The Last Days of Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus returned to Spain from his fourth and final voyage in November of 1504. He was no longer hailed as a hero. His difficulties as governor of Hispañola, coupled with his inability to find a route to the Indies, made him appear to be a failure in the eyes of the public. Besides, his patron, the Queen of Castile, Isabella, had died.

The final years of Columbus were spent attempting to secure the 10 percent of the revenue he had been promised before his first voyage. King Ferdinand insisted that Columbus had forfeited this grant by his mismanagement of Hispañola as governor. The few cash reserves he had quickly dwindled away.

Even as his poverty grew, the health of Columbus waned. He is thought to have had gout, or perhaps Reiter's syndrome1 (a tropical disease). Columbus died on 20 May 1506, in Valladolid, Spain. He requested to be burried in Santo Domingo along with the ball and chain to which he had been attached on his return from his third voyage.

Contrary to the wishes of Columbus he was originally interred in Valladolid. He was later moved to Seville where he was buried next to his eldest son Diego in 1526. The widow of Diego then had both bodies moved to Santo Domingo. Here they remained for over two centuries. But in 1795 much of the Island of Hispañola was turned over to France by Spain. But the Spanish, wishing to keep the body of Columbus on Spanish soil, transferred it first to Cuba, and then back to Seville in Spain.

Today there is some dispute over where the body of Columbus lies. When the bones were moved from Santo Domingo to Cuba, many believe that the remains that were moved were those of Diego. Some in Cuba claim that the correct bones were received but that the wrong remains were shipped from there to Seville. To further complicate the issue, some of the remains that ended up in Seville were also shipped to Genoa. Even their brief stop in Cuba gives the Cuban's a claim on his bones. Much has been done in the way of genetic testing and historical research. Nevertheless, competing claims continue to be put forth by all parties.

Just as there is much argument and discussion about where he is buried, there is considerable controversy regarding the legacy of Columbus.

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The Legacy of Christopher Columbus >>

  1. Columbus as an Old Man

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