CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS' FINAL YEARS
Christopher Columbus is one of the most significant figures in all of World History and is particularly important to major world events such as the Age of Exploration and Renaissance. His four famous journeys to the New World in the late 15th century and early 16th century altered the history of the world and led to a mass migration of people from the Old World to the New World. Today, he is best remembered as a famous European navigator, explorer and colonizer.
Having completed his four voyages to the New World, Christopher Columbus was famous throughout Europe. However, he spent the remaining few years of his life campaigning to receive more compensation for his earlier explorations from the Spanish Crown. As part of his original deal, Columbus was supposed to be paid ten percent of all of the earnings that Spain received from the New World. However, after being removed as Governor of the Spanish settlements on his third, the Spanish Crown stopped these payments. As a result, Columbus argued that he and his heirs were owed more. In fact, Columbus’ heirs would carry out a long drawn out series of lawsuits against Spain in order to receive more compensation. Known as the ‘Columbian Lawsuits’, they lasted from 1508 until 1536.
Regardless, by the time he returned to Spain from his fourth and final voyage in 1504 he was also suffering from several different medical issues. Some historians have suggested that he suffered from prolonged bouts of gout which is a painful inflammation of the joints. He likely also suffered from years of a poor diet aboard sailing ships and had prolonged trouble with his eyes. Christopher Columbus died at the age of 54 on May 20th, 1506 in Valladolid, Spain.
Following his death, his remains were first kept in Valladolid, Spain. However, his remains were moved several times throughout history. For instance, shortly after his death they were moved to a monastery in Seville, which is in southern Spain. His remains were moved again in 1542, when they were taken to Santo Domingo, on the island of Hispaniola, which is located in modern day Dominican Republic. In 1795, Columbus's remains were moved to Havana, Cuba. Finally, his remains were moved back to Seville in 1898, where they remain to this day.
Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World in 1492 has been celebrated throughout history and across both the Americas and in Spain. For example, in the United States, Columbus Day occurs every year on the second Monday of October, to roughly correspond with Columbus’ arrival on his first voyage. Some argue against celebrating Columbus as a historical figure due to the violence and brutality that resulted from his arrival and actions in the New World. Click here to read more about the controversy surrounding Columbus’ legacy.