The Plundering of the Ceylonese Royal Treasury, 1551–1553: Its Character, Cost, and Dispersal

  • Hugo Miguel Crespo
Part of the Europe's Asian Centuries book series (EAC)


Following the mysterious death in 1551 of Bhuvanekabāhu VII, a thorough inventory of the Ceylonese royal treasury was drafted by Simão Botelho for the Portuguese State of India (the Estado). Although published in full by Sousa Viterbo in 1904, it has received little attention from scholars. Published in its original sixteenth-century Portuguese language and teeming with long forgotten words and an exotic vocabulary of Asian origin, the inventory has remained almost unknown since it was first printed. Meticulously drafted, it contains the inventory of the monies, gold pieces, and jewels removed from the royal treasury and also the treasury of the private royal temple. The present chapter aims to provide the first systematic analysis of its invaluable art historical content.


Ceylon Portuguese India Treasury Gem trade Jewellery Gemstones 


  1. Almeida, J. Mendes de. Simão Botelho de Andrade, 6.° Vedor da Fazenda da Índia, 1504–1565. Lisbon: Agência-Geral do Ultramar, 1969.Google Scholar
  2. Ariyaratna, D. H. Gems of Shri Lanka. London: D.H. Ariyaratna, 1993.Google Scholar
  3. Baker, Janet, ed. Guardians of the Flame: Art of Sri Lanka. Phoenix: Phoenix Art Museum, 2003.Google Scholar
  4. Barbosa, Duarte. O Livro de Duarte Barbosa. Lisboa: Ministério da Ciência e da Tecnologia, Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical, Comissão Nacional para as Comemorações dos Descobrimentos Portugueses, 2000.Google Scholar
  5. Biedermann, Zoltán. The Portuguese in Sri Lanka and South India: Studies in the History of Diplomacy, Empire and Trade, 1500–1650. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2014.Google Scholar
  6. Codrington, H. W. Coins of Some Kings of Hormuz. The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society 14 (1914): 156–67.Google Scholar
  7. Content, Derek J. Ruby, Sapphire & Spinel: An Archaeological, Textual and Cultural Study, vol. 1. Turnhout: Brepols, 2016.Google Scholar
  8. Cook, Barrie. Angels & Ducats. Shakespeare’s Money & Medals. London: The British Museum Press, 2012.Google Scholar
  9. Coomaaswamy, Ananda K. Gold Embedding. Spolia Zeylanica, 6.22 (1909): 76–7.Google Scholar
  10. Coutre, Jacques de. The Memoirs and Memorials of Jacques de Coutre. Security, Trade and Society in 16th- and 17th-Century Southeast Asia, edited by Peter Borschberg. Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2014.Google Scholar
  11. Crespo, Hugo Miguel. Jewels from the India Run. Lisbon: Fundação Oriente, 2015.Google Scholar
  12. ———. Rock-Crystal Carving in Portuguese Asia. In The Global City: On the Streets of Renaissance Lisbon, edited by Annemarie Jordan and K. J. P. Lowe, 186–211. London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2015.Google Scholar
  13. Cruz, Maria Augusta Lima. Uma jóia rara na Corte portuguesa – o arreio, feito em Vijayanagar, para D. Sebastião. In Mirabilia Asiatica. Produtos raros no comércio marítimo. Produits rares dans le commerce maritime. Seltene Waren im Seehandel, edited by Jorge M. Alves, Claude Guillot, and Roderich Ptak, 175–84. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2003.Google Scholar
  14. Cunha, João Teles e. Hunting Riches: Goa’s Gem Trade in the Early Modern Age. In The Portuguese, Indian Ocean and European Bridgeheads: Festschrift in Honour of Prof. K.S. Mathew, edited by Pius Malekandathil and T. Jamal Mohammed. Kannur; Lisbon: Institute for Research in Social Sciences and Humanities, Fundação Oriente, 2001.Google Scholar
  15. Dalgado, Sebastião Rodolfo. Glossário Luso-Asiático, 2 vols. Coimbra: Imprensa da Universidade, 1919–1921.Google Scholar
  16. ———. Portuguese Vocables in Asiatic Languages. Edited by Anthony Xavier Soares. Baroda: Oriental Institute, 1936.Google Scholar
  17. Dalton, O. M. Franks Bequest. Catalogue of the Finger Rings […]. London: The British Museum, 1912.Google Scholar
  18. Errington, Elizabeth, Joe Cribb, and Maggie Claringbull, eds. The Crossroads of Asia: Transformation in Image and Symbol in the Art of Ancient Afghanistan and Pakistan. Cambridge: Ancient India and Iran Trust, 1992.Google Scholar
  19. Flores, Jorge Manuel. Os Portugueses e o Mar de Ceilão, 1498–1543: Trato, Diplomacia e Guerra. Lisbon: Cosmos, 1998.Google Scholar
  20. ———. Hum Curto Historia de Ceylan: Five Hundred Years of Relations Between Portugal and Sri Lanka. Lisbon: Fundação Oriente, 2000.Google Scholar
  21. Formigli, Edilberto, and Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer. Einige Faelschungen antiken Goldschmucks im 19. Jahrhundert. Archaeologischer Anzeiger, 3 (1993): 299–332.Google Scholar
  22. Gomes, Alberto, and António Miguel Trigueiros. Moedas Portuguesas na Época dos Descobrimentos, 1385–1580. Portuguese Coins in the Age of Discovery, 1385–1580. Lisbon: Alberto Gomes, 1992.Google Scholar
  23. Gschwend, Annemarie Jordan. Die Königreiche Portugal und Kotte: Diplomatie und Handel. In Elfenbeine aus Ceylon: Luxusgüter für Katharina von Habsburg (1507–1578), edited by Annemarie Jordan Gschwend and Johannes Beltz, 33–51. Zurich: Museum Rietberg, 2009a.Google Scholar
  24. ———. Katharinas Kunstkammer: Luxus, Geschmack und Exklusivität. In Elfenbeine aus Ceylon: Luxusgüter für Katharina von Habsburg (1507–1578), edited by Annemarie Jordan Gschwend and Johannes Beltz, 53–95. Zurich: Museum Rietberg, 2009b.Google Scholar
  25. ———. ‘Feito ao modo de Ceilão’: Handelsnetzwerke, diplomatische Geschenke und Heiratsallianzen. In Elfenbeine aus Ceylon: Luxusgüter für Katharina von Habsburg (1507–1578), edited by Annemarie Jordan Gschwend and Johannes Beltz, 97–125. Zurich: Museum Rietberg, 2009c.Google Scholar
  26. Gunawardene, Mahind, and Mahinda S. Rupasinghe. The Elahera Gem Field in Central Sri Lanka. Gems & Gemmology 22, no. 2 (1986): 80–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hänni, H. A. Chrysoberyl: A Gemstone with Many Faces. The Australian Gemmology 24, no. 3 (2010): 68–70.Google Scholar
  28. Herath, J. W. Geology and Occurrence of Gems in Sri Lanka. Journal of the National Science Council of Sri Lanka 12, no. 2 (1984): 257–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hughes, Richard W. Ruby & Sapphires. A Gemologist’s Guide. Bangkok: Lotus Publishing, 2017.Google Scholar
  30. Jobbins, E. Allan. Sources of Gemstones in the Renaissance. In Princely Magnificence: Court Jewels of the Renaissance, edited by A. G. Somers Cocks. London: Debrett’s Peerage Limited, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1980.Google Scholar
  31. Lucas, Andrew, Amil Sammoon, A. P. Jayarajah, Tao Hsu, and Pedro Padua. Sri Lanka: Expedition to the Island of Jewels. Gems & Gemmology 50, no. 3 (2014): 174–201.Google Scholar
  32. Mottana, Annibale. Italian Gemology During the Renaissance: A Step Toward Modern Mineralogy. Geological Society of America. Special Paper 411 (2006): 1–21.Google Scholar
  33. Ogden, Jack. La riscoperta dell’arte perduta: Alessandro Castellani e la ricerca della precisione classica. In I Castellani e l’oreficeria archeologica italiana, edited by Anna Maria Sgubini Moretti and Francesca Boitani, 159–72. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider, 2005.Google Scholar
  34. Picchio, Luciana Stegagno. Portugal e Portugueses no livro das “Navigationi” de G. B. Ramusio. Lisboa: Instituto de Investigação Científica e Tropical, 1984.Google Scholar
  35. Pieris, Paul E. Ceylon and the Portuguese, 1505–1658. Tellippalal: American Ceylon Mission Press, 1920.Google Scholar
  36. Pires, Tomé. The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires […], vol. 2. London: Printed for the Hakluyt Society, 1944.Google Scholar
  37. Schroeder, Ulrich von. The Golden Age of Sculpture in Sri Lanka. Hong Kong: Visual Dharma Publications Lda., 1992.Google Scholar
  38. Schurhammer, G., and E. A. Voretzsch, eds. Ceylon zur Zeit des Königs Bhuvaneka Bāhu und Franz Xavers, 1539–1552, 2 vols. Leipzig: Verlag der Asia Major, 1928.Google Scholar
  39. Seneviratna, Anuradha. Śrī Daḷadā Māligāva. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. History and Architecture of the Temples. Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2010.Google Scholar
  40. Silva, Nuno Vassallo e. The Portuguese Gem Trade in the Sixteenth Century. Jewellery Studies 6 (1993): 19–28.Google Scholar
  41. ———. Jewels for the Great Mughal: Goa a Centre of the Gem Trade in the Orient. Jewellery Studies 10 (2004): 41–51.Google Scholar
  42. ———. Filipe I e as jóias da Coroa de Portugal. In Actas do II Colóquio Português de Ourivesaria, edited by Gonçalo Vasconcelos e Sousa, 243–54. Porto: Centro de Investigação em Ciências e Tecnologias das Artes da Universidade Católica Portuguesa, 2009.Google Scholar
  43. Strathern, Alan. Kingship and Conversion in Sixteenth-Century Sri Lanka: Portuguese Imperialism in a Buddhist Land. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.Google Scholar
  44. Strong, John S. ‘The Devil was in that Little Bone’: The Portuguese Capture and Destruction of the Buddhas’s Tooth-Relic, Goa, 1561. Past and Present 206, no. 5 (2010): 184–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Subrahmanyam, Sanjay. The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 1500–1700: A Political and Economic History, 2nd ed. Malden; Oxford; Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.Google Scholar
  46. Trivellato, Francesca. The Familiarity of Strangers. The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno, and Cross-Cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  47. Viterbo, Francisco Marques de Sousa. O Thesouro do Rei de Ceylão. Memoria apresentada á Academia Real das Sciencias de Lisboa. Lisboa: Por ordem e na Typograhia da Academia, 1904.Google Scholar
  48. Zwaan, Peter C. Sri Lanka: The Gem Island. Gems & Gemmology 18, no. 2 (1982): 62–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hugo Miguel Crespo
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for HistoryUniversity of LisbonLisbonPortugal

Personalised recommendations