This Island was known to by sailors earlier than the original landing of explorers which took place in the early 15th Century led by the Portuguese explorer João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira in 1419.
The following year an attempt was made to create a settlement. In 1466 the first slaves arrived on the Island to help clear the undergrowth and create plantations.
In 1473 Dom Afonso V granted the Island to the Duque of Viseu and Beja. It became a fought over prize for both the French and the Spanish.
In 1479 the famous explorer married his Portuguese wide and then moved to Porto Santo Island where he lived for several months.
Funchal was officially granted the title of town in 1508.
French pirates sacked Funchal in 1566 and again in 1570, and it was not until 1662 when the Portuguese regained permanent control from these passing adventurers of many European nationalities.
An English fleet arrived in 1801 and temporary took Funchal by ousting the Spanish and French defending forces.
This action was repeated by the English in 1807 and in 1808 when General Beresford, as Commander-in-Chief of the Anglo/Portuguese army, until it was returned to entirely Portuguese control in 1814.
In 1832 a fleet in support of Dom Miguel unsuccessfully blockaded Funchal from March until May to demonstrate his intentions to his hold the self-appointed crown from his liberal minded brother Dom Pedro IV.
In 1840 England threatened to invade Madeira (including Macau and Goa), if the Portuguese slave trade was not terminated. In 1840 there is a serious food shortage on the island causing much suffering which is followed in 1855 by an outbreak of cholera.
The situation was not further improved due to political unrest and in 1870 the army had to quell riots in the town of Funchal.
Some 20 years later the English began to settle on the Island in force and the already established Madeira Wine Industry became better organised, whilst the cottage industry of lace, was developed for export, both of which have become world famous.
The Portuguese State in 1901 officially granted Madeira their own autonomy from Lisbon.
The next notable event was when the first flight from Lisbon arrived on the 22nd of March in 1921.
Later, the economics instability of mainland Portugal spilled over into Funchal and once again in 1931 there were serious riots due to the price of corn.
After the World War II it became very popular for inhabitants to emigrate to South Africa in search of a living.
Today, the Island's population now greatly depends on the tourist industry which has spread all over Madeira including Porto Santo Island.
The town and port of Funchal is the principal town of the Ilha de Madeira. The port is architecturally pleasing with the added attraction of its decorative paved streets.
Visitors to the island are usually smitten by the impressive rugged beauty of its peaks in comparison to the lush semi-tropical vegetation around its coastline.
The 15th Century Convento de Santa Clara is well worth a visit and to also learn the tragic story of the nun, Maria Clementina.
The 17th Century church Igreja do Colégio dominates the main square.
There are several museums worth visiting, from sacred art to local handcrafts. The quality of the Madeira Lace is world known and it continues to be produced with over 20.000 cottage industry workers scattered over the island.
Another equally famous product is the Madeira wine. A visit to the Adegas de São Franciso to learn how it is made and stored as the oldest bottles still held dates back to 1772!
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