Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Great Captain

I am a massive fan of history in particular the mid to late middle ages. I think it was a fascinating time in terms of battle's, monarchs and historical figures to name a few. One such figure was Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba also know as "El Gran Capitan" (The Great Captain) and this article is dedicated to him. He is the latest Historical Figure to make the pages of my book (Mercenary) and I found his story was so inspiring that I felt compelled to tell you about him.
He was born in Cordoba in September 1453 and died in Cordoba in December 1515. He was a General in the Spanish Army and fought during the Conquest of Grenada to expel the Muslims from the south of Spain and the Italian Wars where Spain was stamping its claim on the Kingdom of Naples. It is his part in the Italian Wars that has relevance to my book. In particular the battle of Cerignola against France in which he fought with my protagonist Richard Longsword.
At this time the Spanish Army was going through a phase of emergence and was proving itself as one of the finest in the world. At the forefront of this transition was Gonzalo himself who single handedly reorganised it and improved its tactics. He lead Spain into the modern world and used all the latest techniques and weapons and was the first general to win a battle by the use of gun powdered arms. It was not long before he was dubbed as "the Father of Trench Warfare".

He was admired the world over and many influential men fought under him. He was loved by the small-folk and is one of, if not the most beloved Spanish General of all time. But they were not the only ones that loved him. He married in 1489 to Luisa Manrique one of the ladies in waiting to Queen Isabella I of Castile. However, although I have no concrete proof, after delving deeply into the abyss that is research it is my belief that Queen Isabella herself was in love or at least extremely fond of him. It may be that the feeling was mutual, although this love was never acted upon.
Gonzalo would later go on to be successful in battle both domestically and abroad in Italy where he was named as Viceroy of Naples in 1504. But after the untimely death of Queen Isabella also in 1504 he was left without a protector and more poignantly a close friend. King Ferdinand II of Spain recalled him in 1507, according to the sources because he was jealous of the General's great exploits, fame and admiration from his men. Although this is no doubt true, I believe that the King was just as much jealous of the fact that his wife loved Gonzalo, may haps in a way that she would never have loved him.

Of course, on his arrival home the King loaded him with titles and many fine words, after all he wasn't going to be seen to dislike the General and face the wrath of the people who held him dear to their hearts. But what he did do was leave him unemployed until his death, wasting away in his home town of Cordoba. A sad tale of sorts, one full of impossible love and overwhelming jealousy and all in all an unfitting end to the life of so great a war hero.

Yet that is why I think it is so special, because it shares a sense of reality. But I am not one to end it on a unhappy note. I like to believe the General spent the rest of his days thinking on the life of his one true lost love before being reconciled with her upon his death (and if it's any consolation the King died less then a year later in 1516 a lonely man). But no matter where he was whether it be on foreign shores or on his death bed in Cordoba, he was still loved by the people. His achievements in battle could never be taken away from him and he will always be remembered as the one and only El Gran Capitan.