The Old Booksmith

Notes for the Descendants of Cristóbal Colón

NOTE 1: Cristoforo may have had other children living as late as 1497, but all had died by 1503.

NOTE 2: Very little is known of Philippa Moñiz. She met her husband in the Lisbon church where he regularly attended mass and was reputedly of noble family (though the family story that her father was involved in the discovery of the island of Madeira is wholly inaccurate). She also had a married sister in Helva, Andalusia, to whom Cristoforo (and later his son, Diego) provided a small subvention.

NOTE 3: Luis Colón y Toledo had a very complex matrimonial life. . . . He met his 1st wife, Maria de Orosco, in 1542, shortly after she arrived in Santo Domingo. They declared themselves man and wife "by words of the present" (a verbal formula without benefit of a priest), but there is no evidence that it was ever consumated. By the civil law then in force, such a mutual declaration constituted a valid marriage, though the Church naturally frowned on the practice. Maria was hurried off to Guatemala with her negligent chaperone, to an arranged marriage to Francisco Castellanos [Treasurer of Honduras], by whom she subsequently had many children.

Luis's 2nd wife, Maria de Mosquera, was the richest heiress on the island. Both sets of parents decided to ignore the unconsumated 1st marriage. Luis and Maria moved to Panama and lived on an island in Panama Bay, on the Pacific side, but they returned to Hispaniola early in 1548, after the birth of their first child.

Luis then broke with his 2nd wife and became conveniently scrupulous about his 1st marriage. At this point, Maria de Orosco returned home to Spain with her husband and her children, making the usual stop at Santo Domingo before setting out on the Atlantic crossing. Luis went to the Archbishop and insisted that neither his nor Maria's subsequent marriages were valid and that Maria should remain there with him. Maria's husband, Castellanos, was indignant and had a meeting with Luis. Finally, a theological/judicial convocation in Santo Domingo decided that while Luis was technically correct, the only practical solution was that Castellanos and his wife be allowed to continue to Spain. Luis was now permanently estranged from his 2nd wife, however, and an annulment was denied. Luis sailed for Spain in 1551 and never returned; Maria and her husband remained in Santo Domingo for the time being.

Luis set himself up in Valladolid, and on 8 June 1554 he became engaged to Ana de Castro y Ossorio, daughter of Beatriz de Castro [Countess of Lemos]. In October 1554, he formally contracted to marry her . . . as soon as the impediment of his 1st (and possibly his 2nd) marriage was removed. Papal dispensations were issued in 1555, and again in 1558.

Luis and Ana became impatient, however, and married themselves "by words of the present" in May or June 1556, while her mother was out of the house — except that this informal method of marriage had recently been banned by the Church. This marriage was finally recognized, and Ana assumed the title of Duchess of Veragua. When Luis's 2nd wife, Maria do Mosquera, received the news, she traveled to Spain and filed charges of bigamy against Luis. Ana's mother, not previously aware of the circumstances, also was infuriated. Luis was arrested for bigamy on 5 January 1559 at his home in Valladolid, to be tried by a criminal court in Madrid. He spent the period 1559–63 in one prison after another, but always under very loose "post confinement." The Countess of Lemos insisted on a formal marriage ceremony, which took place in 1560.

During this period, Luis's 2nd wife, Maria de Mosquera, who was living in Toledo near her husband's prison, became involved with Alonzo de Villareal. The authorities brought charges of adultery against her and the couple fled to Italy for safety. Maria was convicted of adultery by default, 24 August 1563. Three weeks earlier, on 4 August 1563, Luis had been found guilty of bigamy and sentenced to ten years in exile, the first five years to be spent at Oran, plus court costs and heavy fines. This decision also led to the nullification of his 2nd marriage on 26 August 1563, but because Maria had married him in good faith, their two daughters remained legitimate. Luis finally received papal dispensation on his 1st marriage, and the family of his 3rd wife insisted on a full religious ceremony, which took place 9 September 1563 in Valladolid.

Maria (hiding out in Venice) subsequently had two illegitimate sons by Villareal — Juan de Villareal (born August 1564) and Luis de Villareal (born July 1568), both of whom died without progeny — but she also appealed to Rome against the annulment judgment. Luis continued under house arrest pending the appeal, living in Madrid with his 3rd wife's family and his llegitimate eldest daughter, Juana.

Luis frequently broke the rules of his confinement by going out alone at night. On one such occasion in April 1564, he met Isabel de Carbajal, daughter of Francisco de Carbajal, a local chief magistrate in Toledo who had recently moved to Madrid. Visiting her home, he met her 14-year-old sister, Luisa (he was then 42 years old), with whom he became infatuated. She knew of his matrimonial entanglements and teased him about them; she also influenced him to emancipate his two daughters so they could handle their own property. Luis even got involved in a knife fight on her account. They claimed to have married (bigamously, again) "by words of the present" in 1564, and Luisa gave birth to a son, Cristóbal (baptized 25 May 1565).

This illegal 4th marriage had been kept secret and there was no way Luis's only son could be legitimated. Luis arranged Luisa's marriage to one of his employees, Luis Buzón of Toledo, to protect her reputation and his own legal situation, and promised a dowry to the couple to assure their economic security. Luisa strenuously protested the arranged marriage, preferring to remain Luis's mistress, and had a fistfight with her father, the magistrate, in the process. She finally married Buzón on 26 January 1566 against her will; six months later she instituted an action for annulment on grounds of duress. Surprisingly, her father supported the suit, but it was abruptly dropped. Buzón died sometime before 1605.

This scandal killed Luis's court appeal and his previous conviction was upheld 5 November 1565 with a more severe judgment — that he spend all ten years of his exile at Oran. His son, Cristóbal, went with him. At Oran, Luis also met Luis Cortes, son of Hernan Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico, who had been banished for subversive activities in 1566. He also managed to have another illegitimate daughter, Petronila Colón.

Ana de Castro, his 3rd wife, died in humiliation in 1566. Maria de Mosquera, his 2nd wife, failed to prosecute her appeal against the annulment of her marriage to Luis and it was dismissed. Luis became progressively more ill and was given permission to return to Spain but was physically unable to do so. He died 3 February 1572 at Oran and was buried at the Franciscan monastery there. His remains later were transferred to the Chapel of Santa Anna at the Monastery of Las Cuevas in Seville, and then to Santo Domingo Cathedral, where they remain.

NOTE 4: In Luis's will, Cristóbal, his illegitimate son, was left in the care of Pedro Navarro and his wife (the principal servants who followed him to Oran). Since there was no money left in Luis's estate, Diego Colón y Pravia and Alvaro de Portugal y Colón sent for the boy and took charge of him themselves. Diego was appointed his legal guardian shortly thereafter.

NOTE 5: After her husband's death, Magdalena moved to Panama to live with her stepdaughter, Francisca. There she m2. ______ Caceres, a judge of the Audiencia de Panama, and had another son. She m3. Pedro Vanegas de Cañaveral, President of the Audiencia of Quito, who was nearly 80 years old at the time. By browbeating her palsied and senile husband, Magdalena became the real executive power in Quito for a number of years. After her 3rd husband's death in 1588, she quickly retired to a convent to escape criminal charges.

NOTE 6: Diego Colón y Pravia was one of the first students at the monastery that became the University of Santo Domingo. He lived at Gelves in 1572 with his cousin, Alvaro de Portugal y Colón [Count of Gelves]. He married Luis's daughter, Felipa, as a compromise (arranged by Luis) in the inheritance suit; they moved to Santo Domingo, returning to Spain four years later. Diego's death without heirs, as the last heir in the direct male line from Cristoforo, precipitated the second great inheritance lawsuit, which lasted until 1796.

NOTE 7: On his arrival in Santo Domingo, Diego bigamously married another commoner (name unknown) and may have had a son by her, whereupon his mother packed him off to Panama as part of the family's disastrous military expedition to Veragua.

NOTE 8: Manuel Antonio Vallejo y Ortegón fought in northern Italy as a common soldier in a Spanish regiment, and died 1641 at Vercelli of wounds received in battle. There already had been a complete split with his family, who did not hear of his death for two years.

NOTE 9: Mariano continued his father's reopened suit. Finally, on 16 June 1790, the court reversed the judgment of 1664 and awarded him and his heirs the Columbus estate and titles; the judgment was reaffirmed 20 March 1793 and 9 January 1796. His descendants still hold all the titles noted below.

NOTE 10: Duke Cristóbal represented the descendants of the Discoverer at the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. he also visited Cuba and Puerto Rico, which were then still Spanish colonies, but not Santo Domingo.

NOTE 11: Though he took no interest in politics, Duke Cristóbal was arrested late in 1936 by the Republican government. Though numerous Latin American countries offered to grant him refuge, his body later was found on the road in pajamas, presumably murdered by Republican agents.

NOTE 12: A cavalry officer, Duke Ramón fought in Spain's African campaign and served in the Royal Guard; he retured in 1931 on the proclamation of the Republic. He was arrested and confined by the Republican government in 1937 but was released by U.S. intercession, went briefly into exile, and then fought in the Nationalist rebel army under Franco until the defeat of the Republic.

The principal titles held by the family after the death of Luis Colón were Duke of Veragua, Duke de la Vega, Marquis of Jamaica, and the honorary titles of Admiral of the Indies (later magnified to "Grand Admiral") and Chief Adelantado of the Indies. A new honor added in 1712 was Grandee of Spain of the First Class. All were among the highest titles the king of Spain could bestow.