“Old Bill” Suggests—
“Prince Henry the Navigator” didn’t navigate.
Yet his title was no illusion of history. He was the heart and soul, the material backing and the moving spirit, of one of the greatest crusades of sea-going exploration that the world has ever witnessed.
A grandson of stern old John o’ Gaunt, nephew of Henry IV of England, he united in his person that stubborn blood with that of the ruling house of Portugal. A famous soldier and stern disciplinarian, he declined further military conquests, retired in 1420 to desolate Sagres, on the extreme point of land from which Europe looked southward into the “Sea of Darkness,” the mysterious and unknown Atlantic.
He made Sagres a school of navigation, a resort for explorers and geographers. Through twelve years of costly failure, he sent out, not one expedition, as when Isabella of Spain financed Columbus, but two and three each year. His dream, to send a ship around Africa to India, when it finally succeeded, changed world history. Had there been others to make good his footholds Portugal might be a first-rank power today.
Courage was needed by ship captains facing the unknown, but a greater moral courage was that of their hard-working leader, always confident, tireless in planning, severe in self-discipline, finding money to send out expedition after expedition when the very street boys made merry over the failures.
Who can appraise the worth of leadership?
ROYAL F. MUNGER.