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Gadifer de La Salle (Sainte-Radegonde, 1350 –1423) was a French knight and crusader of Norman origin who, with Jean de Béthencourt, conquered and explored the Canary Islands for the Kingdom of Castile.

Gadifer had won renown in the French campaigns against England during the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453). While on a campaign against Tunisian pirates in 1390, he met Jean de Béthencourt, who later pledged his domain to finance their expedition to the Canary Islands. Gadifer de La Salle had joined Béthencourt at La Rochelle.[1]

Accompanying the expedition were Brother Pierre Bontier, a Franciscan monk of Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes who later officiated at Lanzarote, and Jean le Verrier, a priest who was later installed at Fuerteventura as vicar in the chapel of Our Lady of Bethencourt. Bontier and Le Verrier served as historians of the expedition.[1]

In 1402 they conquered Lanzarote, the northernmost inhabited island, from the local guanche chieftains. Gadifer then explored the archipelago, and Béthencourt left for Cádiz, where he was given reinforcements and finantial support at the Castilian court. At this time a power struggle had broken out on the island between Gadifer and Berthin, another officer. Berthin wished to abandon the conquest and return with a cargo of slaves. While Gadifer was exploring another island, Berthin departed with almost all of the ships leaving Gadifer for dead. Gadifer and his men spent about a week on the island surviving from dew gathered on their blankets. Eventually a soldier still loyal to Gadifer brought one of the remaining ships to rescue them. In 1403, after a resupply ship sent by Béthencourt arrived, Gadifer was able to complete the conquest of the islands and root out the disloyal Castilians. In early 1404 the native population converted to christianity, later that same year Béthencourt himself returned. De la Salle and Béthencourt founded the city of Betancuria in 1404.[2]

Béthencourt had become king of the Canaries (a title granted by Henry III of Castile in exchange for Béthencourt's respect). Gadifer, who felt insulted, left the Canaries and appealed for redress at the court of Castile. When this appeal proved to be unsuccessful, he returned to France.


  1. ^ a b Descendants of Jean de Bethencourt
  2. ^ ‘Gadifer de la Salle: A late medieval knight-errant’, in C. Harper and R. Harvey, eds. The ideals and practices of Medieval Knighthood, 74-85.

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