Friday, April 18, 2008 4/18/08-Columbus Rejected

In today's excerpt--Christopher Columbus, promoter, dreamer, and dogged pursuer of his quest, gets his answer from Spain. He had been rebuffed by Portugal, and had now waited six years in Spain while the bold monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand remained preoccupied with both the Inquisition and the war to expel the Moors:

"He had returned to [the recently captured Alhambra at] Granada for the final decision on his proposal. All the impediments had been removed. There could be no further excuse for postponement. He had waited six long years for this infernal war to be over, and now, with something of a chip on his shoulder, he demanded a clear and definitive answer. ...

"The queen reconvened her ponderous philosophers [to opine on the proposed voyage], and they repeated their well-worn objections, barbing them with the usual mockery. ... Within days of the fall of Granada [which ended the successful war against the Moors], the supplicant was summoned into the presence of the queen and informed that his proposal was formally, conclusively, and terminally rejected. Angrily, Columbus threw his belongings on his horse and rode north on the road to Cordoba-and France.

"Sprinkled into the second rank of courtiers, Columbus had his admirers. One was Luis de Santangel, a wealthy Aragonese financier. ... Upon hearing of Columbus's departure, he rushed into the queen's presence to launch a passionate protest. He was surprised and disappointed that so great and high-minded a queen had dismissed this man of quality when his project involved so little risk to the crown, and yet, if successful, would bring such glory. ... If another European country, such as France, sponsored Columbus ... Spain would be the great loser.

"Santangel's passion must have been extraordinary, for his speech shook and moved Isabella. ... Santangel [implored], 'Send for Columbus, because I fear that he has already left.' Immediately, she dispatched a bailiff to ride after Columbus and bring him back to court. Sixteen miles up the road ... the bailiff caught up to him. Suspicious and still resentful, Columbus turned back reluctantly. At Santa Fe, Santangel greeted him effusively. The queen had changed her mind. She had instructed her scribe to draw up the necessary documents, giving Christopher Columbus everything he asked for."

James Reston, Jr., The Dogs of God, Anchor, Copyright 2005 by James Reston, Jr., pp. 247-250.


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