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Juan Borgia Historical Profile
| ||Juan Borgia|| |
| ...a very mean young man, |
full of false ideas of grandeur and
bad thoughts, haughty, cruel and unreasonable...
- Aragonese Historian, Zurita
Juan (otherwise known as Giovanni) Borgia was probably born in 1476, second son of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia the future Pope Alexander VI, and his mistress Vannozzo dei Cattanei. The date of his birth is not known for certain, and some writers (Gregorovius) have suggested that he was born in 1474, making him older than his brother Cesare, who was born in 1475, but modern historians (e.g. Bradford, Mallet) are unanimous in accepting 1476 as his birthdate.
Juan seems to have been his father's favourite son but his enthusiasm for Juan was not shared by others - one historian, Michael Mallet, describes him as 'a man of limited abilities and considerable vices'. When his elder half-brother, Pedro Luis, died, Juan inherited his dukedom of Gandia, near Valencia, and his fiance, Maria Enriquez. He arrived in Spain in September 1493. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia this was a purchase of a title by Pope Alexander VI for his son Pedro Luis).
Juan's arrogance and ostentation often caused offence in Spain - the Mantuan diplomat Catteneo says that he left Italy with large quantities of 'jewels, money and other movable goods', with the intention of returning for another boatload. The Aragonese historian Zurita, writing some years after Juan's death, described him as 'a very mean young man, full of false ideas of grandeur and bad thoughts, haughty, cruel and unreasonable'. He was accused of spending his time drinking, gambling and visiting brothels, and of failing to consummate his marriage. Both his father and brother wrote angry letters advising him to behave in future. The marriage had in fact been consummated and Juan and Maria had two children - Juan, who succeeded him as Duke, and Isabella, born after his death, who became a nun. The Pope recalled Juan to Italy in 1496 before he could cause further offence.
On his return to Italy in August, Alexander appointed Juan as Captain General of the Church and sent him to fight the Orsini at the head of a large army. The expedition was not a success and Juan's troops were defeated at the Battle of Soriano on 24th January 1497. Returning to Rome in March, Juan began an affair with Sancia of Aragon, the wife of his younger brother . This affair brought him into further conflict with Cesare, who was already jealous that Juan was given military preferment, and who was also sleeping with Sancia. Juan's behaviour in Rome was no better than it had been in Spain, and he made many enemies. Alexander added fuel to the fire by making him Duke of Benevento, a papal fief.
On the evening of 14th June 1497, Juan left his mother's house, saying that he was 'seeking further pleasures', which suggested that he was going to meet a woman. He then disappeared.The next day, his horse was found wandering and the servant who had accompanied him was found dying. Two days later, a timber merchant told the Pope that he had seen five men throw a body into the Tiber on the night of Juan's disappearance. Asked why he had not reported this before, the man replied that he often saw corpses thrown in the river and that no-one seemed bothered about it.
After Juan's body was recovered, rumours spread concerning the identity of his murderer, There was no shortage of suspects - his brother-in-law Giovanni Sforza; his cuckolded brother Jofre; Ascanio Sforza, with whom he had quarrelled shortly before his death; the Count of Mirandola, whose daughter he had seduced; and the powerful Orsini family, whose lands Alexander threatened to give to Juan, were amongst those suspected. Later rumour added his brother Cesare to the list but only when it became evident that he was the one to profit most from Juan's death.
Who really killed Juan? His widow believed Cesare to be the culprit, (she had the picture at right commissioned in Valencia, showing Cesare stabbing Juan) but it is much more likely that the Orsini were responsible. Alexander declared most of the suspects innocent of the murder, but pointedly omitted the Orsini from his declarations.
| From Cesare Borgia to Juan Borgia:|
"However great my joy and happiness at being promoted cardinal, and they were certainly considerable, my annoyance was greater still when I heard of the bad reports His Holiness had received of you and your behaviour. Letters...have informed His Holiness that you had been going around Barcelona at night, killing cats and dogs, making frequent visits to the brothel, gambling for large sums, speaking disrespectfully and imprudently to important people, showing disobedience to Don Ennrique and Dona Maria [Juan's father-in-law and mother-in-law] and finally acting throughout in a way inconsistent with a gentleman of your position."
- Quoted in Lucrezia Borgia (Sarah Bradford, p.32-33). Bradford cites her source as ASV, A.A. ARM 5021, f 3rv, Viterbo, 31 [October 1493], translated by Milo Parmoor and Jaume Danti.
From Mantuan Ambassador Gian Carlo Scalona to Isabella d'Este:
"...every effort is made to conceal that these sons of the Pope are consumed with envy of each other."
Johann Burchard, in his Diary Liber Notarium: [on the death of Juan] "The Pope, when he heard that the duke had been killed and flung into the river like dung, was thrown into a paroxysm of grief, and for the pain and bitterness of his heart shut himself in his room and wept most bitterly. The Cardinal of Segovia and some of his servants went to the door, persuading him to open it, which he did only after many hours. The Pope neither ate nor drank anything from the Wednesday evening until the following Saturday, nor from the morning of Thursday to the following Sunday did he know a moment's peace."
- At the Court of the Borgia, (ed. Geoffrey Parker p. 147)
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Latest page update: made by galleryguy
, Oct 31 2011, 7:41 AM EDT
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Keyword tags: Alexander VI Duke of Benevento Duke of Gandia Juan Borgia Maria Enriquez Maria Enriquez de Luna Rodrigo Borgia Sancia of Aragon Valencia
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