Discovery and Exploration, 1000-1562

Author: Washington Irving  | Date: 1506

The Death of Columbus

THE death of Isabella was a fatal blow to the fortunes of Columbus. While she lived, he had everything to anticipate from her high sense of justice, her regard for her royal word, her gratitude for his services, and her admiration of his character. With her illness, however, his interest had languished, and when she died, he was left to the justice and generosity of Ferdinand!

During the remainder of the winter and a part of the spring, he continued at Seville, detained by painful illness, and endeavoring to obtain redress from the government by ineffectual letters….

The cold and calculating Ferdinand beheld this illustrious man sinking under infirmity of body, heightened by that deferred hope which "maketh the heart sick." A little more delay, a little more disappointment, and a little longer infliction of ingratitude, and this loyal and generous heart would cease to beat: he should then be delivered from the just claims of a well tried servant, who, in ceasing to be useful, was considered by him to have become importunate….

In the meantime the cares and troubles of Columbus were drawing to a close…. His last voyage had shattered beyond repair a frame already worn and wasted by a life of hardship; and continual anxieties robbed him of that sweet repose so necessary to recruit weariness and debility of age. The cold ingratitude of his sovereign chilled his heart. The continued suspension of his honors, and the enmity and defamation experienced at every turn, seemed to throw a shadow over that glory which had been the great object of his ambition. This shadow, it is true, could be but of transient duration; but it is difficult for the most illustrious man to look beyond the present cloud which may obscure his fame, and anticipate its permanent luster in the admiration of posterity.

Being admonished by failing strength and increasing sufferings that his end was approaching, he prepared to leave his affairs in order for the benefit of his successors….

Having thus scrupulously attended to all the claims of affection, loyalty, and justice upon earth, Columbus turned his thoughts to heaven; and having received the holy sacrament, and performed all the pious offices of a devout Christian, he expired with great resignation, on the day of Ascension, the 20th of May, 1506, being about seventy years of age. His last words were, "In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum:" Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.


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Chicago: Washington Irving, "The Death of Columbus," Discovery and Exploration, 1000-1562 in America, Vol.1, Pp.214-215 Original Sources, accessed April 14, 2024,

MLA: Irving, Washington. "The Death of Columbus." Discovery and Exploration, 1000-1562, in America, Vol.1, Pp.214-215, Original Sources. 14 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: Irving, W, 'The Death of Columbus' in Discovery and Exploration, 1000-1562. cited in , America, Vol.1, Pp.214-215. Original Sources, retrieved 14 April 2024, from