RELATIONSHIPS of The Borgias


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Relationships in the Show
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Borgia Relationships - THE  BORGIAS   wiki= MarriageBorgia Relationships - THE  BORGIAS   wiki= Friends
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Family IconRodrigo and his Children

Pope Alexander clearly loves his children and wants the best for them. But, like every ambitious Renaissance statesman, he uses them as pawns to advance his family's interests. To this end, he arranges politically advantageous marriages for them, but the personal consequences are not what a caring father wants: Joffre's marriage to the unfaithful Sancia exposes him to ridicule, and Lucrezia's union with the brutal Giovanni Sforza makes her deeply unhappy.

Alexander clearly feels guilty about Lucrezia's suffering, but even her divorce has a political motive as well as a personal one - the Sforzas have been unreliable allies.

The Pope is also a heavy-handed father to Cesare - he pushes him into the Church against his will in the interests of the family. He is unable to hide the fact that Juan is his favourite child and promotes him beyond his limited capabilities. This makes his siblings jealous, particularly as it is clear to them that Juan is the least able and intelligent of them all.

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In many ways, Rodrigo and Vanozza behave like an old married couple, even though they no longer live together. They come together in the interests of their children, although they sometimes have different agendas. Vanozza resents being traded in for a younger model and on occasion, she lets her temper get the better of her. But she is also able to find peace and contentment.

Although he has moved on to a new relationship, the Pope remains fond of Vanozza and he is very protective of her. He is concerned for her welfare during times of trouble such as the French invasion and does his best to keep her safe

In reality, their affair had been over for ten years by the time that Rodrigo became Pope, having lasted for ten years before that. The real Vanozza was a native Roman from a respectable middle-class family who married a series of well-connected husbands during her affair with the then Cardinal Borgia. Shrewd and practical, she used the money he gave her to buy property and became very wealthy from the rents she received.

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"La Bella" Farnese catches the eye of Pope Alexander VI when she comes to Rome for a private confession. She is immediately installed in a palace and attains a position as the Pope's official mistress, displacing Vanozza dei Cattanei, mother of the Pope's recognized children. She becomes the confidant of Lucrezia Borgia and eventually resolves the enmity between herself and Vanozza to begin campaigning for funds for the poor on the Pope's behalf.

In reality,
daughter of Pier Luigi Farnese and Giovanna Caetani, and sister of Alessandro (the future Pope Paul III), Giulia Farnese was born in 1475, in Canino, in a territory around Lake Bolsena, North of Rome. She had a sister and three brothers. In the meantime, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia had broken his relationship with Vanozza and had also provided to marry her off to another complacent husband for appearances. Having had Vanozza remarried, Rodrigo removed Lucrezia and her three brothers from their mother's home and placed them all under the care of his cousin Adriana de Mila. Adriana was the widow of Ludovico Orsini and the mother of their son Orsino, now Giulia's husband. They had married in 1489. The open relations between Giulia and Cardinal Rodrigo began in 1489 and continued even after the Cardinal became Pope with the name of Alexander VI. During this time Orsino was frequently away for his business, and Giulia went to live with Adriana de Mila and Lucrezia Borgia in the newly-built palace of S. Maria del Portico. The building had a private door that lead into St. Peter's. This allowed the Pope to visit his daughter as well as his latest mistress, Giulia. When Giulia gave birth to her daughter Laura, in 1492, all of Rome was whispering that Laura's real father was not Orsino but Pope Alexander. And probably it was true if one considers the Pope's efforts made through Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, Giulia's brother, to contract for Laura the most advantageous agreements of matrimony. But after Pope Alexander's death the new Pope, Julius II, and the Farnese began their slow rehabilitation in the eyes of the world that culminated with the marriage between Laura Orsini and Niccolò della Rovere.

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Although Cesare is not Rodrigo's favourite, he still loves his son and wants him to be happy. But he feels obliged to balance this against his pursuit of wealth and power for the family. The Pope therefore pushes Cesare into a career in the Church against his son's wishes. This may be partly because he sees that the strong-willed and intelligent Cesare is like him in personality, and Rodrigo himself has had a fulfilling (and lucrative) career in holy orders.

Cesare is also the son that the Pope trusts to carry out his plans, however dubious these might be. When he wants Cardinals bribed or a foreign power such as Florence spied on, he sends Cesare to do it. Cesare is his right hand man, as Micheletto is Cesare's.

For his part, Cesare loves and respects his father. He admires Rodrigo's abilities and is prepared to learn from him by observing how he handles diplomatic negotiations and stages public events. The Pope encourages Cesare's political development by involving him in his plans and treating him as his confidante. As the years pass, the pattern of the Pope as the planner and and Cesare as the executor - and sometimes executioner - will continue.

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Juan is the black sheep of the Borgia family: left to himself, he will spent his time drinking, gambling, brothel-crawling and getting into fights. To his siblings and other observers, he gets away with murder - sometimes literally! Why does Rodrigo let him?

The Pope is unable to hide the fact that Juan is his favourite child. Perhaps this is because he reminds him of his long-deceased and much loved elder brother Pedro Luis, a handsome, swaggering soldier who was similarly unpopular in Rome. He may also see Juan as more vulnerable and less motivated than his siblings and in greater need of his help. But despite his awareness of Juan's faults, he promotes him far beyond his limited abilities and places his son under great pressure.

Juan struggles to cope with the responsibilities that the Pope places upon him. He hides his insecurities under a veneer of arrogance and bluster, and as the pressure grows, he grows crueller and more bullying. He falls out with his mother, brothers and sister and the list of his enemies grows ever longer...

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Although Juan is his favourite, Lucrezia is the apple of the Pope's eye. This was noted by contemporary observers and even gave rise to rumours of incest between them. As his only daughter by Vanozza (he had two older daughters by previous mistresses), she is spoiled by him as daughter's often are by their fathers. As a young teenager, she is almost a little doll to be dressed up and admired by others.

But despite this, Rodrigo knows that a daughter is an ideal pawn to use when it comes to making alliances. Although she is barely thirteen, he marries her off to the much older Giovanni Sforza to bring his powerful family into papal schemes and to reward his cousin Ascanio for his support during the election. Lucrezia has no say in the matter and although her unhappiness in her marriage grieves the Pope, he pushes through their divorce for political as well as personal reasons. But he takes more care in finding her a congenial husband next time round.

Lucrezia accepts her lot as she accepts her father's love and indulgence, but she is is also clever, practical, and adept at making the best of her opportunities. As she grows older, Rodrigo comes to recognise that she has a good brain as well as a pretty face, and gives her increasing responsibilties, firstly as Governor of Nepi and then as administrator of the Vatican in his absence. The skills Lucrezia learns here prove invaluable to her in later life.


When the Pope comes to power, he immediately arranges to have his eligible children married off into what he figured at the time were advantageous marriage alliances. Joffre was betrothed to Sancia of Aragon, half-sister of Prince Alfonso of Naples. He expressed that he was willing to do anything to help alleviate the 'stress' of the Pope. Sancia was portrayed as being considerably older than Joffre and viewed him as a sweet boy, while bedding his older brother Juan.

History does not have much to say about Joffre after this marriage expired due to the death of Sancia a few years later. He was not politically motivated and was not a soldier, so his father did not have much use for him. Rodrigo publicly doubted that Joffre was his son rather than the offspring of Vanozza's husband. He was certainly very different in character from his siblings, so the Pope's suspicions may have been correct.

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Borgia Relationships - THE  BORGIAS   wikiRodrigo and Other Lovers

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Family IconCesare and Vanozza

Cesare and Juan
Family IconCesare and Juan

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Cesare and Lucrezia are the closest of all the Borgia children. They care for each other deeply and unlike their father, Cesare puts Lucrezia's happiness above political gain.

Their close relationship provoked rumours of incest at the time, enthusiastically spread by Lucrezia's spurned husband Giovanni Sforza. But there were also tales of incest between the Pope and his daughter: the Borgias had many enemies who would stop at nothing to discredit them.

Brother and sister are each other's favoured confidante: they trust each other implicitly. This is understandable in a world where they are outsiders - members of a Spanish family in Italy, illegitimate children of a man who is supposed to be celibate, flattered by those who seek favours. Who else can they trust?

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Cesare and Joffre


After thwarting Micheletto's assassination attempt on Pope Alexander VI, Cesare turns him into a double agent. After proving his worth as an ally, he becomes Cesare's closest companion and continues his work as "God's Assassin".

Historically, i
t has been suggested that he met Cesare in Pisa whilst the latter was a student there in 1492. He quickly became the most fierce and loyal of Cesare's captains. Even after Cesare's fall from power, Micheletto remained fanatically loyal to him and refused to betray his master when tortured.

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Borgia Relationships - THE  BORGIAS   wikiCesare and Machiavelli

Cesare and Ursula

Cesare meets Baroness Ursula Bonadeo at the wedding of his sister Lucrezia. Having escorted his mother Vanozza to the reception, though she was banned for her courtesan reputation, he must endure the insults of Ursula's husband, Baron Bonadeo. She whispers for Cesare to rescue her from her situation and he takes up the challenge immediately. Under the guise of defending his mother's honor, Cesare kills Baron Bonadeo and with Micheletto's help, disposes of the body in the Tiber. For a few days, Cesare and Ursula indulge their lust for one another. However, the Baron's body is discovered and Ursula realizes what her desires have cost. She renounces her love for Cesare and her life of luxury and takes the vows of a nun, becoming Sister Martha. Cesare just happens to be the benefactor of her convent at St. Cecelia and he makes sure to drop by often, including dropping off Lucrezia for her pregnancy confinement. Sister Martha, however, will not be swayed in her efforts to atone for her sins and rebuffs Cesare's efforts to tempt her back to him. Ursula becomes collateral damage in the the French King Charles VIII's scorched earth campaign upon leaving Italy, having been murdered by some of his Gascon scouts. This event is shown as the catalyst for Cesare's descent into darkness.

Historically, Ursula may be an amalgam of lovers Cesare had when he was younger. It is unlikely this character is based on anyone in the Borgias history.

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Borgia Relationships - THE  BORGIAS   wikiCesare and Caterina

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Juan and Vanozza

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Family IconJuan and Lucrezia

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Juan and Joffre

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Juan Borgia is sent to the Kingdom of Naples to arrange the marriage of his brother Joffre to Sancia of Aragon, the illegitimate daughter of King Alfonso II, an ally desired by Pope Alexander. Sancia makes her desire for Juan obvious and Juan is not one to deny his urges, so they have sex immediately - in the room of corpses known as The Last Supper. Their affair continues on flagrantly; Juan and Sancia have sex on her wedding night one room away from Joffre and even while he 'played' outside the room in which they were in bed together. Joffre and Sancia leave Rome shortly before the French invasion of Naples and Juan is eventually sent to Spain to marry his betrothed Maria Enriquez de Luna.

Sancia, an illegitimate child, was a wild, headstrong beauty, brought up in the most pagan court in Europe, and there were persistent rumors of her immorality even before her arrival in the papal court. According to Italian historian Clemente Fusero, she was "a girl two years [Jofre's] senior who had highly precocious instincts and the temperament of a wh*re". It was said, most scandalously, that both the Borgia brothers, Juan and Cesare, were competing for the favors of their sister-in-law, though this is not addressed in the series. Fusero goes on to describe her when "in the previous autumn [1496] a rumor had spread that [Cesare] was having an affair with Sancia, who found him infinitely more attractive than the immature Gioffredo [Joffre]...After the Duke of Gandia's [Juan] return from the Ostia expedition, she showed signs of preferring his cheerful exuberance to the cool impenetrability of that gloomy introvert, the twenty-two year-old cardinal [Cesare]". After the Borgias reached the height of their power, she and Joffre ceased living together. She had an affair with the condottiero Prospero Colonna and died a few years later.

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Vanozza is shown as a loving mother to Lucrezia, who lives with her until Rodrigo is elected Pope. She is concerned about Lucrezia's welfare during her unhappy marriage to Giovanni Sforza and rejoices in the birth of her grandchild. Lucrezia is devasted by the Pope's decision to ban her mother from her wedding, and delighted when Cesare defies the Pope and brings her to the ceremony. Vanozza is active in her daughter's life, giving life lessons on men and marriage and even works with her to help the poor of Rome.

In reality, Lucrezia and Vanozza were not close - Lucrezia was much more attached to her father and to his cousin, Adriana de Mila, in whose household she was brought up. Vanozza's favorite child was Cesare and she seems to have had little time for her daughter. They did not even meet for the last seventeen years of Vanozza's life and Lucrezia described her grief at her mother's death as 'small', in contrast to her heartfelt mourning on the deaths of her brothers.

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Lucrezia first sees La Bella Farnese sitting for a portrait soon after she is installed as the Pope's new mistress. Lucrezia is enchanted with her immediately and they become fast friends and confidantes, with Giulia taking on a big sister role. Giulia comes to Lucrezia's side in Pesaro and helps her escape her abusive husband only to be captured by the French Army. Together they use their wit and wiles to gain safe passage to Rome. Lucrezia accepts Giulia's position as her father's lover and holds her in continued esteem.

While her husband Orsino was away on business, Giulia went to live with Rodrigo's cousin, and her mother-in-law, Adriana de Mila and Lucrezia Borgia in the newly-built palace of S. Maria del Portico. The building had a private door that lead into St. Peter's. This allowed the Pope to visit his daughter as well as his latest mistress, Giulia. Living together meant Giulia and Lucrezia spent much time together but there is not much in historical record that can pass as an authentic description of the closeness of their relationship, although the accounts of visiting ambassadors give the impression that they were close friends.

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Family IconLucrezia and Joffre

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Family IconLucrezia and Giovanni
(AKA The Roman Infante)


Lucrezia suffers cruelly at the hands of her first husband Giovanni Sforza. She begins a passionate love affair with his stable boy, Paolo. Her resulting pregnancy is hidden from all but her family and she gives birth at the Convent of St. Cecelia. She keeps her son, named Giovanni, close at hand and he is often seen in public with Lucrezia.

The child known to history as the Roman Infante appears in historical records associated with the Borgias in 1498, when an ambassador to the Vatican reports that Lucrezia gave birth. Another marriage alliance was needed, so the provenance of the child was attributed to Cesare in the first of two papal bulls regarding this child's appearance at the Vatican. However, a second bull was issued naming the child as the son of Pope Alexander VI. Lucrezia is not mentioned in either document and it was never proven she was the mother. The child was even made Duke of Camerino, one of Cesare's conquests, hence the natural inheritance of the Duke of Romagna's oldest son. However, some time after Alexander's death, Giovanni went to stay with Lucrezia in Ferrara, where he was accepted as her half-brother.

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Prince Djem of the Ottoman Empire is embroiled in a bitter battle for the throne with his brother Bayezid. He is sent to the court of Pope Alexander VI as an ambassador however, he is really there to be kept out of his brother's hair for a fee, which the Pope desperately needs after his expensive campaign to win the chair of St. Peter. Djem's exotic ways immediately fascinate Lucrezia and Djem is taken with her beauty and innocence. However, suitors are appearing for Lucrezia's hand and her closeness to Djem is bothersome to the Pope, so he tasks Cesare with 'ridding' them of the problem. Cesare expresses his distaste for the task and Juan attempts the murder, botching it horribly with cantarella, finally ending Djem's life by smothering him. Lucrezia is beside herself with grief and kept in the dark as to the cause of Prince Djem's death, being told it was a fever that took him from her.

Historically, Prince Djem was mostly with Juan and Cesare Borgia. Juan often imitated his style of dress in admiration of him. When Charles VIII invaded Italy he captured Prince Djem on 27 January 1495, and was going to send him back to France and use him as a pawn. Unfortunately, Djem mysteriously died on 25 February 1495. Some believe that his death was the result of poison, but this is very unlikely, and it is difficult to discern any motive that the Borgias would have had for this. It appears that Pope Alexander VI hoped to get Djem, and his annual payment, back. Most historians believe that Djem died of natural causes.

Lucrezia and Giovanni

Pope Alexander's political ambitions dictated that Lucrezia marry into a family of some renown and the Sforza were chosen. At 14 she was married to Giovanni Sforza and moved to Pesaro where she was isolated and subjected to his cruelties. After his political usefulness waned and news of his treatment of Lucrezia reached the Vatican, he was brought to Rome to face annulment proceedings. The marriage was dissolved based on Giovanni's impotence and he was sent away humiliated.

This is similar to historical records of the time that show that political intrigues were a motivating force behind the end of the marriage. Sensing he was losing favor with the Borgia family, Giovanni fled for his life. Lucrezia was rumored to be pregnant with a lover's child at the time of the annulment proceedings. However, in real life Giovanni outlived both Pope Alexander and Cesare, returned to Pesaro after Alexander's death and had a son by his marriage to Ginevra Tiepolo, who succeeded him. He died in 1510.

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Lucrezia's marriage to Giovanni Sforza is immediately abusive but she finds solace in the arms of a stable boy named Paolo. Their love affair blossoms right under the nose of Sforza with the help of lady's maid Francesca. Lucrezia is enjoying herself with Paolo though she realizes that it must be short-lived as her literary romances have taught her. Her resulting pregnancy is hidden from Paolo when she flees Pesaro for Rome and obtains her annulment. Paolo eventually finds Lucrezia and their love child in Rome but after a final night of lovemaking, he is murdered by Juan Borgia.

Historically, there is only gossip and speculation when it comes to the lover on which Paolo is based, Pedro Calderon known as Perotto. Perotto was the chamberlain and messenger of Pope Alexander VI and delivered his correspondence to Lucrezia while she was away from Rome. If rumor is to be taken at face value, she took him as a lover during the annulment proceedings, became pregnant and retired to the convent at San Sisto for her confinement. When the affair was discovered by her brother(s), Perotto and Lucrezia's maid Pentasilea, who was believed to have helped the lovers, were found dead in the Tiber River. Burchart noted in his diary that Perotto had fallen 'not of his own accord' into the river, and Cesare was widely rumoured to be responsible for the deaths. Rumors did abound that Lucrezia gave birth the same year as her marriage to Alfonso of Aragon but the rumors were never proved. If she did become pregnant, as seems likely, there is debate amongst historians as to whether Giovanni (the Infante Romano) was the result or whether her child was stillborn or smuggled away.

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Borgia Relationships - THE  BORGIAS   wikiLucrezia and Rafaello

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Borgia Relationships - THE  BORGIAS   wikiBorgia Relationships - THE  BORGIAS   wikiLucrezia and Alfonso of Aragon (Duke of Bisceglie)

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Family IconJoffre and Vanozza

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When the Pope comes to power, he immediately arranges to have his eligible children married off into what he figured at the time were advantageous marriage alliances. Joffre was betrothed to Sancia of Aragon, half-sister of Prince Alfonso of Naples, obtaining as dowry the Principality of Squillace. He expressed that he was willing to do anything to help alleviate the 'stress' of the Pope. Sancia was portrayed as being considerably older than Joffre and viewed him as a sweet boy, while bedding his older brother Juan.

History does not have much to say about Joffre and this marriage. There was a well-known rumor that Sancia was bedding his brothers Cesare and Juan, however, she befriended his sister Lucrezia. He was not politically motivated and was not a soldier, so Pope Alexander VI did not have much use for him.
Joffre and Sancia separated and she became even more notorious for her affairs. After Sancia's death in 1505, Joffre married his cousin Maria de Mila and had 4 children and lived a quiet private life until his death in 1517.