Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba (1 September 1453 – 2 December 1515) was a Spanish general and statesman who led successful military campaigns during the Conquest of Granada and the Italian Wars. His military victories and widespread popularity earned him the distinction of being called "El Gran Capitán" ("The Great Captain"). He also negotiated the final surrender of Granada and later served as Viceroy of Naples. Córdoba was a masterful military strategist and tactician. He was the first to introduce the successful use of firearms on the battlefield and he reorganized his infantry to include pikes and firearms in effective defensive and offensive formations. The changes implemented by Córdoba were instrumental in making the Spanish army a dominant force in Europe for more than a hundred years.
Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba
Equestrian statue of Gonzalo de Córdoba
by Mateo Inurria, erected in Córdoba in 1923
|Nickname(s)||El Gran Capitán ("The Great Captain")|
|Born||1 September 1453|
|Died||2 December 1515 (aged 62)|
|Years of service||1482–1504|
|Other work||Viceroy of Naples (1504–1507)|
Córdoba was born on 1 September 1453 at Montilla in the province of Córdoba. He was the younger son of Pedro Fernández de Córdoba, Count of Aguilar, and Elvira de Herrera, a member of the powerful Enríquez family. In 1455 when Gonzalo was two years old, his father died. His older brother, Alonso, inherited all of their father's estates, leaving Gonzalo to seek his own fortune. In 1467 Córdoba was first attached to the household of Alfonso, Prince of Asturias, the half-brother of King Henry IV of Castile. After Alfonso's death in 1468 Córdoba devoted himself to Alfonso's sister, Isabella of Castile.
When King Henry IV died in 1474 Isabella proclaimed herself successor queen, disputing the right of Juana la Beltraneja (the king's 13-year-old daughter and her niece) to ascend the throne. During the ensuing civil war between the followers of Isabella and Juana, there was also conflict with Portugal since King Alfonso V of Portugal sided with his niece Juana. Córdoba fought for Isabella under Alonso de Cárdenas, grand master of the Order of Santiago. In 1479 he fought in the final battle against the Portuguese leading 120 lancers. Cárdenas praised him for his service. When the war ended Isabella and her husband Ferdinand were the rulers of Castile and Aragon.
Once the Catholic Monarchs had consolidated their rule, they embarked in 1481 on a ten-year campaign to conquer Granada, the last remaining Muslim stronghold on the Iberian peninsula. Córdoba was an active participant in the fighting and distinguished himself as a brave and competent military leader. He gained renown for participation in the sieges of several walled towns including Loja, Tajara, Illora, and Montefrío. At Montefrío he was reported to be the first attacker over the walls. In 1492, Cordoba captured the city of Granada, bringing an end to the war. The skills of a military engineer and a guerilla fighter were equally useful. Because of his knowledge of Arabic and his familiarity with Boabdil, Córdoba was chosen as one of the officers to arrange the surrender.
Córdoba was an important military commander during the Italian Wars, holding command twice and earning the name "The Great Captain".
The Italian Wars began in 1494 when Charles VIII of France marched into Italy with 25,000 men to make good his claim to the Kingdom of Naples ruled by Ferdinand II, a cousin to Ferdinand of Aragon. The French easily overwhelmed the Neapolitan defenses and on 12 May 1495 Charles had himself crowned Emperor of Naples. The Catholic Monarchs were anxious to reverse French success in Naples and selected Cordoba to lead an expeditionary force against Charles. Cordoba landed in Naples shortly after Charles' coronation with a force of about 5,000 infantry and 600 light cavalry. Fearful of being trapped in Italy, Charles installed Gilbert de Bourbon as Viceroy of Naples and returned to France with about half of the French forces.
Initially, Cordoba's light infantry and cavalry were no match against the heavily-armed French. A lack of training and poor coordination between Spanish and Italian forces compounded the problem. In their first major engagement on 28 June 1495, Cordoba was defeated at the Battle of Seminara against French forces led by Bernard Stewart d'Aubigny. After the defeat, Cordoba withdrew to implement a rigorous training program and reorganize his army. The Spanish employed effective guerrilla tactics, striking quickly to disrupt French supply lines and avoiding large-scale battles. Gradually Cordoba regained a foothold in the country and then assaulted the French-occupied Italian cities. Within a year, Cordoba achieved a decisive victory at Atella, capturing the French viceroy and expelling the remaining French forces from Naples. He also recovered the Roman port of Ostia and returned the captured territories to the Italians by 1498.
When Cordoba returned to Spain he drew on the lessons from the Italian campaign to restructure the Spanish forces and military strategy. In the open field, the loose formation and short swords of the Spanish infantry were unable to withstand a charge of heavy cavalry and infantry armed with pikes. To overcome this weakness, Cordoba introduced a new infantry formation armed with pikes and a heavy, shoulder-fired gun call an arquebus. To increase tactical flexibility he assigned different sections of his forces with specific roles, rather than using them as one general force. These new sections could maneuver more independently and act with greater flexibility.
After Louis XII succeeded Charles as king of France in 1498, he quickly declared his intention to re-invade Italy and once again seize Naples. To buy time, Spain negotiated the Treaty of Granada with France in 1500, agreeing to partition Naples between the two countries. Cordoba returned to Italy leading a large force on the pretext of joining with France and Venice to attack the Ottomans in the Ionian Sea. For a time Cordoba did fight the Turks, seizing the strongly held island of Cephalonia in December 1500 after a two-month siege.
Cordoba returned to Naples and after Frederick IV abdicated, the French and Spanish fought a guerilla war while negotiating the partition of the kingdom. Spain was outnumbered and besieged in Barletta by the French. Córdoba refused to be drawn into a full-scale battle until he received sufficient reinforcements.
When his army was adequately reinforced, Cordoba engaged the French on 28 April 1503 at the Battle of Cerignola where 6,000 Spanish troops faced a French army of 10,000. Córdoba formed his infantry into units called coronelías with pikemen tightly packed in the center and arquebusiers and swordsmen on the flanks. The French unsuccessfully attacked the front and were assailed by gunfire coming from the flanks. The French commander, the Duke of Nemours, was killed early in the battle. After withstanding two French charges, Cordoba went on the offensive and drove The French off the field. This was the first time in history that a battle had been won largely through the strength of firearms.
Cordoba occupied the city of Naples and pushed the French forces back across the Garigliano River. Separated by the river, a stalemate ensued with neither side able to make progress. But Cordoba strung together a pontoon bridge and stole across the river on the night of December 29, 1503. The French, commanded by Ludovico II of Saluzzo, had assumed the rain-swollen river was impassable and were taken by complete surprise. Cordoba and his army decisively defeated the French with their formations of pikes and arquebuses. Cordoba continued to pursue the French and captured the Italian city of Gaeta in January 1504. Unable to mount a defense after these losses, the French were allowed to evacuate Italy by sea and forced to sign the Treaty of Blois in 1505, relinquishing their hold on Naples.
When the French were driven out of Naples, Córdoba was made Duke of Terranova and appointed Viceroy of Naples in 1504. Later that same year Queen Isabel I of Castile died, depriving Córdoba of his most ardent supporter. Isabel's death also effectively pushed her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon, out of power temporarily in Castile and forced him to defend his interests in Aragon. Naples was an Aragonese kingdom but Córdoba was a Castilean and widely popular. As a result, Ferdinand suspected his loyalty and also felt that Córdoba spent too freely from the treasury. In 1507 Ferdinand traveled to Naples, removed him from office and ordered him to return to Spain with a promise that he would be installed as master of the Order of Santiago, a powerful and prestigious position.
Although Córdoba was awarded the additional title, Duke of Sessa, he never received the promised appointment to lead the Santiago military order. Ferdinand continued to praise Córdoba but gave him nothing else to do; Córdoba eventually retired to one of his country estates. Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba died of malaria on 2 December 1515 at his villa near Granada at age 62.
Córdoba first married in 1474 to his cousin Maria de Sotomayor; about a year later she died giving birth to a stillborn son. On 14 February 1489 Córdoba married Maria Manrique de Lara from a powerful and wealthy noble family. His only surviving daughter, Elvira Fernández de Córdoba y Manrique, would inherit all his titles upon his death in 1515.
Córdoba was a pioneer of modern warfare. He revolutionized sixteenth-century military strategy by integrating firearms into the Spanish infantry and directed the first battle in history won by gunpowder small arms (the Battle of Cerignola). He helped found the first modern standing army (the nearly invincible Spanish infantry which dominated European battlefields for most of the 16th and 17th centuries). Córdoba's extensive knowledge was passed on to the next generation through the men who served under him.
He left no sons, and was succeeded in his dukedoms by daughter Elvira Fernández de Córdoba y Manrique. Córdoba's burial place, the Monastery of San Jerónimo in Granada, was built in Renaissance style by his wife and daughter. It was desecrated by Napoleonic troops under the Corsican General Sebastiani at the beginning of the 19th century. Stone from the tower was used to build the Puente Verde bridge over the Genil. The monastery was fully restored at the end of the 19th century.
|| Duke of Santángelo
10 March 1497 – 2 December 1515
Elvira Fernández de Córdoba
| Duke of Terranova|
1502 – 2 December 1515
New creation by
Ferdinand II of Aragon
| Duke of Andría|
1507 – 2 December 1515
| Duke of Montalto|
1507 – 2 December 1515
| Duke of Sessa|
1507 – 2 December 1515
An incomplete list of events which happened in Italy in 1503:
Battle of RuvoThe Battle of Ruvo was fought on 23 February 1503 between a Spanish army under Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba and Diego de Mendoza and a French army commanded by Jacques de la Palice. The battle was part of the Second Italian War and was fought at the town of Ruvo in the Province of Bari, modern-day Italy. The result was a Spanish victory.
Battle of Cerignola
Battle of Garigliano (1503)
Challenge of BarlettaThe Challenge of Barletta (Italian: Disfida di Barletta) was a battle fought near Barletta, southern Italy, on February 13, 1503, on the plains between Corato and Andria.1st Legion Tercio "Great Captain Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba"
The 1st Legion Tercio is an infantry regiment of the Spanish Legion. The regiments headquarters is in Melilla and commands the I Spanish Legion Bandera.Battle of Cerignola
The Battle of Cerignola was fought on April 28, 1503, between Spanish and French armies, in Cerignola, near Bari in Southern Italy. Spanish forces, under Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, formed by 6,300 men, including 2,000 landsknechte, with more than 1,000 arquebusiers, and 20 cannons, defeated the French who had 9,000 men; mainly heavy gendarme cavalry and Swiss mercenary pikemen, with about 40 cannons, and led by Louis d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours, who was killed. It was one of the first European battles won by gunpowder weapons, as the assault by Swiss pikemen and French cavalry was shattered by the fire of Spanish arquebusiers behind a ditch.Battle of Garigliano (1503)
The Battle of Garigliano was fought on 29 December 1503 between a Spanish army under Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba and a French army commanded by Ludovico II, Marquis of Saluzzo.Battle of Höchst
The Battle of Höchst (20 June 1622) was fought between a combined Catholic League army led by Johan Tzerclaes, Count of Tilly and Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba and a Protestant army commanded by Christian the Younger, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, close to the town of Höchst, today a suburb of the city of Frankfurt am Main. The result was a one-sided Catholic League victory. . The action occurred during the Thirty Years' War.Battle of Mingolsheim
The Battle of Mingolsheim (German: Schlacht bei Mingolsheim) was fought on 27 April 1622, near the German village of Wiesloch, 23 km (14 mi) south of Heidelberg (and 8 km or 5 mi south of Wiesloch), between a Protestant army under General von Mansfeld and the Margrave of Baden-Durlach against a Roman Catholic army under Count Tilly.
Early in the spring of 1621, a mercenary force under the command of Georg Friedrich, Margrave of Baden-Durlach, crossed the Rhine River from Alsace to junction with a force under Ernst von Mansfeld. Combined, the armies aimed to prevent a link-up between Count Tilly and Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, arriving with an army 20,000 strong from the Spanish Netherlands under orders from General Ambrosio Spinola. Tilly met the Protestant army at its rear guard and drove upon it. This attack was successful until he engaged the main Protestant body, and was then rebuffed. Tilly retreated and bypassed the stationary Protestant army to link up with de Córdoba later that month. After the battle, Mansfeld found himself at a distinct disadvantage until the armies of Christian of Brunswick could arrive from the north. The two armies would engage later in the month at the Battle of Wimpfen.Battle of Ruvo
The Battle of Ruvo was fought on 23 February 1503 between a Spanish army under Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba and Diego de Mendoza and a French army commanded by Jacques de la Palice. The battle was part of the Second Italian War and was fought at the town of Ruvo in the Province of Bari, modern-day Italy. The result was a Spanish victory.Capture of Bacharach
The Capture of Bacharach took place on 1 October 1620 at Bacharach, Electorate of the Palatinate. The conflict was between the Spanish forces commanded by Don Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba and the Protestant forces of Frederick V, Elector Palatine, during the Palatinate campaign in the context of the Thirty Years' War. After a quick start of the invasion of states of Frederick V, proclaimed King of Bohemia, the operations slowed in mid-September, after the Capture of Oppenheim. Don Ambrosio Spinola, the Spanish general in command, assessed at a council of war the choice between undertaking the siege of Heidelberg or, secondarily, the town of Bacharach. The Spanish officers decided to take Bacharach due to the small number of Frederick's scattered forces. On 1 October Córdoba captured Bacharach with a force of 2,500 soldiers, forcing the Anglo-German defenders to surrender.Duke of Sessa
Duke of Sessa is a Spanish noble title awarded in 1507 to Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba y Herrera by Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand V of Castile. Its territorial designation refers to an Italian municipality.
Like all Spanish titles, it used to descend according to male-preference cognatic primogeniture. Therefore, it was held by several women. It now descends according to absolute cognatic primogeniture, meaning that the eldest child (regardless of gender) succeeds to the dukedom upon the death of the previous holder.Elvira Fernández de Córdoba y Manrique
Elvira Fernández de Córdoba y Manrique (died 1524) was a Spanish noblewoman, the only surviving daughter of Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, a Spanish general involved with the Italian Wars and viceroy of Naples from 1503 to 1507.
In 1518 she married a cousin, Luis Fernández de Córdoba.
Elvira Fernández de Córdoba y Manrique died quite young in childbirth in 1524, and her husband Luis, also quite young, in Rome, Italy, in 1526.Gerard Herbert
Sir Gerard Herbert was an English commander during the Eighty Years' War and the Thirty Years' War. He participated in the Siege of Heidelberg (1622) and was defeated by the Imperial-Spanish troops of Johan Tzerclaes, Count of Tilly and Don Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba.Gonzalo Fernández
Gonzalo Fernández may refer to:
Gonzalo Fernández of Castile, Count of Burgos (ca. 899-915) and of Castile (c. 909-915)
Gonzalo Fernández de Traba, Galician nobleman
Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba (1453–1515) known as el Gran Capitán, Castilian general and statesman
Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba (1585–1645) (1585–1645), Spanish military leader
Gonzalo II Fernández de Córdoba (1520–1578) (1520–1578), 3rd duke of Sessa
Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (1478–1557), Castilian writer and historian
Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba (1585–1635), Spanish military leader
Gonzalo Fernández, Uruguayan lawyer and politician, Foreign Minister of Uruguay 2008-2009
Gonzalo Fernández de la Mora, Spanish essayist and politician
Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño (born 1980), Spanish golfer
Gonzalo Fernández Parrilla, Spanish scholar and translator of Arabic literature.Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba (1585–1635)
Gonzalo Andrés Domingo Fernández de Córdoba (31 December 1585 – 16 February 1635) was a Spanish military leader during the Eighty Years' War, Thirty Years' War and the War of the Mantuan Succession.Gonzalo II Fernández de Córdoba (1520–1578)
Gonzalo II Fernández de Córdoba (Cartagena, 27 July 1520 – 3 December 1578 in Odón), 3rd duke of Sessa, was the grandson of a Viceroy of Naples, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, 1st duke of Sessa. He was twice a Governor of the Duchy of Milan, 1554–1560, Knight 217 of the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1555, and was awarded the title of 1st duke of Baena by King Philip II of Spain on 19 August 1566. In 1552 he sold his title of 3rd duke of Andria to Fabrizio Carafa, count of Rufo.
His mother died when he was four and his father when he was six. On 30 November 1538 he married at Valladolid, Spain, María Sarmiento de Mendoza, who was the sister of Diego de los Cobos y Hurtado de Mendoza, 1st marquis of Camarasa, and the daughter of Ubeda born Francisco de los Cobos, powerful Secretary of State and Financial Accountant of King Charles I of Spain, who was also Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. There was no issue from this marriage.
Gonzalo II, holder of several dukedoms and many other lesser titles, Spanish and Italian, was Captain General of the Spanish Troops in Italy, Great Admiral of the Kingdom of Naples, and a member of the Spanish king Royal Council for Italy and the Royal War Council, too.
In 1578, he died without issue. The succession to many of his titles, including the 4th dukedom of Sessa, 6th title of Countess of Cabra and the 2nd dukedom of Baena went to his sister, who had described herself un tilthen as Francisca Fernández de Córdoba.
Youngest sister Francisca had married in 1542 Álvaro de Zúñiga y Sotomayor, 4th marquis of Gibraleón, 6 count of Belalcázar, deceased 24 February 1559. This name Zúñiga belonged to her husband's mother, "Teresa de Zúñiga", who died 25 November 1565, 2nd marchioness of Ayamonte, Lady of Lepe and Redondela, 3rd duchess of Béjar on her own rights, 4th countess of Bañares, 2nd marchioness of Gibraleón. Her husband, a "Sotomayor", from Córdoba, was also a member of the nobility but not as wealthy or as important as his wife. Once more, the inherited name was no necessarily always "transmitted" by the father exclusively, things depending on personal circumstances. There was no issue from this marriage.Juan de Aragón y de Jonqueras, 2nd count of Ribagorza
Juan de Aragón y de Jonqueras, 2nd Count of Ribagorza, (27 March 1457 in Benabarre, Spain – 5 July 1528 in Monzón, Spain) was a Viceroy of Naples (1507–1509), replacing Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba.Siege of Frankenthal
The Siege of Frankenthal was a siege of the Palatinate campaign during the Thirty Years' War. A Spanish army under Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba besieged the city and its mostly English garrison commanded by Horace Vere. The siege lasted from 1621 to March 20, 1623, when King James I ordered the city to surrender.Siege of Heidelberg (1622)
The Siege of Heidelberg or the Imperial-Spanish capture of Heildelberg took place from 23 July to 19 September 1622, at Heidelberg, Electorate of the Palatinate, between the Imperial-Spanish army led by Johan Tzerclaes, Count of Tilly and Don Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba against the Anglo-Protestant forces of Frederick V, Elector Palatine, commanded by Sir Gerard Herbert and Sir Horace Vere during the Palatinate campaign, in the context of the Thirty Years' War. On 16 September the city of Heidelberg was taken by storm, and the Heidelberg Castle surrendered three days later to the Imperial and Spanish forces.Siege of the Castle of Saint George
The Siege of the Castle of Saint George occurred from 8 November 1500 until 24 December 1500, when following a series of Venetian disasters at the hands of the Turks, the Spanish-Venetian army under Captain Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba succeeded in capturing the Turkish stronghold of Cephalonia.
Cephalonia, one of the Ionian Islands off the western coast of Greece, had been in the hands of the Italian counts palatine of the Tocco family until 1479, when it was captured by the Ottoman Empire. With the exception of a brief period of Venetian control in 1482–83, the island remained in Ottoman hands until 1500.The Second Ottoman–Venetian War broke out in 1499 with the Ottoman attack on the Venetian port of Lepanto on the Greek mainland, which surrendered on 24 August 1499. The war continued to go badly for Venice, as the Ottomans shifted their attention to the Morea and stormed Modon on 9 August 1500, followed by the surrender thereupon of the neighbouring forts Coron and Navarino. On 17 August 1500, however, the Spanish captain-general, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, offered the forces at his disposal to the aid of Venice. Aided by the Spanish fleet, the newly appointed Venetian captain-general of the Sea, Benedetto Pesaro, landed on Cephalonia and after a siege took the island's capital, the Castle of St. George, on 24 December. The Spanish commander and his fleet returned to Sicily after that, but Pesaro went on to recover Santa Maura (Lefkada) as well in August 1502. When a peace treaty was concluded in Constantinople in December 1502, Cephalonia remained in Venetian hands, but Santa Maura was returned to Ottoman rule in 1503.Vicente de Gonzaga y Doria
Vicente de Gonzaga y Doria, (1602 – 23 November 1694) was Viceroy of Valencia, 1663, Viceroy of Catalonia, 1664–1667 and Viceroy of Sicily, 1678, second of the 11 sons/daughters of marquess Ferrante II Gonzaga, 1st Duke of Guastalla, (1563 – 5 August 1630), married in 1587 to Vittoria Doria, (1569–1618), daughter of Genoese Admiral of the Spanish Fleet and Member of the Spanish Royal Council, Giovanni Andrea Doria.
Vicente's eldest brother was Cesare II Gonzaga, Duke of Guastalla.
Another sister, Zenobia de Gonzaga y Doria, (*1588 – +1618) married in 1607 don Giovanni Tagliavia d'Aragona, Duke of Terranova, a title awarded to Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba in the year 1502, from a powerful Aragonese-Sicilian family, linked to the Princes of Castelvetrano, a Sicilian town, located at 37°41′0″N 12°47′35″E.