Felipe Fernández-Armesto

Felipe Fernández-Armesto books include Barcelona: A Thousand Years of the City’s Past and Edward Gibbon’s Atlas of the World.

The Wrong Sex

Felipe Fernández-Armesto, 7 October 1993

Spain has had two queens called Isabel who had, by repute, little in common apart from a tendency to run to fat. In the age of Squidgygate, Isabel II looks like the better source of biographer’s copy – a selfish and libidinous vixen. Isabella the Catholic, who is Peggy Liss’s subject, seems boring by comparison: an exemplary wife and mother, virginal before marriage and chaste within it, who inspired comparisons with St Helena and the Virgin Mary. Yet the two Isabels are probably more alike than has been supposed. Both had to fight for their thrones; both had to contend with better-qualified pretenders; both were the political rivals of their husbands; both were the skilful or lucky survivors of times of crisis; and Isabella the Catholic (to use the name by which she has traditionally been known to British readers), without quite equalling her nymphomaniac namesake, appears, to candid scrutiny, sexier than she has been depicted.’

America first

Felipe Fernández-Armesto, 7 January 1993

‘See America first’: the old tourist-office advertising slogan made it sound easy. The most famous moment in the history of exploration, however, is also one of the most baffling. In the early darkness of 12 October 1492, a lookout, straining from the rigging of the Pinta, set up the cry of ‘Land!’ Yet his identity remains uncertain, clouded by widely differing versions of his name; and the priority of his sight of the New World was disputed by a fellow traveller called Columbus, who claimed the reward for himself.

This jellyfish can sting

Jonathan Rée, 13 November 1997

Despite his exotic name, Felipe Fernández-Armesto is an upper-class Englishman of the kind who seem to float on a cloud of contentment, perpetually entertained by the oafish antics of the...

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