5 Feb, 2018 @ 10:08
1 min read

Spain cracks 500-year-old secret code used by King Ferdinand

spain code
The cryptic code
King Ferdinand

KING Ferdinand’s secret code used some 500 years ago has finally been cracked by experts in Spain. 

The code was used in letters between Ferdinand of Aragon and a military commander just before the final ‘Reconquista’ – recapture – of Spain from the Moors.

Using more than 200 special characters, the letters have peaked the interest of historians for centuries.


Ferdinand was behind the final recapture – Reconquista – of Spain from the Moors in 1492 and Columbus’s journeys to the Americas.

Ferdinand wrote to Gonzalo de Córdoba using the code to give instructions on strategy during military campaigns in Italy in the early 16th Century.

They were written using secret code in case they fell into enemy hands.

The cryptic code

The letters are now on display at Spain’s Army Museum in Toledo and it took intelligence services almost half a year to decipher four of them, some of which went on for over 20 pages.

Instructions on troop deployments to admonishing the commander for not consulting the king before launching diplomatic initiatives are some of the contents of the letters.

It would have taken 15 days for the letters to get between the monarch’s residences to south-eastern Italy where the commander was based.

The code was highly complex. It was constructed using 88 different symbols and 237 combined letters.

For each letter there were between two and six figurative characters such as triangles or numbers.

Additionally, symbols used in the letters were written without separating words and phrases.


Laurence Dollimore

Laurence has a BA and MA in International Relations and a Gold Standard diploma in Multi-Media journalism from News Associates in London. He has almost a decade of experience and previously worked as a senior reporter for the Mail Online in London.

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