Isabella of Portugal Safe Conduct

Finding such a fantastic travel document from the 16th century is rare as back then, such documents were only issued for such notable people like conquistador Hernán Cortés from Spain.

Isabella of Portugal, Queen of Spain. Royal decree (safe conduct) authorizing passage for Cortés as he returned to New Spain. Letter Signed as “Yo la Reyna” (I the Queen). One page, 12 x 8 1/4 inches, with docketing on verso; partial separations and minor wear along the horizontal fold. [Spain], 13 December 1529.

Isabella of Portugal Safe Conduct
Isabella of Portugal, Queen of Spain. Royal decree authorizing passage for Cortés as he returned to New Spain. Letter Signed as “Yo la Reyna” (I the Queen). One page, 12 x 8 1/4 inches, with docketing on verso; partial separations and minor wear along the horizontal fold. [Spain], 13 December 1529

This safe conduct authorizes safe passage for the conquistador Hernán Cortés from Spain through the Caribbean on his return to Mexico. His conquest of Mexico had been controversial in its own time and was of questionable legality. Allegations regarding the death of his first wife added to his legal troubles, leading to his banishment from New Spain. He then successfully pleaded his case before King Charles V and Queen Isabela. He was granted a new title, used in this document: “Marqués del Valle [de Oaxaca].” The queen allowed him to return to Mexico, where he would oversee a large estate. Knowing that he would need to stop in the Caribbean, Isabela issued this decree, functioning as a passport of sorts, and bearing her signature. It proclaims that not only would Cortés and his new wife be allowed to stop on the island of Santo Domingo (the Dominican Republic today), “all their needs” would be taken care of during their stay–perhaps the first “all-inclusive” vacation in the New World! An essential document from a critical turning point in the life of Cortés and the early history of New Spain. Isabella of Portugal Safe Conduct

Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés (c. 1485-1547) is best known for conquering the Aztecs and claiming Mexico on behalf of Spain. Cortés (full name Don Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro Altamirano, Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca) first served as a soldier in an expedition of Cuba led by Diego Velázquez in 1511. In 1519, Cortés was sent to command his expedition to Mexico when Velázquez canceled it. Cortés ignored the order and traveled to Mexico anyway, setting his sights on overthrowing ruler Montezuma II in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs eventually drove the Spanish from Tenochtitlan, but Cortés returned to defeat the natives and take the city in 1521. He spent much of his later years seeking recognition for his achievements and support from the Spanish royal court.

Cortés was born in 1485 to Martín Cortés de Monroy and Doña Catalina Pizarro Altamarino, minor nobles in Medellín, Spain. He studied in Salamanca for a time but soon grew restless and left Spain in 1504 to explore the New World. The young Cortés landed in Hispaniola or modern-day Santo Domingo. He served as a notary in the town of Azúa for a few years before joining Diego Velázquez on a 1511 expedition to Cuba, where he climbed the ranks of the local government to become mayor of Santiago. Isabella of Portugal Safe Conduct

Not content on dry land, Cortés was to set sail for Mexico in 1518, this time in command of his expedition, but Velázquez canceled the trip. Defiant, Cortés set sail for Mexico anyway with 500 men and 11 ships to seek his fortune.

Cortés and his crew reached Mexico in February of 1519. They dropped anchor at Tabasco, where he gained intelligence from locals about the land he desired to conquer. They also gave him gifts in the form of 20 women. One of them, Marina, became his interpreter, and they had a son, Martín, together. He landed in Veracruz next, where his men elected him chief justice. According to some accounts, he sunk all but one of his ships before sending the intact one back to Spain. There would be no retreat for his men, only conquest.

He used his new allies and united them against the Aztecs, who were resented by local groups for the high tributes they exacted. By the time he arrived in Mexico, the Aztecs had come to rule over 500 small states and some 5 to 6 million people. He used deadly force to conquer Mexico, fighting Tlaxacan and Cholula warriors before turning his attention on the ultimate prize: taking over the Aztec Empire.

He entered Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital home to ruler Montezuma II, on November 8, 1519. Tenochtitlán, located near today’s Mexico City, had more than 140,000 inhabitants at its height and was the most densely populated city ever to exist in Mesoamerica. Montezuma, thinking Cortés and his men were envoys from the god Quetzalcoatl who was prophesied to return that year in the Aztec calendar, treated him as an honored guest. Seizing his chance, Cortés took Montezuma hostage, and his soldiers raided the city.

When Cortés learned that a Spanish force from Cuba led by Pánfilo Narváez was arriving to strip him of his command and arrest him for disobeying orders, Cortés fled the city. He left 80 Spanish soldiers and a few hundred Tlaxcaltecs under the leadership of Pedro de Alvarado to hold Tenochtitlan until he returned. Isabella of Portugal Safe Conduct

While Cortés was away, Alvarado massacred Aztec chiefs, and Cortés returned to Tenochtitlan to find a rebellion in progress. The enraged Aztec forces eventually drove his forces from the city. During the Spanish retreat, Montezuma was killed, and much of the loot the Spanish had taken were lost. But Cortés was far from finished. His forces defeated the Aztecs in Battle of Otumba on July 7, 1520, and he regained control of Tenochtitlan by August 13, 1521. The Aztec Empire had fallen.

While Cortés was conquering Mexico, Velázquez was busy crucifying his reputation in Spain. Cortés responded by sending five now-famous letters to Spanish King Charles V of Spain about the lands he had conquered and life in Mexico. Never content for long, Cortés continued to seek opportunities to gain wealth and property. He sent more expeditions out into new areas, including what is present-day Honduras. He spent much of his later years seeking recognition for his achievements and support from the Spanish royal court. He died in Spain in 1547. This document is offered at an auction and the estimated result is set to $10.000 – $15.000.

Read more interesting facts here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/magazine/2016/05-06/cortes-tenochtitlan/

Isabella of Portugal Safe Conduct

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