Volume 1, Chapter 22 -- Account of the Discovery and Conquest of the Canary Islands[1]

The island of Nivaria, and others mentioned by Pliny, as known to Juba king of Mauritania, were most probably Teneriffe and the other Canary Islands; for Pliny notices that the summit of Nivaria was generally covered with snow, which is frequently the case with the peak of Teneriffe, and from this circumstance the name of Nivaria is obviously derived. They appear likewise to have been known in the middle ages to the Arabs of Morocco; as the Nubian geographer mentions two islands, under the names of Mastahan and Lacos, as among the six fortunate islands described by Ptolemy; these probably were Lancerota and Fuertaventura, the latter of which may be seen in clear weather from the nearest coast of Africa. All knowledge, however, of these islands had ceased in Europe, till some time between the years 1326 and 1334, when a French ship happened to be driven among them by a storm. Upon this discovery, Don Luis de la Cerda, count of Claramonte, whose father, Don Alonzo, had been deprived of his right to the inheritance of the crown of Castile, procured a grant of these islands, with the title of king, from Pope Clement VI., on condition of causing the gospel to be preached to the natives.[2] Don Luis equipped a fleet from some of the ports of the Spanish kingdom of Arragon, in order to take possession of his new kingdom, but the design failed, and he died soon after.

In 1385, some Biscayners and inhabitants of Seville joined in the equipment of five ships at Cadiz, in order to make descents for the sake of plunder upon the Canary islands, and the adjacent coast of Africa. After coasting along the African shore, they sailed westwards, and fell in with the island now called Lancerota, where they landed; and after a skirmish with the natives, plundered the town, front which they carried off a large booty of goat-skins, tallow, and sheep, and 170 of the inhabitants, whom they sold into slavery. Among these were Guanareme, king of the island, and his wife Tingua-faya. A similar expedition in quest of plunder and captives was made to Lancerota from Seville in 1393.

In the year 1400, John de Betancour, a gentleman of Normandy, and Gadifer de Sala, a person of considerable fortune, fitted out three small vessels from Rochelle in France, containing 200 persons, exclusive of the mariners, and made a descent upon Lancerota, where they erected a fort at a harbour, to which they gave the name of Rubicon. Leaving there a small garrison, they passed over to the island of Fuertaventura; but being opposed by the natives, they prudently retired without fighting. Betancour afterwards applied to Don Henry III. king of Arragon, for assistance to enable him to make a conquest of these islands; who made him a grant of them in due form, with the title of king, and supplied him with money to defray the expence of an armament to accomplish their subjugation. He easily effected the conquest of Lancerota, and divided its lands among the French and Spanish adventurers who had assisted him in the expedition.

After the death of John de Betancour, his nephew, Mason de Betancour, sold the Canary Islands to Don Henry de Guzman, Count of Niebla; who afterwards conveyed them to Guillen Paraza, and from whom they fell by inheritance to Diego de Herrera, who died in 1485. In 1487, the sovereignty was resumed by the crown of Castile, with the title of a kingdom.[3]

[1] Glas. Disc. and Conqu. passim.
[2] The Author of the History of the Canaries, omits the date of this grant. Clement VI. was Pope from 1343 to 1352, between which years the papal grant must have been made.--E.
[3] A more extended account or these islands will be found in Part III. of this work.--E.


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