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The Borgias:  Real History - THE  BORGIAS   wikiThe Borgias were an Italian family with Spanish origin. They were brilliant but also perceived by their contemporaries as evil, ruthless and treacherous.

Rodrigo Borgia (pictured right) was born in Xàtiva, Spain in 1431. Rodrigo's famous son was Cesare, who was born in Italy in either 1475 or 1476. Although there was no actual evidence, it was believed in diplomatic circles that Cesare had his brother Juan, Duke of Gandia murdered. Another possible culprit are the Orsini who had always had a grudge against the Borgia. He was very vicious and short-tempered, but ruthlessly clever, possessing of a powerful charisma.

Cesare used his father's power in clever but ruthless dealings. Known as the destroyer of tyrants, Cesare's conquests freed the Romagna of petty tyrants and cruel lords. He was a military genius and an able The Borgias:  Real History - THE  BORGIAS   wikicommander, despite his sometimes unconventional or amoral methods. In 1502, during his conquest of Urbino he stole art treasures worth 150,000 ducats ($1,875,000). Cesare was the Captain-General of the Papal Army.

As part of Alexander IV's subjugation of the Papal States - virtually independent fiefs subject to the church (such as Bologna, Imola, and Rimini) - Cesare established a hereditary duchy and lordship of Romagna in central Italy. But he made too many enemies and his plans failed after his father's death in 1503. Cesare was killed in battle, fighting for the king of Navarre in 1507. Lucrezia was the sister of Cesare. Her first marriage, at the age of 13, was to Giovanni Sforza, but it was annulled. She was then married to Alfonso of Aragon. This husband was murdered by Cesare's henchmen at the Vatican itself. Her third and last marriage was to Alfonso d'Este, the heir to the Duke of Ferrara. Some enemies of the family were the Sforza, the Orsini, the Aragonese kings of Naples, Fra Girolamo Savonarola and rulers outside the Italian Peninsula. Their allies included the Medici, the King of France and Isabella and Ferdinand of Aragon and Castile.


The Borgias:  Real History - THE  BORGIAS   wikiIn the Borgia family (Coat of Arms above left) there were two popes and a Saint. The first pope was Pope Callistus III (pictured right) and the second was Pope Alexander VI. Saint Francis Borgia was the great-grandson of Rodrigo Borgia. Alfonso de Borgia became Pope Callixtus III in 1455. His nephew, Rodrigo, became Pope Alexander VI in 1492. Rodrigo became a cardinal at age 25.

Cardinal Rodrigo was talented, generous, and a wise patron of the arts. He did much for the university and made improvements in Rome. As pope, Alexander VI published a bull (a church decree or law) dividing the New World between Spain and Portugal. It promoted peace between them. The Pope proclaimed 1500 a Jubilee. He imposed a tithe for crusades against the Turks.

In 1493 Pope Alexander VI appointed his son, Cesare, a cardinal. Niccolo Machiavelli modelled his "Ideal Statesman" after Cesare Borgia. Leonardo da Vinci was military engineer and invented war machines for Cesare during his conquest of central Italy. The King of France gave Cesare the title of Duke of Valentinois and he titled himself the Duke of the Romagna after his conquests. Although a lackadaisical Cardinal, Cesare proved himself to be a gifted military leader. After his conquests in the Romagna, Cesare proclaimed himself Duke of Urbino and took four large cartloads of art treasures which contained tapestries, silver and paintings from the ducal palace. He sold one cartload to help an expedition to the south. Most of these treasures were restored to the rightful duke, Guidobaldo da Montefeltro after the fall of Cesare Borgia.


The Borgias were great patrons of the arts and they contributed to the flourishing development of the Renaissance in Italy. Their court attracted the most brilliant personalities, artistic and political. The Borgias' territorial conquests and ambitious consolidation of the papal states set the stage for Pope Julius II''s complete subjugation of the papal domains, which brought the papacy to the apex of its power and territorial size.

Pope Alexander VI - Rodrigo Borgia

The Borgias:  Real History - THE  BORGIAS   wiki"He (Alexander VI) is tall, in complexion neither fair nor dark; his eyes are black, his mouth somewhat full. His health is splendid and he has a marvelous power of enduring all sorts of fatigue. He is singularly eloquent and is gifted with an innate good breeding which never forsakes him." (F. Gregorovius, Lucrezia Borgia p. 8)

Rodrigo Borgia was born Roderic Llançol, Latin: Roderic de Borja i Borja (Italian: Rodrigo Borgia) Xàtiva in the Kingdom of Valencia ruled by the Crown of Aragon. "The pontificate of Alexander VI stands out with a reputation notorious and unique in the history of the papacy, and the name of Borgia is symbolic of all that is reckoned corrupt and criminal in the church of the fifteenth century... In such behavior, Alexander did not stand alone, and though he is depicted as the fountain-head of all Borgia ambitions, the characters of his two children, Cesare and Lucrezia, have been painted in equally lurid colours... During the age of the Renaissance in Italy the popes shared generally to the full the interests, enthusiasms and changing social habits of the movement...[and] by and large the association of popes and cardinals with Renaissance pursuits could well be beneficial... Alexander VI's pontificate therefore was not so much an isolated and monstrous phenomenon as possibly the logical conclusion of a longer development moulded by the circumstances and needs of the fifteenth-century papacy." (Geoffrey Parker, from the Introduction to At the Court of the Borgia by Johann Burchard, pgs. 7, 20 and 22).
Juan Borgia, the Duke of Gandia

The Borgias:  Real History - THE  BORGIAS   wiki(1474 - 14 June 1497) was the brother of the famous Cesare Borgia. According to several sources and opinions, Giovanni might have been only the second of the Pope's four children born in 1475 or 1476, and Cesare was the first-born from the relationship with Vanozza in 1474 or 1475. These doubts arise from contradictory Papal Bulls and letters about Cesare's birth.

(Juan) Giovanni de Candia Borgia was born in Rome to Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia and Vannozza dei Cattanei. Juan married Maria Enriquez de Luna, the Spanish betrothed of his deceased older half-brother, Pedro Luis, in September of 1493. He was made 2nd Duke of Gandia, Duke of Sessa, Grand Constable of Naples, the Papal Gonfalonier and General Captain, and Governor of St.Peters. He was murdered the night of June 14, 1497 near what would later become the Piazza della Giudecca (in the Ghetto of Rome). It has been speculated that his own brother Cesare Borgia had him murdered. His richly attired body was recovered from the Tiber River with 30 golden ducats untouched in the purse at his belt. To the immense grief of the Pope, this act occasioned the heartless epigram by Sannazzaro on the Pope as "fisher of men". Borgia's only attendant was also slain, so there were no witnesses. Although not proven, there is the possibility that the Juan died at the hands of one Antonio Pico della Mirandola whose "house was near the Tiber" and "who also had a young daughter" - which could explain Juan's remark that he was going to "amuse himself" on his mysterious ride. Juan and Maria had two children: Juan Borja y Enriquez (also known as Juan Borgia), who became the 3rd Duke of Gandia, and Francisca de Jesus Borja, who became a nun at a convent in Valladolid. This Juan was the grandfather of Saint Francis Borgia.

Cesare Borgia, Cardinal of Valencia later Duke of Valentinois

The Borgias:  Real History - THE  BORGIAS   wiki(Born 13 September 1475 or 1476, probably Rome — died 1507, near Viana, Navarre). Cesare was an Italian military leader, illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI, and brother of Lucrezia Borgia. He was made archbishop of Valencia (1492) and cardinal (1493). After his brother's murder (1497), he took command of the papal armies. In 1498 he resigned his ecclesiastical offices and married Charlotte d'Albret, the sister of the king of Navarre, a move calculated to win French support for a campaign to regain control of the Papal States. Acting in concert with his father, Cesare won a series of military successes in the Papal States (1499 – 1503), gaining a reputation for ruthlessness and assassination; his political astuteness led Niccolò Machiavelli to cite him as an example of the new "Prince." Cesare's gains proved fruitless, however, when his father died (1503) and the new pope, Julius II, demanded that he give up his lands. He escaped from prison in Spain and died fighting for Navarre. His full title at the height of his career included: Duke of Valentinois and Lord of Romagna, Prince of Andria and Venafro, Count of Dylois, Lord of Piombino, Camerino and Urbino, Gonfaloniere of the Church and Captain General of the Church. His Church titles included: Bishop of Pamplona and Cardinal of Valencia.

Lucrezia Borgia, Lady of Pesaro , Bisceglie and Ferrara

The Borgias:  Real History - THE  BORGIAS   wikiLucrezia Borgia was born on April 18, 1480, the daughter of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (c. 1431–1503), later to become Pope Alexander VI, and his mistress Vannozza dei Cattanei, who was also the mother of Lucrezia's two older brothers, Cesare and Juan. The task of raising Lucrezia, however, was given to Rodrigo's cousin, the widow Adriana de Mila. While living in a palace in Rome, Lucrezia was educated at the Convent of St. Sixtus on Via Appia. Lucrezia was slender with light blue-grey eyes and golden hair, which she later bleached to maintain its goldenness. A painting by Pinturicchio (1454–1513) (below right), Disputation of Saint Catherine, is said to be modeled after her. It portrays a slender, young woman with wavy, blond hair cascading down her back (the image below is a detail of the painting which adorns the wall of the Apartmento Borgia at the Vatican.

The First Wedding

Young Lucrezia was no more than eleven when she was first affected by the political ambitions of her father (who had by this time become Pope Alexander VI) and her older brother, Cesare. Her father annulled a marriage contract between Lucrezia and a Spanish nobleman. Instead he gave Lucrezia to Giovanni Sforza lord of Pesaro, a twenty-seven-year old with a fierce temper. By the time Lucrezia was seventeen, Alexander and Cesare, were looking to align themselves with Spain and Naples against France and the Sforza family. Sensing he was losing favor with the Borgia family, Giovanni fled for his life. Soon Lucrezia's marriage was annulled on the grounds of impotence and Giovanni was thus publicly humiliated. He would later sire children by his second wife.

The Second Marriage

The Borgias:  Real History - THE  BORGIAS   wikiFor Lucrezia's next husband, Rodrigo chose the gallant seventeen-year-old Alfonso of Aragon, the Duke of Bisceglie and illegitimate son of the late king of Naples. But by the time her first marriage was officially annulled on 27 December 1497, Lucrezia was six months pregnant. Rumours swirled throughout Italy as to who the father was.

Alfonso of Aragon was reputed to be a handsome youth with fine manners, and by all evidence Lucrezia truly loved him. But only a year later, political changes were once again stirring. Alexander and Cesare now looked to align with France, and Lucrezia's marriage to Alfonso stood in the way. Fearing for his life, Alfonso also fled Rome. Lucrezia met up with her husband in Nepi and soon the two returned to Rome. On the evening of 15 July 1500 unknown would-be murderers stabbed him in the square of St Peter's. He survived the attack, but only a month later, he attempted to kill Cesare Borgia with a cross-bow from his window overlooking the Vatican Gardens. He missed. Later that night, August 18, 1500, he was strangled in bed by Cesare's henchmen. Lucrezia was utterly crushed.

The Third Husband

Once again politics determined Lucrezia's marriage to the twenty-four-year-old widower Alfonso I d'Este, eldest son of Ercole d'Este, Duke of Ferrara. Lucrezia was eager for the marriage. She regarded Rome as a prison and thought she would have a better chance of leading her own life in Ferrara, away from her ambitious father and brother. On 2 February 1502, Lucrezia and Alfonso were wed. Lucrezia had married a man who not only was interested in artillery, tournaments, dogs, and horses, but who also played the viol (a musical instrument that was popular during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) and made pottery. On the other hand, he was also known for his cruelty, stinginess, and strange behaviour.

Life in Ferrara

The Borgias:  Real History - THE  BORGIAS   wikiThe people of Ferrara adored Lucrezia, praising her for her beauty and "inner grace of personality." Content to socialize with artists, courtiers, poets, and citizens of the Renaissance court, she helped make Ferrara a center for artists and writers. In 1503 Alexander died, along with many of Cesare's political plans. Finally, some stability appeared in Lucrezia's life. When Ercole died in 1505, she and Alfonso became the reigning duke and duchess of Ferrara. Lucrezia had several children by Alfonso d'Este. In 1512 Lucrezia withdrew from public life, possibly from the news that Rodrigo, her son by Alfonso of Aragon, had died. She began to spend more time in her apartments or in nearby convents, and turned to religion. As the years progressed, her body thickened, and she was said to have aged greatly. She also suffered from spells of deep sadness. On June 14, 1519, while giving birth to a stillborn girl she developed a fever that caused her to lose much of her strength. She died ten days later at the age of thirty-nine. Many historians view Lucrezia Borgia as a political pawn whose marriages were used for her family's political gains. Born into a vicious and greedy family, Lucrezia was very much a product of her times, and she accepted these ambitions and their consequences for the good of the family.

Lucrezia's name has been tainted by the Borgia family's reputation. Historians in the past have commonly accused her or suggested that she played apart of their political machinations and assassinations. Her name has become synonymous with poison, incest, womanly vice and all that is evil. While every rumour and accusation always has some backing behind it, incest charges and things of that same degree were probably made up for political reasons. The rumours and slanders are repeated for the sake of telling a good story and making her the most vilified and debauched woman since the biblical Queen, Jezebel. Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara, earned a reputation as a political schemer in fifteenth century Italy. In actuality, she was simply a willing pawn - used by her father and brother to further their own political ambitions - much like many other royal and noble families during the early modern period. For this alone, the Borgias should not necessarily be villified.

"Lucretia Borgia might correspond with the one derived from the documents of her time, which show her as an amiable, gentle, thoughtless, and unfortunate woman. Her misfortunes, in life, were due in part to a fate for which she was in no way responsible, and, after her death, in the opinion which was formed regarding her character." (Ferdinand Gregorovius, Lucretia Borgia p. 362)

Jofré Borgia, Prince of Squillace

The Borgias:  Real History - THE  BORGIAS   wikiJoffré (Jofré) Borga (1482–1522), Prince of Squillace, was the youngest son of Pope Alexander VI, and Vannozza dei Cattanei, sibling to Lucrezia Borgia, Cesare Borgia and Juan Borgia.

He married Sancia (Sancha) of Aragon, daughter of Alfonso II of Naples, obtaining as dowry the County of Alvito (1497). The marriage was an arranged one and Sancia slept with both of her husband’s older brothers, Cesare and Juan. Joffre was able to keep his lands briefly during the Italian Wars wars for the possession of the Kingdom of Naples, also defeating a rebellion in 1504, but lost them after Sancha's death.

He had a second marriage with Maria de Mila, and they had four children.

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