Botelha Tangga Of Malacca (Emergency Coin, Circa C.E. 1629)
Rarity: RRRR/Sim F3.18

This undated silver coin minted during the Portuguese occupation was an emergency issue struck for special purpose of paying troops engaged in the defence of the city of Malacca. What follows are particulars of the coin and a short biographical note on the illustrious person after whom it was named.
Crowned Arms of Portugal between the letters M.A. the mintmark of Malacca Mint with dots above and below each letter within a line circle.

Crude tanga monogram - large T on big A (for Tanga Asia) dividing the letters R.F. (for Rei Felipe) King Philip, a dot on each side of the apex of the A, one on each side of the stem of the letter T, one on either side below the letters R and F, and another dot within the letter A, all surrounded by circle

Diameter: 15mm
Weight: 2.54 grammes
Rarity: RRRR

                The Captain-General of the Portuguese Fleets in the East, one Dom Nuno Alvares Botelho, had distinguished himself since 1623 by his victories over the Dutch Fleet which was attacking Portuguese territories throughout the Orient. After his return to Portugal he was appointed Governor of Goa by King Dom Felipe III. His letter of appointment was issued to name of Pereira, the name by which he was known at Court in Lisbon. After the death of his elder brother but before he took up the appointment, he had to give up the name of Pereira and take the family name of Botelho.

                Due to this discrepancy in names, officials at Goa refused to acknowledge him as being the man designated as Governor, in the Royal Letters. The matter had to be referred to Lisbon, In those days of sailing ships confirmation took many months.

                As Capt. Botelho's services were most urgently required in the Straits of Malacca, he appointed two Deputies - Capt. of Goa, Dom Lourenco da Cunha and Chancellor Gonzalo Pinto da Fonseca, entrusted them with the administration of  Goa and immediately left for Malacca.

                By the time Botelho reached Malacca at the head of a large fleet, the city had been under siege by strong Achinese forces for five long months. The Hill had been captured and was being used as base to destroy the Portuguese garrison at Bukit China. After his arrival the Achinese and their allies evacuated their positions and fled inland in haste.

                The Portuguese forces had to be paid rather urgently. The Malacca mint had not been operating for very many years; and there was a serious shortage of silver currency. To solve the problem, Capt. General Botelho was appointed Mint Master of the Malacca Mint. He could then order the minting of a silver coin of the value of a (Goan) tanga without waiting for authorization from Lisbon, a matter which could take as long as two years depending on the monsoon. Later the Viceroy of India, Dom Miguel de Noronha (Conte de Linhares) had to justify to King Dom Felipe the coinage of money without royal assent.

The Viceroy Dom Miguel replied to His Majesty:

"Nuno Alvares Botelho coined in Malacca some coins called Botelhos, which I praised, to redeem his needs."

                This was how this undated coin came to be known as a botelha tanga after the family name of the victorious Captain of the Fortress of Malacca.

                Being an emergency issue, it was of rather crude design. The metal composition was low-grade, silver and brass, in order to give the coinage a chance of remaining in Malacca, as Chinese and Japanese traders has the habit of converting coins of high silver and gold fineness into bullion to export back to their own countries.

                Eventually, the Achinese suffered a great defeat as their formidable armada of 236 ships was annihilated by the Capt.-General's fleet in waters near Muar River.

                After that great victory Botelho continued to hunt and harrass the Dutch throughout the South Seas. The government by triumvirate, set up at Goa on 29th July, ended on 21st October, 1629. By that date, all doubts and uncertainties had been cleared.

                The governorship of Botelho did not continue very long. On 16th May 1960, during a cruise in Sumatran waters, he encountered a ship carrying gunpowder for the Dutch forts. While directing operations after boarding the Dutch ship, an explosion occurred, and both ships were blown up. Botelho, the 44th Governor of India and a member of the State Council of His Majesty Dom Felipe, lost his life that day. His body was brought back to Malacca where he was given a grand funeral.

                The tombstone of this brave Governor has never been found. The reason may be that the Dutch, who succeeded the Portuguese in Malacca after 1641, sometimes resorted to obliterating some old Portuguese tombstones to serve new Dutch graves, due to scarcity of granite.

Source:E.E.Sim., J.S.M., P.N.M., F.R.N.S.
President, Malaysian Numismatic Society

Special thanks to Mr.Wei Yen Kong for taking the trouble to visit me at Dickson Niew Collections in Subang Jaya today just to share his latest collection of this very rare piece of Portuguese coin.Cheers!


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