Pedro Madruga

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Pedro Álvarez de Soutomaior
Count of Caminha
Castelo de Soutomaior, San Salvador de Soutomaior.jpg
Soutomaior Castle, the ancestral home of Pedro Madruga
Full name
Pedro Álvarez de Soutomaior
Born c. 1430
Pontevedra, Castile
Died 1486
Alba de Tormes, Castile
Spouse(s) Teresa de Távora
Father Fernán Eanes de Sotomaior
Mother Constança Gonçalves (?)

Pedro Álvarez de Soutomaior (or Sotomayor), popularly known as Pedro Madruga (c. 1430 – 1486), was the Count of Caminha and an example of the typical European feudal knight. He gained his nickname, "Madruga" because he was an "early riser" (Spanish: madrugar). He was a major political player in the Kingdom of Galicia, as well as spending time in the courts of Castile and Portugal. He was one of the leading figures who suppressed the Irmandiño peasant revolt in Galicia in the 1460s, and he was also involved in the War of the Castilian Succession after the death of Henry IV in 1474.


Pedro was the illegitimate son of Fernán Eanes de Soutomaior; his mother has never been identified for certain.[1] When Fernán died, his estates passed to his legitimate son, Alvaro. However, Alvaro died whilst still unmarried, and although the next legal heir was Alvaro's aunt, provision was made with her agreement to allow Pedro to inherit the estates instead.[1] He was subsequently legitimized by the sovereigns of Castile and Portugal, and became Don Pedro Alvarez de Sotomayor. He married Teresa de Távora, who came from a noble Portuguese family.[1] His children included Cristóbal de Sotomayor, who would sail with Diego Columbus (eldest son of Christopher Columbus) to the West Indies.[2] Cristóbal would become governor of Puerto Rico.[2]

Pedro's ancestral home was Soutomaior Castle, although he also resided for periods of his life in the courts of Castile and Portugal.[1]


Pedro Álvarez de Sotomayor acquired the epithet "Madruga" because he would "rise early" (Spanish: madrugar) in the morning.[3] According to legend he first gained the nickname as a result of a dispute with the Count of Ribadavia concerning the boundaries of their respective lands. To settle the dispute the two men agreed to rise at the first cockcrow, mount their horses, and ride toward each other's castle. Their meeting point would mark the new boundary. Instead of waiting until dawn Pedro Alvarez decided that first cockcrow was at midnight, and so rode through the night until he reached his rival's castle. When the Count emerged on hearing the dawn cockcrow, he found Don Pedro standing at his door, and exclaimed "Pedro Madruga!"[4]


Pedro Madruga was a figure in the court of Henry IV of Castile, and the king entrusted him with the role of keeping the powerful Bishop of Santiago, Alonso de Fonseca, under control.[4]

In the 1460s the second Irmandiño revolt erupted in Galicia when the peasantry rebelled against the regional nobility. Pedro Madruga had already sought refuge in Portugal.[4] At the request of the nobles, he raised an army and confronted the irmandiños on several occasions until he finally managed to subdue them.[4]

During the War of the Castilian Succession in the 1470s he was a supporter of Joanna la Beltraneja (daughter of Henry IV) against the claims of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand.[5]


Pedro Madruga's reputation is that of "a turbulent magnate who plowed a deep furrow in Galicia's troubled fifteenth century".[3] Nevertheless he was a popular figure in Galicia and was commemorated with the following lines:[4]

Long live the palm, long live the flower
Long live Pedro Madruga
Pedro Madruga de Sotomaior.

Christopher Columbus?[edit]

In the late 19th century the Spanish writer García de la Riega proposed the theory that Christopher Columbus had a Galician origin.[6] Although briefly popular, the theory had fallen out of favour by the late 20th century.[7] However in recent years it has been proposed that Pedro Madruga and Christopher Columbus were the same person.[8] According to this theory, Madruga did not die in 1486 but changed his identity to disguise a pact between his former enemies, the Catholic Monarchs, and himself. This thesis is based on several lines of evidence: such as Columbus named coastal features of the West Indies with the names of more than 100 localities of the Pontevedra estuary (near Soutomaior in Galicia); and the similarity of the handwriting of Columbus and Pedro Madruga.[9] Most historians reject this theory. Among the many arguments against is a will drafted in 1491 by Alvaro de Sotomayor, eldest son of Pedro Madruga. In this document, Alvaro stipulates that "the bones of my parents ... be brought to be interred in the chapel of S. Obispo D. Juan in the Cathedral Church of Tuy," which seems to show that Pedro Madruga was dead in 1491.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d Tejada, Luis Monreal (1999). Medieval Castles of Spain. Könemann. p. 298. ISBN 3829022212. 
  2. ^ a b Marley, David (2008). Wars of the Americas: A Chronology of Armed Conflict in the Western Hemisphere. 2. ABC-CLIO. p. 13. ISBN 1598841009. 
  3. ^ a b Anderson, Ruth Matilda (1939). Gallegan provinces of Spain: Pontevedra and La Coruña. p. 43. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Tejada, Luis Monreal (1999). Medieval Castles of Spain. Könemann. p. 299. ISBN 3829022212. 
  5. ^ Washburn, Oliver D. (1957). Castles in Spain. Azteca. p. 102. 
  6. ^ Taviani, Paolo Emilio (1985). Christopher Columbus: The Grand Design. Orbis. p. 31. 
  7. ^ Taviani, Paolo Emilio (1985). Christopher Columbus: The Grand Design. Orbis. p. 224. 
  8. ^ "Pedro Madruga y Colón: ¿la misma persona?" [Pedro Madruga and Columbus: The same person?] (in Spanish). Faro de Vigo. 15 October 2009. 
  9. ^ "Tras un peritaje caligráfico 80 expertos indican que Colón y Pedro Madruga son la misma persona" [After a calligraphic study, 80 experts say Columbus and Pedro Madruga are the same person] (in Spanish). Faro de Vigo. 6 October 2013. 
  10. ^ López, Roberto J. (2012). ""Así pasan las glorias de este mundo": Baiona, villa y puerto del Descubrimiento en la Época Moderna". In David González Cruz (coord.). Descubridores de América. Colón, los marinos y los puertos (in Spanish). Madrid: Sílex Ediciones. pp. 269–293. ISBN 978-8-4773-7739-9. 

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