Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Admiral of the Seas

Whenever someone brings up Christopher Columbus in conversation, immediately you know of whom they speak. None of this "Oh I know who you mean" which is the common response when really, you have no idea who they are talking about. It often coincides with the words "Hmm" and "Yes" and general nods of agreement. But not in this case, everyone know's who Christopher Columbus is and to be honest I think its almost considered a sin if you don't. A man permanently engraved in the pages of history. He almost single handedly transformed the modern world into what it has become today. He is simply, the greatest explorer of our time.

Christopher Columbus's years of prominence were at the end of the 15th century and early 16th century. This coincides with the time setting of my novel; Mercenary. Being a big fan of his I was hell bent on finding him a role in my book despite the early realisation that it was highly unlikely and extremely non practical. However upon digging a little deeper I found out he had had correspondence with some of the other historical figures whom appear in my book a few years before it is set. Giving me the all important glimmer of hope I needed to slip him in. Columbus plays a slightly unusual role in my book but a very pivotal one. I will of course do as all authors do and fail to reveal to much, but lets just say his viewpoint is very important.

For those of you that don't know much about him and I gasp in horror at your misfortune. I shall provide you with a little bio. Born on October 31st 1451 in the Republic of Genoa and died May 20th 1506 in Valladolid. He was well versed in many different languages including Castilian, Latin and Portuguese. He also read widely and although not considered a scholarly man he did have a vast knowledge of many different areas, including geography and history. In 1453 after the fall of Constantinople the land route to Asia became a dangerous journey. Therefore Portuguese navigators wished to reach Asia by sailing around Africa. However by 1480 Columbus had other ideas and after doing some research, conducted the idea of travelling to Asia by sailing west across the Atlantic.

He made four trips across the Atlantic in his time and we all know where he ended up. He never did admit that he had reached a continent that was originally unknown in Europe when really he was aiming for the West Indies. Instead his voyages lead to the discovery of the "New World" which we know by now as the Americas. He had the support of the Spanish Monarchs behind him, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. He went to them having been turned down by the King of Portugal and he was even turned down by them twice before they consented. Columbus was to receive financial support in half from Italian investors and the other half from the Spanish Crown. They even offered him generous terms, agreeing that he could keep a portion of all profits and would be made "Admiral of the Seas".

Upon arrival in what later came to be known as the Indies he discovered an island which he named Hispaniola. It's occupants; the Taino whom he called Indios, which is the Spanish word for Indians, were at first hospitable and then overtime hostile to their new Spanish overlords as were the Maya and the Aztec's who followed. Despite the set back however it is safe to say Columbus' exploration led to Europe's lasting contact with the America's and caused a period of colonization that lasted for many, many years. Spain obviously played a big role in this colonisation but the Crown shared a strained relationship with Columbus after promising him with such great terms at the onset. They arrested him in 1500 and dismissed him as Governor of Hispaniola, as Columbus's son Diego later said, they never expected him to return.

Just like the Great Captain, Columbus was treated rather unfairly by the Spanish Monarchy. He played a huge role in developing their empire and proving them with a means of filling their coffers and yet he was easily dismissed. In his later years he demanded his 10% that the Crown had promised him of all profits, but as he no longer retained his title, they felt no obligation to do so. After a blistering career that shot him up to prominence as one of the most famous people of that time, he was disregarded and for want of a better phrase was left to rot, unwillingly and unfairly until his death in 1506. But no matter how it ended or what he went through, he was and will always be the Admiral of the Seas.