Gonsalvo de Cordova

(Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba, El Gran Captain)


Gonsalvo de Cordova was a Spanish general known as the "El Gran Capitan" (The Great Captain), due to his terrific military feats during the reign of Isabel and Ferdinand. He took a leading part in all of the major wars fought by Spain during his lifetime, most notably the Conquest of Granada and the Italian Wars. He was known not only for his great military exploits but also for his personal qualities of magnanimity, intelligence, fidelity, and justice. He was the very model of Spanish chivalry for centuries to come.

Cordova was born into a Castilian noble family. As a second son, he was drawn into military service for the king of Castile, and gained a reputation as a exemplary soldier and leader from the first. He fought in the war of the Castilian Succession on the side of Isabel, and won her lasting affection. He served ably in the War against Granada where he distinguished himself especially by clever fortifications and other feats of military engineering. His skills were so outstanding that when Spain became embroiled in a war against France over the territory of Naples, he was chosen to lead the expedition. It this position he brought great glory to Spain, and won virtually all his battles.

Cordova is generally given a great share of the credit for building the Spanish military into the preeminent force it was during the 16th century. He revolutioned the manner of warfare to incorporate fire-arms, and developed much emulated tactics for trench-warfare, guerilla warfare, and modern formations. He is cited by military historians as one of the greatest generals of all time, and was a model to many of the most famous European generals since his time including Turenne, the Prince of Savoy, Napoleon and Wellington.

Key events during the life of Gonsalvo de Cordova:

Birth of Gonsalvo as the second son in a noble family.
Participated as a soldier in the War of Castilian Succession.
Gained reputation as first-rate commander during the Conquest of Granada.
Arranged for the transfer of Granada to Spain after it's surrender.
Beginning of First Italian War.
Battle of Seminara deals Cordoba his first and only defeat.
Return to Spain. Led expeditions against the Moriscos and Turks.
Battle of Ostia, early battle of the Second Italian War.
Battles of Cerignola and Garigliano drive France out of Southern Italy.
Recalled from Naples into retirement by Ferdinand.
Death of Cordova.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
The End of Ferdinand and Isabella  in  A Child's History of Spain  by  John Bonner
Ferdiand of Aragon  in  Famous Men of Modern Times  by  John H. Haaren
Great Captain  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris
Memorable Reign  in  Spain: A History for Young Readers  by  Frederick A. Ober

Image Links

Gonsalvo De Cordova Finding the Corpse of the Duke of Nemours
 in Historical Tales: Spanish

Short Biography
Ferdinand of Aragon King of Aragon who ruled united Spain with Queen Isabel. Drove the Moors out of Granada.
Charles VIII of France Valois king who instigated the Italian Wars by marching on Naples.
Hernan Perez del Pulgar Spanish knight under Isabella and Ferdinand who gained famed during the Reconquista for daring exploits.
Boabdil Briefly replaced his father on the throne of Granada before surrending to Ferdinand.
Isabel of Castile Pious and stalwart queen of Spain, unified diverse kingdoms, reformed finances, conquered Granada, financed Columbus.