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He was the illegitimate son of Gonzalo Pizarro and Francisca González, who paid little attention to his education and he grew up without learning how to read or write. His father was a captain of infantry and had fought in the Neopolitan wars with el Gran Capitán Gonzalo de Córdoba. Filled with enthusiasm at the accounts of the exploits of his countrymen in America, Pizarro set sail (10 November, 1509) with Alonzo de Ojeda from Spain, on the latter's expedition to Urabí, where Ojeda founded the city of San Sebastian, and left it in Pizarro's care when he returned to the ship for provisions. Hardships and the climate having thinned the ranks of his companions, Pizarro sailed to the port of Cartagena. There he joined the fleet of Martin Fernández de Encíso, and later attached himself to the expedition of Nuñez de Balboa, whom he accompanied on his journey across the Isthmus of Panama to discover the Pacific Ocean (29 September, 1513). When Balboa was beheaded by his successor, Pedrarias Dávila, Pizarro followed the fortunes of the latter until 1515 when Dávila sent him to trade with the natives along the Pacific coast. When the capital was transferred to Panama he helped Pedrarias to subjugate the warlike tribes of Veraguas, and in 1520 accompanied Espinosa on his expedition into the territory of the Cacique Urraca, situated in the present Republic of Costa Rica.
In 1522 the accounts of the achievements of Hernán Cortés, and the return of Pascual de Andagoya from his expedition to the southern part of Panama, bringing news of the countries situated along the shore of the ocean to the south, fired him with enthusiasm. With the approbation of Pedrarias he formed together with Diego de Almagro, a soldier of fortune who was at that time in Panama, and Hernando de Luque, a Spanish cleric, a company to conquer the lands situated to the south of Panama. Their project seemed so utterly unattainable that the people of Panama called them the "company of lunatics". Having collected the necessary funds Pizarro placed himself at the head of the expedition; Almagro was entrusted with the equipping and provisioning of the ships; and Luque was to remain behind to look after their mutual interests and to keep in Pedrarias's favour so that he might continue to support the enterprise. In November, 1524, Pizarro set sail from Panama with a party of one hundred and fourteen volunteers and four horses, and Almagro was to follow him in a smaller ship just as soon as it could be made ready. The result of the first expedition was disheartening. Pizarro went no further than Punta Quemada, on the coast of what is now Colombia, and having lost many of his men he went to Chicamá, a short distance from Panama. From here he sent his treasurer, with the small quantity of gold which he had obtained, to the governor to give an account of the expedition. Meanwhile Almagro had followed him, going as far as the Rio de San Juan (Cauca, Colombia), and, not finding him, returned to rejoin him at Chicamá.
A second request to obtain Pedrarias's permission to recruit volunteers for the expedition was met with hostility, because the governor himself was planning an expedition to Nicaragua. Luque, however, contrived to change his attitude, and the new governor, D. Pedro de los Rios, was from the beginning favourably disposed towards the expedition. On 10 March, 1528, the three partners signed a contract, whereby they agreed to divide equally all the territory that should be conquered and all the gold, silver, and precious stones that should be found. They purchased two ships, and Pizarro and Almagro directed their course to the mouth of the San Juan River, where they separated. Pizarro remained with a portion of the soldiers to explore the mainland; Almagro returned to Panama to get re-enlistments; and the other ship under the command of Ruiz set sail for the south. He went as far as Punta de Pasados, half a degree south of the equator, and after making observations and collecting an abundance of information, returned to Pizarro, who in the meantime, together with his companions, had suffered severely. Shortly afterwards Almagro arrived from Panama, bringing soldiers and abundant provisions. Once more re-enforced they started together taking a southerly route until they reached Tacamez, the extreme south of Columbia. They then decided that Almagro should return to Panama, and Pizarro should remain on the Island del Gallo to await further re-enforcements. The arrival of Almagro and the news of the sufferings of the explorers alarmed Pedro de los Rios, who sent two ships to the Island del Gallo with orders to bring back all the members of the expedition. Pizarro and thirteen of his companions refused to return, and the little party was abandoned on the island. Fearful of being molested by the inhabitants on account of their reduced number, they built a raft and sought refuge on the Island of Gorgona on the coasts of Columbia.
Meanwhile Almagro and Luque endeavoured to pacify the governor who at last consented that a ship be sent, but only with a sufficient force to man it, and with positive orders to Pizarro to present himself at Panama within six months. When the ship arrived without reinforcements Pizarro determined, with the aid of a few men that he still had with him, to undertake an expedition southward. Skirting the coast of the present Republic of Ecuador, he directed his course towards the city of Tumbez in the north of what is now Peru. Seeing that the natives were friendly towards him, he continued his voyage as far as Payta, doubled the point of Aguja, and sailed along the coast as far as the point where the city of Trujillo was later founded. He was everywhere well received, for the Spaniards in obedience to his strict orders had refrained from any excesses that might have incurred the enmity of the Indians and endangered the ultimate result of the expedition. Finally after an absence of eighteen months Pizarro returned to Panama. Notwithstanding the gold he brought and the glowing accounts he gave, the governor withdrew his support and permission to continue the explorations. The three partners then determined that Pizarro should go to Spain and lay his plans before Charles V.
He landed in Seville in 1528 and was well received by the emperor, then in Toledo, who was won by the account of the proposed expedition, and, 26 June, 1529, signed the memorable agreement (capitulacion), in which the privileges and powers of Pizarro and his associates were set forth. On the former, Charles conferred the order of Knight of St. James, the titles of Adelantado, Governor and Captain General, with absolute authority in all the territories he might discover and subjugate. A government independent of that of Panama was granted to him in perpetuity, extending two hundred leagues to the south of the River Santiago, the boundary between Colombia and Ecuador. He had the privilege of choosing the officers who were to serve under him, of administering justice as chief constable (alguacil), and his orders were revocable only by the Consejo Real. Pizarro agreed to take 250 soldiers and provide the boats and ammunition indispensable for such an expedition. He sailed from Seville 18 January, 1530, taking with him his brothers, Hernando, who was the only legitimate son, Juan, and Gonzalo, all of whom were to play an important part in the history of Peru. Arrived in Panama he had the task of pacifying his two associates who were dissatisfied with the scant attention he had secured for them from the Court. Early in January, 1531, Pizarro set sail from the port of Panama with 3 ships, 180 men, and 27 cavaliers. Almagro and Luque remained behind to procure further assistance and send reinforcements. He landed in the Bay of San Mateo near the mouth of the Santiago River, and started to explore the coast on foot. The three boats were sent back to Panama for reinforcements.
The explorers passed by Puerto Viejo and came as far as the city of Tumbez, where they embarked in some Indian rafts and passed over to the Island of Puna in the Gulf of Guayaquil. Here they were hard pressed by the attacks of the islanders, when relief came in the form of two vessels with a hundred men and some horses commanded by Hernando de Soto. Thus reinforced and knowing that the brothers Atahuallpa and Huascar were at war with each other, Pizarro determined to penetrate into the interior of the empire and left Tumbez early in May, 1532. On 15 November, after a long, distressing journey and without opposition from the Indians, he entered the city of Caxamalca (now Caxamarca). Treacherously invited into the camp of the Spaniards, the Indian prince Atahuallpa presented himself accompanied by his bodyguard but unarmed. At a given signal the Spaniards rushed upon the unsuspecting Indians, massacred them in the most horrible manner, and took possession of their chief. Deprived of its leader the great army that was encamped near Caxamalca, not knowing what to do, retreated into the interior. As the price of his release the Inca monarch offered his captives gold enough to fill the room (22 by 17 feet) in which he was held captive. In a few months the promise was fulfilled. Gold to the amount of 4,605,670 ducats (15,000,000 pesos), according to Garcilaso de la Vega, was accumulated and Atahuallpa claimed his freedom. At this juncture Almagro arrived with soldiers to strengthen their position, and naturally insisted that they too should share in the booty. This was agreed to and after the fifth part, the share of the king, had been set apart an adequate division was made of the remainder, a share of $52,000 falling to the lot of each soldier, even those who had come at the end. Notwithstanding Atahuallpa was accused and executed 24 June, 1534.
From Caxamalca he passed to the capital of the Incas, while his lieutenants were obtaining possession of all the remaining territory. In order to keep the Indians together Pizarro had Manco Capac, an Inca, crowned king, and on 6 January, 1535, founded the city of Lima. He obliged Pedro de Alvarado, who had come from Guatemala in search of adventure, to return to his own territory, and sent his brother Hernando to Spain to give an account to the Court of the new empire he had united to the Crown. He was well received by the emperor, who conferred on Pizarro the title of marquess and extended the limits of his territory seventy leagues further along the southern coast. The title of Adelantado, besides that of Governor of Chile, which, however, had not yet been conquered, was conferred on Diego de Almagro. Luque was no longer living. Almagro at once set about the conquest of Chile, taking with him all those who were willing to follow.
Manco Capac was meanwhile trying to foment an uprising in the whole of Peru, actually besieging the cities of Lima and Cuzco. The arrival of Alonso de Alvarado, brother of the companion of Cortés, saved Lima, but Cuzco, where the three brothers of Pizarro were, was only saved by the return of Almagro from his expedition to Chile and his claim that the city of Cuzco was situated in the territory which had been assigned to him in the royal decrees. The Indians were put to flight, Almagro took forcible possession of the city, April, 1537, and made Hernando and Gonzalo prisoners, Juan having died. Troops, however, were hurrying from Lima to the rescue; Almagro was defeated, taken prisoner, and executed, July, 1538. Hernando went to Spain but was not received well at the Court; he was imprisoned until 1560, and died at the age of one hundred almost in dire poverty. Gonzalo launched on his intrepid expedition to explore the Amazon, returning to find that his brother Francisco was no more. The followers of Almagro, offended by the arrogant conduct of Pizarro and his followers after the defeat and execution of Almagro, organized a conspiracy which ended in Pizarro's assassination of the conqueror of Peru in his palace at Lima.
Pizarro had four children: a son whose name and the name of his mother are not known, and who died in 1544; Gonzalo by an Indian girl, Inés Huaillas Yupanqui, who was legitimized in 1537 and died when he was fourteen; by the same woman, a daughter, Francisca, who subsequently married after having been legitimized by imperial decree, together with her uncle Hernando Pizarro, 10 October, 1537; and a son, Francisco, by a relative of Atahuallpa, who was never legitimized, and died shortly after reaching Spain.
PRESCOTT, History of the Conquest of Peru (London, 1889), Spanish tr. by ICAZBALCETA (Mexico, 1850); Diccionario enciclopédico hispano-americano, XV (Barcelona, 1894); ICAZBALCETA, Biografía de Atahualpa, Atahuallpa, Atabaliva, ó Atabalipa (Mexico, 1899); SANCHO, Relación de la Conquista del Perú, Italian ed. by RAMUSIO, Spanish tr. by ICAZBALCETA (Mexico, 1899).
APA citation. (1911). Francisco Pizarro. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12140a.htm
MLA citation. "Francisco Pizarro." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12140a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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