Spanish Treasure Fleets
Why did these ships sink in Florida waters? Where were they coming from?
Where were they going? And why were they carrying so much treasure?
The marriage in 1469 of Isabella, heir to the throne of Castile, and Ferdinand, King of Sicily and heir to the throne of Aragon, set the stage for the unification of multiple Iberian Peninsula kingdoms and the birth of the kingdom of Spain.
Their sponsorship of the 1492 voyage of Christopher Columbus intended to establish a western route to the Orient, but resulting in the ‘discovery’ of the Americas, was the precursor to the rise of a global empire.
News of Columbus's discovery was received by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain upon his first return from America. It was as much the thrill and prestige of discovery that fueled the ambitions of Christopher Columbus and the legions of Conquistadors who followed in his wake as it was the lure of gold.
Columbus's “New World” turned out to be abundant in mineral wealth, in particular the precious metal silver. The young kingdom of Spain did not have its own reliable source of mineral wealth, so with a need for money and a conviction of entitlement to acquire it at any cost, its approach was to plunder the resources of others. By the 1500’s, the New World had been conquered and Spain had taken control of much of its peoples and wealth.
In order to control the torrent of silver flowing from rapidly colonizing Spanish dominions, royal mints were established at key locations with rich mines in the New World. To transport all of this treasure back to Spain, massive wooden ships were built which sailed in organized fleets, or flotas, each with a particular purpose and route. Each year, these fleets voyaged from Spain to the Americas along a route called the Carrera de Indias. By the time King Philip IV inherited the throne in 1621, New World silver in the form of the Spanish dollar was the most coveted money on earth. Because Spain had control of all this silver, it was the most powerful kingdom in the world. Because the royal court was lavish in its’ lifestyle, and at war much of the time, the kingdom of Spain was also deeply in dept. When ships with rich cargos were lost due to storms, pirate raids, or human error, the economic impact was immediate, far reaching, and devastating.
MRR Shipwreck Projects:
Columbus is received by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain upon his first return from America.