The Great Captain: Gonzalo Hernandez de Cordova

March 15, 2012

Don Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, el Gran Capitán

Gonsalvo, or, as he is called in Castilian, Gonzalo, Hernadez de Cordova, was sixty-two years old at the time of his death. His countenance and person are represented to have been extremely handsome; his manners, elegant and attractive, were stamped with that lofty dignity which so often distinguishes his countrymen. “He still bears,” says Martyr, speaking of him in the last years of his life, “the same majestic port as when in the height of his former authority; so that every one who visits him acknowledges the influence of his noble presence, as fully as when, at the head of armies, he gave laws to Italy.”

His splendid military successes, so gratifying to Castilian pride, have made the name of Gonsalvo as familiar to his countrymen as that of the Cid, which, floating down the stream of popular melody, has been treasured up as a part of the national history…. His characteristics were prudence, coolness, steadiness of purpose, and intimate knowledge of man. He understood, above all, the temper of his own countrymen. He may be said in some degree to have formed their military character; their patience of severe training and hardship, their unflinching obedience, their inflexible spirit under reverses, and their decisive energy in the hour of action….

Gonsalvo was untainted with the coarser vices characteristic of the time. He discovered none of that griping avarice which was too often the reproach of his countrymen in these wars. His hand and heart were liberal as the day. He betrayed none of the cruelty and licentiousness which disgrace the age of chivalry. On all occasions he was prompt to protect women from injury or insult….

Gonsalvo’s fame rests on his military prowess; yet his character would seem in many respects better suited to the calm and cultivated walks of civil life. His government of Naples exhibited much discretion and sound policy; and there, as afterwards in his retirement, his polite and liberal manners secured not merely the good will, but the strong attachment, of those around him.


William H. Prescott, History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1900), Vol. II, pp. 490-491.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 160


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