Adventures in Peru, Chapter 15

Death to the Tyrant

The Inca Saga, Part 4

I have often been asked what became of Atahualpa’s judges. This is best ascertained by referring to that fascinating work, Prescott’s Conquest of Peru. A brief résumé of the closing scenes of these tumultuous lives may encourage some of my readers to delve into this fine classic, and they will be amply repaid for their trouble.

When Pizarro’s brother Fernando returned from Spain, after conveying thence the treasure collected for the Crown, he brought with him marks of the King’s high appreciation of all D’Almagro and Pizarro had accomplished. The latter was created a marquess, and the former was empowered to explore and occupy all the country for 200 leagues south of Pizarro’s territory.

When D’Almagro returned from his Chilian expedition he claimed that Cuzco was included in his jurisdiction. Pizarro refused to admit the equity of his demand, and backed up his opinion with a show of force. D’Almagro, nothing loth, tried conclusions with Hernando Pizarro, who then occupied Cuzco. Having taken Hernando prisoner, he next turned his attention to Alvarado, who had also refused to acknowledge him as Governor of Cuzco. Success again attended his arms.

Francisco Pizarro now took a hand, for D’Almagro extended his claims to include Lima. After protracted negotiations both parties agreed to retire to their own territories until the lands in dispute were accurately determined. D’Almagro’s men, however, made no effort to observe the terms of the treaty, so Pizarro advanced with a large force of men, and after a sanguinary encounter at La Salinas just outside Cuzco, defeated D’Almagro’s forces and took the luckless Marshal prisoner. Twelve days later the latter was garrotted by Pizarro’s orders.

Hernando Pizarro was commanded to return to Spain and explain the circumstances attending D’Almagro’s death. Before he set out on his journey he warned his brother to beware of the Men of Chile—meaning D’Almagro’s followers—but Francisco laughed his fears to scorn. The Court sent out Vaca de Castro to inquire into Peruvian affairs generally, so D’Almagro’s men hoped to get some redress. De Castro, however, suffered shipwreck on the way out, hence they determined to take matters into their own hands and remove the tyrant. Accordingly, twenty of them arranged to meet at the house of D’Almagro’s son towards the end of June, 1641, to arrange their plan of action.

One, fainter-hearted than the rest, revealed the plot to his confessor. The priest lost no time in acquainting Ricardo, Pizarro’s secretary, with the news. When the latter told his master, he laughed and said it was only a ruse by which the cleric hoped to secure a mitre. He, nevertheless, decided not to go to Mass on the appointed day. The arrangement had been to kill him on his way back. When the conspirators learnt that Pizarro had not attended Mass, they concluded some one had split on them. So they determined to carry out their programme without delay. Headed by Rada, one of D’Almagro’s officers, they rushed across the square to the Governor’s palace. The heavy iron gate of the outer court was open. Midway over the second court they met with the two keepers of the gate. One they struck down. The other ran back into the palace and gave the alarm.

Pizarro, who was in the dining-room with several friends, ordered Francisco Chaves, one of his officers, to secure the door. Chaves unfortunately attempted to parley with the assassins through the half-opened door. A sword-thrust was his reward.

Hastily brushing the attendants aside, Rada and his companions made their way to the room where Pizarro was, shouting, “Death to the Tyrant.” The Marquess’s half-brother Alcontura barred their entrance with two pages and three of his friends. They were soon desperately engaged, seeing which Pizarro rushed to their assistance. Just as he reached the doorway, Alcontura fell to the ground grievously wounded. Nothing daunted the Marquess wielded his blade vigorously and made his foes give ground. The respite was, however, all too brief; they rallied and advanced to the attack again. Rada, holding the dead body of one of his companions in front of him, made a violent thrust at Pizarro which found its mark. It pierced the latter’s throat even as he ran Rada through. Pizarro sank to the floor. Several swords were plunged into his body. “Jesu,” exclaimed the dying man. With his finger he traced the emblem of Christianity on the floor. As he bent his head to salute the Cross with his lips a shrewd stroke hastened his end.

After passing through various vicissitudes his remains were finally deposited in the cathedral at Lima, where they may yet be seen.

Pizarro was seventy years of age when he made his hurried exit from this vale of tears. He left behind him a son, who died young, and a daughter—the result of his union with Atahualpa’s daughter. The girl eventually became the wife of Hernando Pizarro, at the time a prisoner in the fortress of Medina. Hernando survived his twenty years’ “stretch” all right and lived till he had topped the century. Strong evidence this of the invigorating climate of Peru. In the reign of Philip IV. one of his descendants, Don Juan Hernando Pizarro, was created a Marquess and granted a liberal pension by the Government of the day as a mark of gratitude for the distinguished services rendered by his ancestors. Members of the family still reside at Truxillo.