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Was Christopher Columbus a Douglas?

 

 

 

Columbus

 

By Dr. Deborah Richmond Foulkes, FSA Scot

Recently, a number of articles have appeared in newspapers in Spain as well in the United Kingdom about some interesting research regarding the true identity of Christopher Columbus. Alfonso Ensenat de Villalonga of Barcelona, author of “The Life of Christopher Columbus,” believes that Pedro Scotto, a young man born in 1451 in Genoa, Italy, was of Scottish descent. And, he maintains that Scotto assumed the name Cristobal Colon, aka Christopher Columbus. De Villalonga was able to verify that this Pedro Scotto went off to sea in the late 15th century and that he served Vincenzo Columbus who was captain of a pirate ship. The author also came upon some th century contemporary descriptions of Cristobal Colon that do not conform to modern 21st century interpretations of Columbus. De Villalonga concludes from his findings that the famous navigator was really a freckle-faced, blond haired Scotsman named Pedro Scotto, born in Genoa, the son of Scottish parents with ancient ties to Lanarkshire, Scotland.

The history of the Douglas family in Italy began around 794. Guillelmo de Duglas, younger son of Sholto Duglas, was a lieutenant of Charlemagne. He was credited with defending Florence when he drove out the invaders and restored the city-state to independence. Duglas became ill during that campaign and took up residence in Piacenza to convalesce. He ultimately fell in love with and married the daughter of the lord of Castle Spettino, and they had many children. The name Pedro is in that line. The Douglas Scotti’s armorial bearings were originally three stars in chief just like the 13th century Douglas arms of Lanarkshire, Scotland. The family had become very powerful by the 14th century in Italy and changed their armorials to two stars separated by a bend to signify their allegiance to the Guelph party. The motto used by the Charlemagne Fombio line was Numquam Retrorsum or Never Retrieve/Retreat (translations differ from the old Latin). And, in 1620, the Count of Agazzano wrote to his Douglas cousins in Scotland to confirm the family’s relationship. But the question remains, is Pedro Scotto a Douglas? De Villalonga references a chronicle of Catholic kings by Ludo Martineo Siculo that identifies Pedro Colon as the navigator Columbus. And, in his book about Columbus, the author offers additional evidence to prove that Pedro Colon and Pedro Scotto are actually the same man. As many of you know, I have researched our family in the 8th century in northern Italy and I have met descendants of both surviving lines including the Fombio Scotti Douglas and the Agazzano Douglas Scotti. Both families are quick to remind us that Scotto and Scotti were terms referencing a nationality and did not always indicate a surname. People of Celtic heritage from Ireland and Scotland were frequently called Scotto or Scotti in Italy. Perhaps Pedro Scotto was the son of Scottish parents and maybe he was a descendant of Guillelmo de Duglas of the 8th century, but de Villalonga missed an important fact associated with the Douglases of northern Italy. The author was incorrect about the family likeness. He believed that the 15th century description of the navigator as a blond haired, freckle-faced sailor proved he was a Scot and a Douglas. It might be true that Pedro was of Scottish heritage, but it does not make him a descendant of the Douglases of Piacenza. Sholto Duglas, Guillelmo’s father, was described as a dark haired, swarthy man by the King of Scots. That fact was well documented and accounted for his sobriquet.

Despite the excitement generated by de Villalonga’s research and his conclusion that Christopher Columbus was a sailor from Genoa named Pedro Scotto, it would be a stretch to assume that he was a Douglas. And, I would strongly recommend that we put on hold for now any plans to rename Columbus, Ohio Douglasdale. After all, there is only one Douglasdale and that’s in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

 

 

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Last modified: Saturday, 18 March 2017