Caterina Sforza

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Page symbolsCaterina Sforza
as played by Gina McKee
Characters - The Borgias Fan Wiki

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Characters - The Borgias Fan Wiki

Name: Caterina Sforza Riario
Position: Countess of Forli and Lady of Imola
Personality type: Independent, ruthless, strong: The quintessential "virago"; seductive when she needs to be
Endearing trait(s):Beautiful, noble, brave, loves her son, passionate lover
Strength(s): Calculating, clever/brillliant, shrewd military commander, Machiavellian, unrepentant
Weakness(es): Her lack of resources for Forli, her (slight) dependence on Giovanni and Ludovico for strategic aid, but she really had no real weaknesses on the show
Quirks/nicknames: The Tigress of Forli, "That B**** *****" & "The Great Arachne" (Pope Alexander VI's nicknames for her), is a "free woman in a man's world"

Want to meet the historical Caterina Sforza?
Visit Caterina Sforza's Historical Profile
for an in-depth biography
Caterina Sforza

"The House of Borgia is doomed"
to Giulia Farnese at Pesaro Castle

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Season One
Season Two

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Characters - The Borgias Fan Wiki
The Tigress of Forli, Caterina Sforza is established throughout all three seasons as the most wily of Borgia antagonists: Legendary beauty, legendary strength of character, and legendary hatred for the House of Borgia and all of those who would ally with it.

She is, as she was in history, the beautiful countess of a small but important independent city just north of the Papal States in the Romagna, the Signiory of Forli. But she is no kitten: From the first moment we see her in the series, she proves to be a shrewd negotiator and military strategist, telling Pope Alexander VI bluntly about the Sforza Family's need to re-equip their armies while discussing a potential marriage between her cousin Giovanni and the Pope's daughter Lucrezia. The dowry secured after an unfortunate sacrifice, the Sforza Family pledges its armies to protect and assist Rome from foreign aggression. The alliance doesn't last long, however, and in the face of a massacre in Lucca, Caterina and Giovanni renege on their promise and refuse to stand with Rome and instead, along with Florence and Milan, allow the French to pass without resistance; she could not care less that one of the king's objectives is to depose the pope and sack Rome. Thus, the enmity between Pope Alexander VI and Caterina Sforza is budding and born; it is not until Season 2 that we begin to see more of Caterina, after Pope Alexander VI humiliated her cousin Giovanni before the whole of Rome and all of Italy.

We see Caterina again negotiating for the sake of her city's military fortification when she, along with Giovanni, meets with the invading King Charles VIII in Naples after his arrival and disappointment to the state in which Prince Alfonso had left it. All three swear revenge on the Borgia Pope, and she rides in full military armor with the French king to revel in the joy of seeing the walls of Rome crumble to dust at the mercy of King Charles's cannon. Unfortunately her glee would not come to pass, as Cesare Borgia had other things in mind.

She would receive Cesare Borgia at her home in Forli when he comes bearing a demand from Pope Alexander VI, but instead ofacquiescingto the Borgia Pope's demands, she practices a different form of her bed, along with Cesare Borgia. Still, she does not agree to the terms laid out for her, and the enmity between her and the House of Borgia grows exponentially when Cesare exacts revenge for Ursula Bonadeo and his sister Lucrezia by killing Caterina's closest adviser.

Caterina dons her military armor again when faced with the forces of the Papal Army, led by Gonfaloniere Juan Borgia and Spanish commander
Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba, who were sent to Forli to bring Caterina back to Rome to kneel at the Pope's feet. In herresistance, her son Benito is taken captive and she watches as he is tortured by Juan in order to get her to surrender. But, even as her son's finger is cut off, she stands steadfast and taunts Juan, proving once more than she "bends her knee to no man". Her son is briefly taken hostage in the ensuing confusion after her cousin Ludovico "Il Moro" of Milan aids her forces, and after he is returned, she begins her plans for an even higher level of revenge against the House of Borgia.

Caterina makes use of an old family friend/family member, Rufio, who her cousin Cardinal Ascanio Sforza describes as a deadly assassin who is a "student of the art of death", and we see Rufio attempting to regain Cardinal Sforza's family loyalty just after the attempted murder of the Borgia Pope by Cardinal/Friar Giuliano Della Rovere. Caterina sets forth in motion a plan to murder the Borgias while they lay in wait for Pope Alexander VI to survive, and if he doesn't die, for Cardinal Sforza to finish him off. Caterina and Rufio will soon learn who their true alliances are, and then court the hired blades/Second Sons of the Romagna for an alliances against the Borgias. As they lie in wait for answers, Caterina attends Lucrezia's wedding to Alfonso D'Aragona (at the invitation of King Ferdinand of Naples), she and Rufio attempt to kill the Pope with a false message of peace, and the deaths of Caterina's son and cousin Ludovico serve to heighten her hatred for all things Borgia. By the time word reaches her of Cesare Borgia's designs to attack Forli, she realizes that she may be on her own, but that doesn't stop Caterina from putting up her bravest fronts.

The Caterina Sforza of The Borgiasmirrors the personality of the historical Caterina Sforza, and even though she is captured in the last episode, she is by no means tamed. Her steel will, ambition, and ability to use her wit, beauty, cleverness and seduction to achieve her goals is what makes her so attractive to Cesare Borgia, and in many ways she is his military and sensual counterpart.

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Family members:

Cousin: Cardinal Ascanio Sforza
Cousin: Giovanni Sforza
Cousin: Gian Galeazzo Sforza (legitimate Duke of Milan)

Cousin: Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan
Cousin: Gabriella Maria Visconti
Son: Benito Sforza
Unspecificed, but assumed family member: Rufio
Father (mentioned in passing): Galeazzo Maria Sforza

Romance(s): Cesare Borgia

Friends: Giovanni Sforza, Ludovico Sforza, King Charles VIII of France, Rufio

Enemies: The House of Borgia, anyone closely associated/allied with the House of Borgia (including her cousin, Cardinal Ascanio Sforza)
Allies:Giovanni Sforza, Ludovico Sforza, King Charles VIII of France, Giuliano Della Rovere (by way of King Charles, though they never had direct dealings), Rufio

Marriage(s): None on the show, though in Season 3 her full name is disclosed as she is/was married to Girolamo Riario, Lord of Imola and Forli

Victim(s): Cardinal Costanzo and his servant Stefano (an accident, as her tainted letter was meant for Pope Alexander VI), technically she and her forces were the catalysts for Juan Borgia's descent towards madness and death

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  • " Your Holiness has requested a meeting with Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pesaro. He would understand how impossible that is without an agreement on a dowry." - Caterina Sforza to Pope Alexander VI (Season 1 Episode 3, "The Moor")
  • " The Sforza family needs substantial funds to re-equip his army for the coming storm." - Caterina Sforza to Pope Alexander VI (Season 1 Episode 3, "The Moor")
  • "I would save my arms for battles I can win." - Caterina Sforza to Giulia Farnese (Season 1 Episode 7, "Death on a Pale Horse")
  • "God will be my judge. But I will never...never...bend my knee to the whoremaster of Rome." - Caterina Sforza to Juan Borgia (Season 2 Episode 7, "The Siege at Forli")
  • "You can take my son. But do you see--here! I have the means to produce ten more sons, and they will hunt you down and send you to your grave." - Caterina Sforza to Juan Borgia (Season 2 Episode 7, "The Siege at Forli")
  • "I bend my knee to no man. Unless I choose to." - Caterina Sforza to Pope Alexander VI (Season 3 Episode 3, "Siblings")
  • "You could sink your steel into me. To the hilt, if you wished." - Caterina Sforza to Cesare Borgia (Season 3 Episode 3, "Siblings")
  • "Blow me into a thousand pieces! Come on, aim your bows, every one of them! I want to sprout a hundred arrows! Like a porcupine!" - Caterina Sforza to the Papal and French forces (Season 3 Episode 10, "The Prince")
  • "Come on, give me a legendary death! *laughs* Does it take a Caterina Sforza to kill a Caterina Sforza?"- Caterina Sforza to the Papal and French forces (Season 3 Episode 10, "The Prince")

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  • Negotiating the dowry for the marriage of Giovanni and Lucrezia (First appearance, Season 1 Episode 3, "The Moor")
  • When she firmly denounces the House of Borgia and foretells their doom to Giulia Farnese (Season 1 Episode 7, "Death on a Pale Horse")
  • Sitting on her horse and marvelling in shock and awe with Giovanni Sforza and King Charles VIII at the "cannons" guarding the walls of Rome (Season 2 Episode 3, "The Beautiful Deception")
  • Seducing Cesare by having him "shown to his room" (Season 2 Episode 5, "The Choice")
  • Raising her skirts and taunting the Gonfaloniere of the Papal Armies, Juan Borgia (Season 2 Episode 7, "The Siege at Forli")
  • Appearing in Rome after her attempted murder plan of the Borgia Family (Season 3 Episode 1, "The Face of Death")
  • Entry into Rome for Lucrezia's wedding to Alfonso D'Aragona (Season 3 Episode 3, "Siblings")
  • Attempting to form a confederation between the Second Son condotierri of the Romagna against the Borgias (Season 3 Episode 5, "The Wolf and the Lamb")
  • Praying over the "miracle" in the catacombs of Marino (Season 3 Episode 8, "Tears of Blood")
  • Going over military plans with her generals in the face of an invasion by Cesare Borgia's forces (Season 3 Episode 10, "The Prince")
  • Giving a speech before she attempts suicide (Season 3 Episode 10, "The Prince")
  • Sitting in her guilded cage in chains on the way to Rome (Season 3 Episode 10, "The Prince")
  • Nearly biting Pope Alexander VI (Season 3 Episode 10, "The Prince")

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How does Catherine Sforza in The Borgias compare to actual history? Compare the facts with the fiction below!
  • Cousin of the powerful Duke of Milan and Ascanio Sforza
  • "The Tigress of Forli"
  • Seems to have had little relations with Pope Alexander VI before the dowry negotiations for Lucrezia's marriage to Giovanni/despised him easily early on in the show
  • Came to the Vatican to negotiate Giovanni Sforza's marriage
  • Has a brief sexual relationship with Cesare Borgia
  • Did not seem to be married to anyone during the course of the events of the show
  • Has one son, Benito
  • Niece of the Duke of Milan and Ascanio Sforza (they were brothers)
  • "Il Tigre" (The Tiger)
  • She and her husband Giacomo were close enough friends to Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia that Rodrigo was godfather to Caterina's son Ottaviano, and only after he, as Pope Alexander VI, invalidated her investiture of her lands in 1499 did things really turn sour between them
  • Ascanio was the chief negotiator for the marriage of Giovanni to Lucrezia
  • She was a widower but married her second husband Giacomo Feo well before the events of the show, and during the course of the show's timeline, her second husband died and she married her third husband, Giovanni de Medici il Popolano.
  • Did not have a son named Benito, but had eight total children with her husbands. She is an ancestor to many notable nobles, including Diana, Princess of Wales
  • Her name is anglicized to "Catherine"

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