Francisco Pizarro was a Spanish conquistador famed for his defeat of the Inca Empire in what is now the country of Peru. He was born in Trujillo, Extremadura; the illegitimate child of an army officer and poor local woman, and was uneducated and illiterate. In his thirties he joined an exhibition to the New World and became interested in the unconquered lands to the south of Panama, where he was stationed. He made two unsuccessful attempts to conquer the Inca Empire in 1524 and 1526. On these occasions he became increasingly aware of the treasures and riches of the Incas and he was determined to make a third attempt. However, as he now lacked the support of the new governor of Panama he was compelled to sail back to Spain and appeal directly to king Charles I of Spain, Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. The expedition was eventually sanctioned by the regent queen Isabel and he was given license to exercise authority over the conquered lands. He left for the New World once more having persuaded a large number of his family and friends to accompany him.
On travelling through Peruvian territory the Spanish saw their first llamas which they called “little camels”. The natives referred to the Spanish as “Children of the Sun” due to shining of their armour. After winning the decisive battle of Cajamarca in 1532 with fewer than 200 soldiers against the Inca’s 80,000, Pizarro captured the Incan emperor Atahualpa and held him to ransom in return for a room filled with gold. Atahualpa kept his side of the bargain, but Pizarro fabricated a number of charges against him and had him executed, to the opposition of many of his comrades and ultimate displeasure of the king. Pizarro took Atahualpa’s wife as his mistress, renaming her Doña Angelina. He subsequently conquered the Incan capital of Cuzco and later established the city of Lima as his capital. As a result of conflict between Pizarro and his long time associate Diego Almagro whom he also had executed, Pizarro was finally assassinated by Almagro’s son in 1541.
A body thought to be that of Pizarro’s was displayed in Lima cathedral for near a hundred years, until in 1977 the true body was identified by forensic scientists. Although he is recognized as the founder of Peru, most Peruvians regard him negatively as the person responsible for the decline of Inca culture. When the Pizarro family returned to their native town of Trujillo they had an opulent palace built in the main square which is still standing close to a mounted statue of the town’s most famous son.