo, and also paint made of charcoal and white colour, all things which served as a Crown to the ancient Kings of Dongo, and to the late Queen Donna Anna de suoza, in short all sign of sorrow and pain was banished from the new Queen.  Dear reader, observe the barbarous actions of these Ethiopians, descended from Cannao (Cain?), and their customs, the way they conducted the exequies and mourned their Queen as I have already described, showing all the warlike and mechanical actions that the deceased had committed.  The new Queen appeared in the square accompanied by the grandees of her Court and by soldiers, she ascended her Royal throne, was recognised by all as their Queen and Lady with clapping of hands and shouting, discharge of firearms and the sound of military music, and warlike sounds; they acclaimed her has their Queen and swore fidelity to her, then the Captains and officers of the army arranged the soldiers in companies and squadrons as if they were about to fight an enemy, the General gave a signal, suddenly they all ran to the bounds of the city where they discharged all the firearms with great speed, and filled the air with arrows, but did not kill anybody because knowing the custom everyone ran elsewhere, and after this function, which they call taking away the mourning and the spirit of the late Queen, happy and content owing to having another Lady, they returned to their new Queen representing themselves as having thrown out the spirit of the late Queen so that she could do them no damage, O blind people, O great stupidity.  Afterwards they did various warlike acts, and settled that they would die where their Queen was buried and would fight to the death to defend the place where the deceased had died, and there kill someone so that the spirit of the dead person should not harm the living, but the courtiers of the Court did not observe this because I was the spectator and observer of everything.

So while I was busy sending away the soul of the deceased with masses and responses for eight continuous days, our common enemy did not lack his accustomed stratagems helped by his ministers to revenge himself not only to us, but to draw the new Queen to the false belief of their foolish lies; in the first scheme he invented he did not take advantage of the climate and the people’s inclinations, but he took the opportunity the individual’s own infirmity gave him:  the new Queen had great pains in the head and chest, and their doctors ran up at once and took counsel over the Queen’s illness, and the consensus was that the illness was caused by her having gone to live in a house where the dead Queen had lived, and that her spirit did not want her to live there, and for a cure it was necessary to leave the house and go to another, and they supported this with so many medical texts that they forced her to go somewhere else to live, and she was not lazy, but diligently executed the orders of her priests and the case was not so well hidden that I did not have news of it at once, and I went to visit the Queen concealing her priests’ evil, appeared to sympathise and feel her indisposition as my own, and exhorted her to go back where she had lived before, and she promptly obeyed seeing that the priests and counsellors, as she had changed her dwelling without their permission, began to say that the Capuchin Priest was the cause (it was not a lie but the truth) and that I was causing their Queen’s death, and had by witchcraft caused the death of the late Queen, and to say so much that everyone believing what they said and taking it as certain, began to look threateningly at me as if I had really been the assassin of the deceased, and that I would kill the new Queen, and they added more to maintain their credit and reputation.  So that when the new Queen’s legs hurt her doctors at once gave her the [220] remedies which their science dictated, without having studied the aphorisms of Galen and Hippocrates, and (dear reader) took the picks that had been used to dig the late Queen’s grave and bent these into circles, and put them round the invalid’s legs so that the spirit of the late Queen should do her no harm and her infirmities should not make her suffer.  The Queen appeared next morning with these new shoes while I was waiting for her at the Church door with holy water according to custom, and seeing this novelty gave me great pain; but the occasion did not admit of any change or demonstration, but only peace of soul and heart.  I celebrated Holy Mass, nor did I fail to recommend myself to blessed God to undo naturally this diabolical work, and having finished and given not due thanks to the Creator but such as were possible to me, I was where the Queen was standing with the grandees of her Court, and asked for a private audience, and she at once sent everyone away and I remained alone with her Secretary who acted as an Interpreter,[7] and gave the Queen a fraternal correction, showing her the error of her priests and how ill her new shoes became not only her body but her soul, and also those of her Vassals because of the evil example it set them; she showed that she much appreciated the advice, and showed its effects because she took off the hoops and sent them to me via her secretary, apologising and promising to make amends.  This action brought me (akkegrua abcircge) a rose followed by a thorn, and it was not long before I felt its prick, because the Queen fell ill again and the cause of the illness was attributed to me, and on this her priests and Counsellors consulted each other and concluded that I and the other Capuchins were magicians and enchanters, and that I had not only caused that illness, but had with witchcraft killed their Queen (and here I wish you to attend, dear reader, to how their protestation and advice continued), they asserted openly that I had caused the death of two of our Monks, and that I wanted to take their lives too in order to remain absolute Lord, and each one [221] loosened his tongue at will and every day there were new accusations and impostures; the Circles which the new Queen, like the late one, wore were made from the picks which had dug graves to bury the dead, to remain free of the infirmities which they suffered, and this was why the late Queen had worn 19 of them on her arms and legs to be free of the infirmities they had suffered, (admire this folly) and so that these preservatives should make her immortal which was an even greater folly, and they were calling us murderers and magicians for having removed them; another accusation was that she had been made to contravene the laws, rites and customs of her ancestors and receive the Christian faith and religion, and persecute their priests, whose malice invented the idea that the purpose of the Church and its priests was their destruction, advancing as proof of their ill-will and bad opinion the example of the effective words of former Kings of Dongo, who were never willing to accept priests or the law of the Gospel, and their lives were long and the Christians’ lives short, and so they did not die.  What could I say?  O people without counsel etc.

And what is more dear reader, their Queen had learned how to sing ” non moriar sed vivam in eternum” that she would not have to die but would go on living eternally, and that the yoke of the law of the Gospels was very heavy and intolerable because it deprived them of a multiplicity of women, and other things to which they had long been accustomed.  They also reproved in the council the trust which the late Queen felt for us Capuchins like a mother towards her children, from whom she often took physical food or demonstrations freely offered or requested by her with motherly affection because she always wished for everything from our hands; for this they accused us of having administered poison which killed her, and therefore prohibited the new Queen from taking anything to eat or drink from us Capuchins affirming that everything contained poison to kill her as we had killed her late sister.  Now, dear reader, will you judge [222] this new Queen who had been Portuguese for fourteen years, it seems to me you can have no opinion except that as a Christian she would refuse the advice of those of ill-will, overrule their false opinions, and by showing Christian constancy have them severely punished and annihilate their false beliefs; but you are in error, because she showed herself an inconstant Ethiopian for she neither contradicted nor punished them, but listened courteously to her counsellors’ and priests’ lying words, and believed them as if they had risen from the lips of truth, or been uttered by an oracle, and she showed this clearly in her actions, not only by refusing to make the customary courtesies to her late sister, but as if blind as we might say spiritually as well as physically, and very much given to the vice of evil suspicions, she began to show it in deeds as well as words, secretly and also publicly, and this suspiciousness caused by natural inclination, by the climate and by physical blindness made her cool somewhat in her Christian faith, and neglect and ignore the temple, ministers and law. [marg. note: ...... ...... their tongue to ...... (words missing)]  The things necessary to the support of the human individual, and to the increase of Christianity, were openly denied or if not so delayed that it demonstrated her ill-will, and to some requests she gave not a peaceable but an angry refusal, and the Vassals followed her as the shadow follows the body and the wind.

I cannot, kind reader, refrain from telling of a kind of madness followed by these Ethiopians as you have heard elsewhere, that is that the spirit of a dead person goes where it wishes and at its pleasure punishes, rewards etc. and that to do so it turns into whatever species of animal pleases it most, and the effects of this folly of theirs were clearly seen in the year MDCLXIV after the death of Queen Ginga; a month and a half after the death of the Queen,[8] four very large tigers[9] entered the army from different places on different days, and they caused great damage to the flocks, and great fear in everyone, and all with one voice said that they were the spirit [223] of the late Queen transformed into a tiger in order to harm her Vassals, and their fear increased when one day at about 22 hours[10] a savage tiger entered the Queen’s Court itself, and her own kitchen, and carried off a dog it found there; they took to arms with much muttering and shouting as if they were about to fight a great battle, and followed the tiger all round the harem which was not less than a league in distance,[11] but nobody dared to draw close let alone wound it, and they were confirmed in their false opinion that it was the spirit of the late Queen, and what is the use of one voice saying all was false against the shouts of a whole people?  They laughed at me and said that I should not be immune myself from harm done by the spirit of the late Queen; but it happened that all four tigers were killed one after the other, and so they remained certain that they were not the spirit of the Queen, because they took not a little enjoyment in their inclination and bent towards evil.  The souls of the Vassals were so irritated against the Capuchins, that it cost them much and reduced them to saying a general office for her soul.  Finally, through shame of fear, they decided to say a general office[12] to their Queen.  Everything necessary was prepared and a Catafalque erected in the middle of the Church with candles correspondingly places on all three Altars.  The new Queen appeared with the grandees of her Court, and Vassals to a number of over 6000 thousand all in mourning clothes, and all the Queen’s officers with lighted candles were present at the office with great devotion and there was no lack of discourses appropriate to the time and occasion, all the candles remained in the Church and there was abundant almsgiving because everybody wished to show affection to the late Queen.  Six slaves valued each at 55 Italian Crociati, 40 goats, 116 hens, and two pieces of white linen, examples of all the things the earth produces, and jungle roots, all for the soul of the late Queen, were distributed to the poor except for the slaves whom I sent to the hospital in the City of Loanda and the country house of Masangano.  The Queen said another office in her Court [224] in her Chapel with the grandees of her Court, her people and the servants of the same late Queen with gifts which were all given to the poor for the soul of the late Queen, and neither were there lacking some offices according to their own custom, in secret.

For the peaceful power of the Royal Crown, and to keep the memory of her ancestors, she sent to Dumbo Aebo, the native land of Guenguella Cancombe[13] her mother, to ask for the bark of a tree they call isanda which is much esteemed among them, and of which she made a quitundo, i.e. a Crown so called according to their custom, which was not only used as a Royal Crown (although she did not lack a Crown according to the custom of Kings) but also as a sign, such as you have heard elsewhere that they use; may it please blessed God that she should not show inconstancy after the manner of the black people, but persevere in the Christian Crown that God is accustomed to giving to those who persevere, and let it be presented to the new Queen Donna Barbara called Cambo.  Perhaps the reader will oppose me and say that if the blind man does not distinguish black from white how can he know the just from the unjust, and give good judgement?  To this I answer that this woman was not elected to govern, judge and sentence, but only to assist the judgement of her counsellors, and to be able to say that the Queen was the sister of our deceased Ginga, although there has been no lack of blind men governing Kingdoms and Republics such as Appuius Claudius the Roman who governed the Republic marvelously, Homer was blind, Didimo Alessandrino was blind, and so many others as one can see in the office of Textore, although our Queen had none of the virtues or the understanding of the above-named blind people, may it please God that if she is blind with her physical eyes, she will not be blind to spiritual light.  I shall not, dear reader, continue the story because it is impossible for me owing to serious illness which force me to leave this Court where there is no doctor, nor medicine, and go where I hope to find a remedy if it pleases the divine Mercy.  If my friend the reader is pleased to accept this brief narrative of the life of Queen Ginga and her sister Donna Barbara called Cambo [225] and the good that you will notice, you will give due thanks to our loving Crucified Christ, and for me a vile sinner pray to the divine Mercy that the sins I have committed against God may be forgiven, and that I may be conceded a good hour to be the last of my life, and afterwards everlasting glory, not for my merits, but for those of his Most Holy Passion through the means of which I hope to be saved. Amen.

End of the second book

[1]. The year of her birth may have been determined by her supposed age of baptism, as was Njinga’s.

[2]. Funji and Kambu were taken in 1629, according to contemporary sources, while there is no evidence in them that these sisters were captured before the mission led by Njinga which resulted in their baptism, Heintze, “Ende” pp. 209-11, 215-16, 252.  Heintze had shown from the de Sousa documents that she was given the name of Maria, ibid, p. 211.  Kambu was freed in 1632-3, while Funji remained in captivity until she was drowned by the Portuguese in 1647, Leguzzano, Descricao 2: 394, 411.

[3]. Kambu was recaptured in 1646 and remained captive until ransomed in 1656, Leguzzano, Descricao 2: 394, 411.

[4]. Njinga originally proposed that she marry Ngola Kanini Francisco Gutterres, whom Njinga captured in 1646 and made her Mwene Lumbo.  Da Gaeta opposed it because he discovered that Gutterres was already married to a woman in Ambaca, Maravigliosa Conversione, p.   .  Cavazzi helped to prove this, since he was then in Ambaca, see Istorica Descrizione,Book 6, no. 24.

[5]. See note 309 above.

[6]. The illustrations, nos. 5, 8, 9, 14, 17, 25 show her with a European style crown.

[7]. Probably Calixto Zelotes dos Reis Magros.

[8]. If Njinga died on 14 December 1663, this would have taken place in early February 1664.

[9]. Tigers do not live in central Africa, Capuchin references to tigers appear normally to refer to leopards, see Cadornega, Historia 1: 338-9, note 229, 331-2.  The animal is illustrated in the accompanying place, following p. 338.

[10]. Twenty-two o’clock, Italian time =

[11]. Da Gaeta described this inner enclosure ad being about 2 Italian miles (2800 meters) in circumference, while a league is about 500 meters, Maravigliosa Conversione, pp. 191-2, so when the city was moved and rebuilt in 1660 (pp. 145-7 above) it may have been built on a larger scale.

[12]. This incident is developed more fully in Istorica Descrizione Book 6, nos. 118-21.

[13]. See p. 14 above.