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New Kingdom of Granada
Kingdom of the New Granada
Nuevo Reino de Granada
Reino de la Nueva Granada
The New Kingdom of Granada
The New Kingdom of Granada
StatusUltramarine Province of the Spanish Empire
CapitalSanta Fe de Bogotá
Common languagesCastilian and Indigenous languages
Historical eraSpanish colonization of the Americas
• Established
• Viceroyalty established
May 27, 1717
• Viceroyalty suppressed; kingdom autonomous again
November 5, 1723
• Disestablished
August 20 1821
• 1650
750,000 (Inc. Popayán Province)[1]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Muisca Confederation
Pijao people
Paez people
Province of Tierra Firme
Providence Island colony
Viceroyalty of New Granada
Today part ofColombia

The New Kingdom of Granada (Spanish: Nuevo Reino de Granada), or Kingdom of the New Granada, was the name given to a group of 16th-century Spanish ultramarine provinces in northern South America governed by the president of the Royal Audience of Santafé, an area corresponding mainly to modern-day Colombia. The conquistadors originally organized it as a province with a Royal Audience within the Viceroyalty of Peru despite certain independence from it. The audiencia was established by the crown in 1549. Ultimately the kingdom became the Viceroyalty of New Granada first in 1717 and permanently in 1739. After several attempts to set up independent states in the 1810s, the kingdom and the viceroyalty ceased to exist altogether in 1819 with the establishment of the United Provinces of New Granada.[2]


Old map of Tierra Firme, showing the initial divisions of the region

Discovery and settlement

Main article: Spanish conquest of the Muisca

In 1514, the Spanish first permanently settled in the area. With Santa Marta (founded on July 29, 1525, by the Spanish conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas) and Cartagena (1533), Spanish control of the coast was established, and the extension of colonial control into the interior could begin. Starting in 1536, the conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada explored the extensive highlands of the interior of the region by following the Magdalena River into the Andean cordillera. There his force defeated the powerful Muisca and founded the city of Santa Fé de Bogotá (Bogotá), naming the region El nuevo reino de Granada, "the new kingdom of Granada", in honor of the last part of Spain to be recaptured from the Moors, home to the brothers de Quesada. After Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada left for Spain in May 1539, the reign of the colony was transferred to his brother Hernán. De Quesada, however, lost control of the province when Emperor Charles V granted the right to rule over the area to rival conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar in 1540, who had entered the region from what is today Ecuador, and named himself governor of Popayán.

Regularization of the government

Charles V ordered the establishment of an audiencia, a type of superior court that combined executive and judicial authority, at Santafé de Bogotá in 1549.


In 1650, the population of the New Kingdom of Granada (Including the Popayán Province) was estimated to be around 750,000, with Indians numbering 600,000 people, or 80% of the population.[3] This is far lower than the Pre-Columbian population in which the population was estimated at 6,000,000 to 10,000,000 people.[4]

List of governors

Start End Governor
1538 1539 Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada
1539 1542 Hernán Pérez de Quesada
1542 1544 Alonso Luis Fernández de Lugo
1544 1545 Lope Montalvo de Lugo
1545 1546 Pedro de Ursúa
1546 1550 Miguel Díez de Armendáriz
1551 1558 Juan de Montaño

Royal Audiencia

The Royal Audiencia was created by a royal decree of July 17, 1549. It was given authority over the provinces of Santa Marta, Río de San Juan, Popayán, Guayana and Cartagena de Indias. The Audiencia was charged primarily with dispensing justice, but it was also to oversee the running of government and the settlement of the territory. It held its first session on April 7, 1550, in a mansion on the Plaza Mayor (today, Plaza de Bolívar) at the site which today houses the Colombian Palace of Justice.

Law VIII ("Royal Audiencia and Chancery of Santa Fe in the New Kingdom of Granada") of Title XV ("Of the Royal Audiencias and Chanceries of the Indies") of Book II of the Recopilación de Leyes de las Indias of 1680—which compiles the decrees of July 17, 1549; May 10, 1554; and August 1, 1572—describes the final limits and functions of the Audiencia.[5]

In Santa Fé de Bogotá of the New Kingdom of Granada shall reside another Royal Audiencia and Chancery of ours, with a president, governor and captain general; five judges of civil cases [oidores], who shall also be judges of criminal cases [alcaldes del crimen]; a crown attorney [fiscal]; a bailiff [alguacil mayor]; a lieutenant of the Gran Chancellor; and the other necessary ministers and officials, and which will have for district the provinces of the New Kingdom and those of Santa Marta, Río de San Juan, and of Popayán, except those places of the latter which are marked for the Royal Audiencia of Quito; and of Guayana, or El Dorado, it shall have that which is not of the Audienicia of Hispaniola, and all of the Province of Cartagena; sharing borders: on the south with said Audiencia of Quito and the undiscovered lands, on the west and north with the North Sea and the provinces which belong to the Royal Audiencia of Hispaniola, on the west with the one of Tierra Firme. And we order that the Governor and Captain General of said provinces and president of their Royal Audiencia, have, use and exercise by himself the government of all the district of that Audiencia, in the same manner as our Viceroys of New Spain and appoint the repartimiento of Indians and other offices that need to be appointed, and attend to all the matters and business that belong to the government, and that the oidores of said Audiencia do not interfere with this, and that all sign what in matters of justice is provided for, sentenced and carried out.

One further change came as part of the Bourbon Reforms of the eighteenth century. Because of the slowness in communications between Lima and Bogotá, the Bourbons decided to establish an independent Viceroyalty of New Granada in 1717 (which was reestablished in 1739 after a short interruption). The governor-president of Bogotá became the viceroy of the new entity, with military and executive oversight over the neighboring Presidency of Quito and the provinces of Venezuela.

Administrative divisions

See also: Corregidor (position)

The New Kingdom was organized into several Governments and Provinces:

Government/Province Capital Established Founder
Governorate of Santa Marta Santa Marta 1525 Don Rodrigo de Bastidas
Governorate of Cartagena Cartagena de Indias
(Alternative Capital of Viceroyalty)
1533 Don Pedro de Heredia
Governorate of Popayán Popayán 1537 Don Sebastián de Belalcázar
Province of Pasto San Juan de Pasto 1539 Don Lorenzo de Aldana
Province of Santafé (de Bogotá),
with the province of Tunja, the ones originally called the "New Kingdom of Granada"
Santafé de Bogotá
(Capital of Viceroyalty)
1538 Don Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada
Province of Tunja Tunja 1539 Don Gonzalo Suárez Rendón
Province of Antioquia Santa Fe de Antioquia 1541 Don Jorge Robledo
Province of Chocó Quibdó 1648 Manuel Cañizales
Vast Province of Guyana
(special province)
Angostura 1595 Don Antonio de Berrío

Main cities

The largest cities of the New Kingdom of Granada in the 1791 Census were

  1. Cartagena de Indias – 154,304
  2. Santa Fé de Bogotá – 108,533
  3. Popayan – 56,783
  4. Santa Marta – 49,830
  5. Tunja – 43,850
  6. Mompóx – 24,332

See also



  1. ^ Rosenblat, 1954: 59
  2. ^ Avellaneda Navas; José Ignacio (1995). The conquerors of the New Kingdom of Granada. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
  3. ^ Rosenblat, 1954: 59
  4. ^
  5. ^ Spain (1680). Recopilación de las Leyes de Indias. Titulo Quince. De las Audiencias y Chancillerias Reales de las Indias. Madrid. Spanish-language facsimile of the original.