What's in the Tavora name?

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

What’s in a name? Quite a lot actually, especially if your name happened to be Tavora in eighteenth century Portuguese Goa. It’s a long story, but let’s start at the very beginning.

There is a ward in Saligao called Tabravaddo. This is actually a corruption of the earlier name, Tavoravaddo (prior to this, the original name of the ward was Lamb Maddamchem Bhatt). The ward was so named because it was home to the family that used the name Tavora, in the early part of the seventeenth century. At that time (1609-12) the viceroy of Goa was Rui Lourenco de Tavora. There is a good possibility that the first Hindu member of the family — probably Sinai Salgaokar — converted to Christianity and was baptised during the reign of Rui Lourenco Tavora. The surname of the viceroy, Tavora, must have been given to that first member of the clan during baptism, as was the custom prevailing in Portuguese Goa at that time.

Could it be that the ancestors of the Tavora clan, prior to conversion, resided in Sinvaddo or Sinaivaddo (pronounced as Xenoi-vaddo), adjacent to Mudd’davadi in Saligao? Sinaivaddo may have extended beyond the borders of the present Tabravaddo. There is no mention of Tabravaddo as a ward in the original list of the wards of Saligao of the 17th century but it is mentioned in the records of the second half of the 18th century. As the clan of the important Tavora family increased, one part of Sinvaddo was merged into Mudd’davadi and the other smaller part designated as a new ward called Tavoravaddo, which is now known as Tabravaddo.

Name change

The Tavora clan of Saligao, however, changed their family surname from Tavora to Remedios in the year 1759. What prompted this change? Did it have political motives or was it the result of some other belief or conviction? We have to look to certain developments in Portugal at the time to find an answer.

D Francisco de Tavora, third Marquis of Tavora (Portugal) and sixth count of Sao Joao (Viceroy of India from 1750 to 1754) and his wife D Leonor de Tavora (Spain) were accused of being the main brains behind the infamous plot to assassinate King Jose I on 3 September 1758 in Portugal. They were condemned to be executed at the gallows in Belem (Portugal) on 13 January 1759 and their properties were to be confiscated.

The sentence also declared that no one from any station or category should ever use the surname Tavora, on pain of losing all their property to the Crown and being exiled from Portugal and all Portuguese colonies, including Portuguese Goa, thereby losing all the rights and privileges that they had as subjects of the Portuguese Crown. Thus, the Tavora families in Saligao, belonging to the fourth vangodd (clan) of the Saligao Communidade, who had registered under the surname Tavora in the 1757 triennial, changed their surname, on 6 November 1759, to Remedios. This was apparently more out of fear than anything else. They then registered as Remedios in the 1760 triennial. Even today, the area where they lived has a cross called Remedincho Khuris (Remedios’s Cross). At a later date, probably in the year 1910, a statue of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios was placed in one of the niches of the main altar of the Chapel of St Anne in Tabravaddo, Saligao.

Tavora justice

When Queen Maria I of Portugal came to the throne in February 1777, the process of rehabilitation and demonstration of the innocence of the Tavora family began. A tribunal of 18 members was formed, revoking the previous sentence regarding the marquis and marchioness of Tavora, and their children and son-in-law, as in reality there was no actual proof that they had been involved in the attempted assassination.

The same tribunal decided to restore full honours to the family, recognising the right to use the surname Tavora, although the title of marquis was lost forever. The entire second decision had been designed to show that the evidence gathered in the original case did not prove that the Tavora family had been party to the attempted regicide and that there had been nothing that could have led to such an interpretation.

While people in Portugal were baptised with the surname Tavora after the family had been re-instated, the Remedioses of Saligao in Goa never used the former surname again, thus leaving to history only the name of their area – Tavoravaddo or Tabravaddo of Saligao.

2 comments on What’s in the Tavora name?

  • Jules Fausto de Sa

    Dear Fr Nasccimento,
    I hope that you received my email regarding the fact that I have made contact with Luis Melo, a fourth cousin of mine, who is descended from the original Tavora family from Portugal. He is a Historian and Genealogist and I will try and obtain more information on this ugly episode in Portugal’s history.

  • Carla Tavora Barandas

    I am glad to know that some of my ancestors made it through to live with their re-instated name. I recall tales from my grandfather of how his grandfather on his death bed disclosed the family’s real surname of Tavora. Indeed, many of the escaped went to Praia de Mira in Portugal in hiding from the king’s ridiculous decision/belief -who was having an affair with one of the Tavora wives. In many European countries at that time, if a man suspected adultery, the two involved in the act would be sentenced. The King was lucky he did not really get killed. Nevertheless, Karma is sweet. The idiot who wanted the Tavora seat suffered from leprasy and died isolated and alone. What happened after just gives us faith that justice is always done.

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