No one believed this more than Christopher Columbus. He knew that discovery of a quicker route would mean fame and fortune and he was determined that this destiny should be his. All he had to do was convince a wealthy backer that he was right and he could achieve his life’s quest and personal dream to be an Admiral and owner of a vast new empire. He even had a map; the Martellus map, especially revised and redrawn to prove the virtue of his claims to potential investors,
Columbus was a tall unprepossessing man with a serious countenance and a mass of once red, now white hair. Closer inspection of his blue eyes and aquiline nose revealed an intense man on a mission. Determined to raise the money required to mount a western expedition, he spent many soul-destroying years petitioning the travelling court of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand around Spain. Because of this dogged pursuit to find funding, his dour countenance and distinct lack of humour became legendary amongst courtiers and staff of the royal household.
Despite his assurances, arguments and pleas, Columbus struggled to convince Queen Isabella of the strategic importance of his proposed voyage, all the while secretly worrying that the Portuguese would get to the Orient before him. He knew that King Joao of Portugal was committed to exploring the eastwards route and would do so with his own expedition as soon as it was viable. Columbus consoled himself with the thought that, as a nation, the Portuguese had less money than their richer neighbour and would be unable to mount a full expedition for some time. Even more worrying was his fear that the Portuguese would discover that he was travelling with copies of their maps that he had ‘borrowed’ from the Prince Henry ‘School of Navigation’. Mindful of these potential threats, Columbus renewed his efforts to convince Queen Isabella to support him. To help him achieve this he and his brother Bartholomew adjusted the Martellus map to make what many believed was a shorter route via the east appear to be an almost impossible journey.
The modified Martellus map succeeded in winning over Queen Isabella who was looking for a diversion after the final defeat of the Moors at Granada. The Moors, Islamic invaders in Andalusia, had been forcibly removed and for the first time Spain was united as a Christian country. Peace had been hard won and Isabella aimed to keep it that way.