Lucrezia Borgia

Eyridiki Sellou | Jan 3, 2024

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Lucrezia Borgia, in Catalan: Lucrècia Borja; in Spanish: Lucrecia de Borja; in Latin: Lucretia Borgia (Subiaco, April 18, 1480 - Ferrara, June 24, 1519), was an Italian noblewoman of also Spanish descent.

The illegitimate third-born daughter of Pope Alexander VI (born Rodrigo Borgia) and Vannozza Cattanei, she was one of the most controversial female figures of the Italian Renaissance.

When her father ascended to the papal throne he initially gave her in marriage to Giovanni Sforza, but a few years later, following the annulment of the marriage, Lucrezia married Alfonso of Aragon, the illegitimate son of Alfonso II of Naples. A further change in alliances, which brought the Borgias closer to the pro-French party, led to Alfonso's assassination on Cesare's orders.

After a brief period of mourning, Lucrezia took an active part in the negotiations for her third marriage, that to Alfonso I d'Este, eldest son of Duke Ercole I of Ferrara, who had to, though reluctantly, accept her in marriage. At the Este court Lucrezia made people forget her origin as an illegitimate daughter of the pope, her two failed marriages and her whole stormy past; in fact, thanks to her beauty and intelligence, she made herself well liked by both the new family and the people of Ferrara.

A perfect Renaissance castellan, she acquired a reputation as a skilled politician and shrewd diplomat. Her husband entrusted her with the administrative management of the duchy when he had to absent himself from Ferrara. She was also an active patron, welcoming poets and humanists such as Ludovico Ariosto, Pietro Bembo, Gian Giorgio Trissino and Ercole Strozzi to court.

From 1512, due to the misfortunes that befell her and the Ferrara household, she began wearing the cilice, enrolled in the Franciscan Third Order, became attached to the followers of St. Bernardine of Siena and St. Catherine, and founded the Monte di Pietà of Ferrara to aid the poor. He died in 1519, at the age of thirty-nine, of complications from childbirth.

The figure of Lucretia has taken on different nuances throughout historical periods. For a certain historiography, especially the 19th century, the Borgias came to embody the symbol of ruthless Machiavellian politics and sexual corruption attributed to Renaissance popes. Lucrezia's own reputation was tarnished as a result of the accusation of incest levelled by Giovanni Sforza against his wife's family, to which was later added the reputation as a poisoner, due in particular to Victor Hugo's tragedy of the same name, later set to music by Gaetano Donizetti: in this way the figure of Lucrezia came to be associated with that of a femme fatale who was a participant in the crimes committed by her own family.

She was born in Subiaco on April 18, 1480, the third daughter of Spanish Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, archbishop of Valencia, who would be elected Pope of the Catholic Church in 1492 as Alexander VI. Her mother, on the other hand, was a woman from Mantua, Vannozza Cattanei, Rodrigo's mistress for fifteen years.

The child was christened Lucrezia and was the only daughter Rodrigo had with Vannozza. The family already included two brothers, Cesare and Juan, and two years later would be joined by little Jofré. Rodrigo, while secretly acknowledging them at birth, hid the existence of his sons well, at least initially, so much so that a Mantuan messenger in February 1492 spoke of Cesare and Juan as nephews of the cardinal.

The young Borgias were greatly influenced by their Valencian origins and very close to each other. Lucrezia in particular bonded more intimately with Cesare, and a feeling of mutual love and loyalty existed between them. However, the knowledge that they were contemptuously regarded as foreigners enhanced the Borgias' sense of cohesion among themselves, so much so that they hired mainly relatives or compatriots to serve them, convinced that they were the only ones they could truly trust.

Probably her early years Lucrezia lived with Vannozza in the house in Piazza Pizzo di Merlo in Rome. She was much loved by her father, who, according to some chroniclers, loved her "in a superlative degree." With her mother, on the other hand, Lucrezia always had a detached relationship. She was later entrusted to the care of a cousin of her father, Adriana Mila, widow of the noble Ludovico Orsini. This breadwinner subjected herself entirely to Rodrigo's interests, acting as Lucrezia's guardian and fostering the cardinal's relationship with 14-year-old Giulia Farnese Orsini, his daughter-in-law. The great friendship that developed between Giulia and Lucrezia allowed the latter not to grieve at Cesare's departure for the University of Perugia and the death of her half-brother Pedro Luìs.

Lucretia grew up, like the other female figures in her family, completely subjugated to her father's "male sexual power and dominance." She possessed the same sensuality and indifference to sexual morality as her father and brothers, but she also knew how to be kind and compassionate.


Raised by Adriana, Lucrezia received a complete education: thanks to good tutors, including Carlo Canale (Vannozza's last husband) who also initiated her into poetry, she learned Spanish, French, Italian and a little Latin, as well as music, dancing, drawing and embroidery. She was also taught to express herself with elegance and eloquence. In the convent of San Sisto she also learned religious practices.

At the age of eleven she was twice promised in marriage to Spanish suitors: indeed, Cardinal Borgia had envisioned a future in Spain for his children. In February 1491 the chosen one was initially Don Cherubino Juan de Centelles, with a contract that provided for a dowry of 30. 000 timbres divided partly in money and partly in jewels, a gift to the bride from the Borgia family, signed on Feb. 26, '91; two months later Rodrigo entered into new nuptial pacts with another Valencian, Gaspare di Procida, son of the count of Aversa, but in 1492, following his election to the papal throne under the name of Alexander VI, he broke off both engagements in exchange for rewards to the families of the two suitors.

Upon becoming Pope Alexander VI, marriage plans regarding Lucrezia underwent a profound change: being able now to aim far higher than mere Spanish nobles, the pontiff sought to settle his daughter in Italy, with the vision of forging powerful political alliances with seigneurial families. Indeed, at the time there was a proliferation of alliances among Italy's ruling families, and the Borgias took advantage of this situation for their plans to dominate the peninsula. It was Cardinal Ascanio Sforza who proposed to the Pope the name of his nephew, Giovanni Sforza, the 27-year-old lord of Pesaro, a papal fiefdom. Thanks to this marriage, Alexander VI would enter into an alliance with the powerful Sforza family, establishing a defensive league of the Church state (April 25, 1493) to prevent the imminent French invasion by Charles VIII at the expense of the kingdom of Naples.

At this time the Pope gave Lucrezia the palace of Santa Maria in Portico. Adriana Mila ran her niece's household, with Giulia Farnese serving as lady-in-waiting. Soon the house became a social gathering place, frequented by relatives, friends, flatterers, noble gentlewomen and envoys from princely houses. Among these envoys, while visiting Rome in 1492, Alfonso d'Este, the man who would become her third husband, came to Lucrezia.

Countess of Pesaro

On February 2, 1493, a proxy marriage was celebrated between 12-year-old Lucrezia and 26-year-old Giovanni Sforza. On June 2, 1493, when the Count of Pesaro arrived in Rome, the two future spouses met for the first time. On June 12, a religious wedding was celebrated in the Borgia Apartment. Lucrezia's grace was praised by the speakers of the time: "she carries her person so sweetly that she seems not to move." After a sumptuous dinner, Lucrezia was not led to the nuptial thalamus as was customary, because the pope did not want the marriage to be consummated for five months, perhaps because of the bride's physical acerbity or perhaps to reserve the option of annulling it in the event of a change in his political goals. In early August, for fear of the plague that had struck the city, Giovanni Sforza left Rome, and it is unclear whether Lucrezia followed him.

Although she became Countess of Pesaro, nothing had changed for Lucrezia except her social position: being a married woman had assigned her greater importance. Although she continued to spend her days devoting herself to various amusements, she began to receive homage, reverence and pleas for intercession with the Pope, and although she was young she was already manifestly showing remarkable maturity: in fact, one contemporary describes her as a "dignitissima madonna." Her husband returned to Rome before Christmas and spent the holidays with his wife, but at that time the Pope changed alliances by siding with the Aragonese of Naples through the marriage of Jofré Borgia to Sancha of Aragon: in this way he did not recognize the claims of Charles VIII of France for dominion over the Neapolitan lands.

After a few months Lucrezia accompanied her husband to Pesaro, followed by Adriana and Giulia, who were obliged to watch over her. They arrived in Pesaro on June 8 where the local nobility offered a good welcome to the new countess and Sforza fulfilled every wish of his guests. Lucrezia enjoyed her time in Pesaro so much that she forgot to write regularly to her troubled father, and she became close friends with the beautiful Caterina Gonzaga, wife of Ottaviano da Montevecchio, who used this relationship to favor and protect her own family. Shortly thereafter, Lucrezia was reprimanded by her father for not preventing Adriana and Giulia from going to Capodimonte to the bedside of Angelo Farnese, Giulia's brother, from whom they arrived too late, however. Lucrezia responded in kind to her father's accusations, showing that she fully understood the political situation in which the pope found himself.

During the invasion of Italy by the French army led by Charles VIII, Lucrezia remained safe in Pesaro, leading a luxurious life. Alexander VI managed, through his diplomatic skill and flattery, to remain unharmed by the French invasion, and shortly thereafter created a Holy League against France (March 31, 1495): the coalition army, led by Francesco Gonzaga, marquis of Mantua, defeated the French army at the Battle of Fornovo. Lucrezia returned to Rome after Easter of that year, while her husband's position became increasingly ambiguous: the Pope had ordered him to leave Pesaro and place himself in his service, while Giovanni intended to place himself entirely under the leadership of Ludovico il Moro.

In March 1496 Lucrezia met Francesco Gonzaga, when the latter was on his way to Naples with the army of the Holy League. When Giovanni Sforza also left Rome with his army to help the marquis, after taking various money from the pope and refusing several times to leave, troubling rumors circulated about his marriage; the Mantuan ambassador wrote, "Perhaps he has at home what others do not think" adding ambiguously that he had left Lucrezia "under the apostolic mantle." In May Jofré and Sancha, who had lived in Naples until then, arrived in Rome, and within a short time Lucrezia and Sancha became good friends.

The annulment of the wedding and the alleged affair with Perotto

On March 26, 1497, Easter Day, Giovanni Sforza fled Rome. This sudden flight was said to have been due to Sforza's fear that he would be killed by the Borgias and that it was Lucrezia herself who alerted her husband. Alexander VI intimated to his son-in-law to return, but he refused several times. Ludovico il Moro sought mediation with the lord of Pesaro, asking him the real reason for the flight, and Sforza replied that the Pope was furious with him and was, without reason, preventing his wife from joining him. Later the Moor learned of the threats the Pope had made to Giovanni and was surprised to receive a request from the pontiff to persuade Giovanni to return to Rome. Finally, on June 1, Cardinal Ascanio Sforza informed the Moor that the Pope intended to dissolve the marriage.

In order to obtain the separation, the Pope claimed that the marriage was invalid because Lucrezia was already betrothed to the lord of Procida Gaspare d'Aversa and that, in any case, Sforza was impotent and therefore had not consummated the marriage: thus a trial for annulment could be initiated. Giovanni Sforza then accused the Pope of incest with his daughter. Ludovico il Moro dropped the insinuation to avoid clamor and proposed that his cousin prove that he was capable of consummating the marriage, a test before witnesses (sexual intercourse with his wife or other women before witnesses accepted by both parties) but Giovanni objected. In the meantime, Lucrezia took refuge in the convent of San Sisto to escape the uproar caused by her matrimonial affair. In the convent, in mid-June, she received news of the murder of her brother Juan, whose instigator was never officially discovered.

Shortly thereafter, the Sforza family removed all support for the count of Pesaro to prevent the pope from becoming further angered by John's procrastination in agreeing to the annulment. Having no choice, the count signed before witnesses both a confession of impotence and the nullity document (Nov. 18, 1497). Lucrezia confirmed everything her father had made her sign regarding the non-consummation of the marriage before the canonical judges, who satisfied declared her virgo intacta, without even having the matrons visit her (Dec. 12, 1497). Lucrezia thanked them in Latin, "with such kindness that if she had been a Tullius Cicero she could not have said more wittily and with greater grace."

The uproar caused by the affair of the annulment of her wedding carried a high price for Lucrezia's reputation. Few believed in the impotence of the Count of Pesaro and the idea that she was a virgin: thus the accusation of incest directed toward the Borgia family took hold. A few months later, Lucrezia was involved in a new scandal. Indeed, on February 14, 1498, the corpse of Pedro Calderón, familiarly called Perotto, a young Spanish servant of the Pope, was found in the Tiber. According to the papal master of ceremonies Burcardo the young man "had fallen into the Tiber certainly not of his own accord," adding that "there was much talk in the city." In his Diarii, the Venetian Marin Sanudo relates that along with Perotto, the body of one of Lucretia's ladies named Pantasilea would also be found. Many speakers pointed to Caesar as the instigator of the double murder for reasons closely related to Lucrezia, who had probably become pregnant by the young Spaniard. Since Lucretia's second wedding was being arranged at that time, Caesar would not in fact allow anyone to get in the way of his and his father's plans for his sister, and for this he would take revenge on the people responsible for the affair.

In a report dated March 18, a Ferrara speaker informed Duke Hercules of the birth of the Pope's daughter. Of this child who would be born in the convent of San Sisto and whose existence would be proven according to some historians by the tragic end of Perotto and Pantasilea, nothing more was heard. Some historians have identified him with the infans Romanus, Giovanni Borgia, son of Alexander VI and therefore Lucrezia's half-brother, born at that time, whom she would always care for with great affection.

Duchess of Bisceglie

By the time Lucretia returned to the palace of Santa Maria in Portico, negotiations for her second wedding had been concluded. With a dowry set at 40,000 gold ducats she was to marry Alfonso of Aragon, illegitimate son of Alfonso II of Naples and brother of Sancha. The marriage, arranged by the Pope and Cesare, who had thrown off the cardinal's purple, would have served to bring the Borgias closer to the throne of Naples, along with the far more gratifying marriage between Cesare and Carlotta of Aragon, legitimate daughter of Frederick I of Naples: these latter nuptials, however, did not take place, much to the disappointment of the Pope. So Caesar, having gone to the court of Louis XII of France, married Charlotte d'Albret, sister of the King of Navarre.

Lucrezia's wedding took place, before a few intimates, in the Borgia Apartment on July 21, 1498. For Lucrezia, who immediately fell in love with her husband, the figure of the 17-year-old duke of Bisceglie was not entirely unfamiliar, since her sister Sancha had repeatedly sung his praises before her: contemporaries then were unanimous in recognizing him as "the most handsome adolescent ever seen in Rome." In the following months Lucrezia and Alfonso lived serenely holding court, receiving poets, men of letters, princes and cardinals. Under the protection of the dukes of Bisceglie, a small Aragonese party was formed, which would later trouble Cesare Borgia. Lucrezia in fact, although she detested politics, had learned how to move to safeguard her own interests during political intrigues.

On February 9, 1499, Lucrezia had a miscarriage due to a fall. This loss did not discourage the newlyweds: two months later Lucrezia was pregnant again. At that time the news of Cesare's marriage to Charlotte d'Albret cheered Lucrezia, but not Alfonso and Sancha as they understood that the Borgia alliances had changed again: in order to marry, the Valentine had had to militarily support Louis XII's reconquest of Milanese and the kingdom of Naples. The pope tried to calm Alfonso's growing anxiety, but he fled, taking refuge in Genazzano, leaving his wife, six months pregnant, in despair. Infuriated, Alexander VI banished Sancha from Rome and posted guards to guard the Palace of Santa Maria in Portico when he learned that Alfonso was inciting Lucrezia to join him in Genazzano. To prevent the two children left without spouses from being tempted to join them, Alexander VI opted to send Jofré and Lucrezia to Spoleto, appointing the latter governor of the duchy.

Placing his children in Spoleto, the main stronghold north of Rome, the Pope showed that he had joined the French party. Lucrezia and her brother, previously united with the Neapolitan lineage by Cesare's hand, were forced, again by his will, to abandon the interests of their adopted house and hold Spoleto, so as to block any Neapolitan troops sent to aid the Duchy of Milan invaded by the French army led by Cesare and Louis XII.

In Spoleto the Borgia siblings received a warm welcome, and unlike her brother, who preferred to devote himself to hunting, Lucretia was committed to her task as governor: among other things, she established a corps of marshals to ensure city order and imposed a truce with the rival city of Terni. A month after her arrival Alfonso came to her, whom Alexander VI had managed to reassure by giving him the city and the territory of Nepi. On October 14 Lucrezia returned to Rome together with Alfonso and Jofré. On the night of October 31, Lucretia gave birth to a child who would be baptized Rodrigo of Aragon.

On June 29, 1500, a violent thunderstorm caused a chimney on the roof of the Vatican to collapse: the rubble collapsed on the interior floors, killing three people, while the pope was instead extracted unconscious and slightly wounded in the forehead, but without suffering any consequences. This prompted Caesar to try to maintain, in the event of his father's sudden death, the exceptional fortune he had gained from his continued victories in Romagna. He succeeded in obtaining the support of France and the Republic of Venice, while he did not have the same support from Naples and Spain, which found a possible adversary to Caesar in his sister's husband, Alfonso of Aragon.

Thus it was that on the night of July 15, 1500, Alfonso was attacked by armed men and, although he tried to defend himself, was severely wounded in the head and limbs. Lucrezia and Sancha took care of the man by keeping vigil at his bedside and never leaving him alone. Believing Caesar to be responsible for the attack, they requested an armed escort from the pope to guard the duke's room, called physicians especially from Naples, and personally prepared food in fear of poisoning.

On August 18, by trickery, Lucrezia and Sancha were removed from the sick man's room, and Alfonso, now out of danger and on the mend, was strangled by Michelotto Corella, Cesare's personal assassin. "The same evening," writes Burcardo, "around the first hour of the night, the corpse of the Duke of Bisceglie was carried to the basilica of St. Peter's and laid in the chapel of Our Lady of Fevers. Cesare, who had initially spread the rumor that it was the Orsini who had masterminded the assassination, justified himself to his father by saying that his brother-in-law had tried to kill him with a crossbow shot: while Alexander VI accepted the explanation, Lucrezia, in despair over her husband's death, did not.

Furious with her father and brother, Lucrezia was left alone to weep with Sancha and was seized by a very high fever with delirium, refusing even to eat. Because of her ostentatious grief, her father began to treat her coldly: "Before, she was in the pope's grace madonna Lucrezia his daughter such as is wise and liberal, but now the pope loves her not so much," wrote the Venetian ambassador Polo Capello.

The turning point

At Nepi, where Lucrezia was sent along with little Rodrigo on August 31 (to quiet any possible animosity with her father and Cesare), he spent the mourning period. "The reason for this journey was to seek some consolation or distraction from the commotion that the death of the most illustrious Alfonso d'Aragona, her husband, had caused him," Burcardo wrote. The stay in Nepi lasted until November. To this period dates a secret correspondence between Lucrezia and Vincenzo Giordano, her confidant and probably her butler. The letters initially concerned mourning clothes for her, her son and servants, but also orders to celebrate masses for the deceased; soon after, however, the subject matter of the letters became more mysterious, with hints of internal Vatican intrigues.

Back in Rome, she was summoned to the Vatican and proposed marriage by the Duke of Gravina, already her suitor in 1498. Lucrezia, however, declined the offer and, as the Venetian chronicler Sanudo reports, when asked by the pope why he had refused she replied loudly and in the presence of others "because my husbands are unfortunate." The fact that the number of suitors for Lucrezia was high at the time shows that many high-ranking families were interested in tying themselves to the Borgias through marriage to the pope's daughter. However, the handsome and bold Antonello Sanseverino claimed that he would never have welcomed into his home a woman like Lucrezia Borgia, "who was publicly known to have slept with li fratelli."

Many historians agree that this period was pivotal for Lucretia: she understood that it was time to leave the Roman environment, which had become too oppressive and lacked the security she needed, and to look for someone who could counterbalance the strength of her relatives.

The third marriage

Lucrezia's aspirations were realized when negotiations began for marriage to Alfonso d'Este, son of Ercole Duke of Ferrara, in order to strengthen Cesare's power in Romagna. Through this marriage Lucrezia would become part of one of the oldest lineages in Italy.

However, the Este family resisted, due in part to the infamous rumors about Lucrezia. To overcome these reluctances, the pope imposed his will on Louis XII, protector of Ferrara, whose approval would weigh heavily in the negotiations. Alexander VI blackmailed the king by pointing out that he would recognize the rights of the French to the throne of Naples if he could convince the Este family to approve the marriage. Louis XII was forced to agree, but advised Hercules to sell the honor of his household dearly. Hercules demanded that the Pope double the proposed 100,000 ducats and other benefits to the duchy and relatives and friends.

In July 1501, during negotiations, in order to show how Lucrezia was capable of great responsibility and thus a worthy duchess of Este, Alexander VI entrusted her with the administration of the Vatican while he went to Sermoneta. However, this fact did not outrage the Vatican intimates, who were already accustomed to the pontiff's eccentricities and excesses.

The wedding contract was drawn up in the Vatican on August 26, 1501, and the wedding by proxy in Ferrara took place on September 1: when, four days later, the news was made public in Rome there was great celebration and Lucrezia went to give thanks to the Virgin in the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo. This time she herself was an active participant in the marriage negotiations and even received some letters from Duke Ercole. In mid-December the Ferrarese escort who was to accompany the bride to Ferrara arrived in Rome, led by Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, Alfonso's brother. At Lucrezia's official presentation to her new relatives, they were stunned and bewitched by her splendor. On the evening of December 30, 1501, Lucrezia received her nuptial blessing. Days of celebration followed as the money Lucrezia brought as dowry was meticulously counted.

On January 6, after greeting friends and relatives, she secluded herself with her father and Caesar for a long conversation in strict Valencian dialect. Afterwards, in Italian and in a loud voice, Alexander VI urged her to be quiet and to write to him for "whatever" she wished, "because he , she absent, much more than Finally, having received the last blessing from the Pope, Lucrezia left for Ferrara, while it began to snow over Rome.

On January 31, after crossing central Italy passing also through Urbino and Bologna, the procession stopped at Bentivoglio, at the holiday residence of the lords of the same name in Bologna: Lucrezia received with kindness and respect her husband who, after two hours of conversation, left her to precede her to Ferrara. On February 1, at Malalbergo, Lucrezia met her sister-in-law Isabella d'Este, with whom she would establish a relationship of secret conflict: both would contend until the end for the role of prima donna at the Este court. Instead, at Torre Fossa she met Duke Ercole, the rest of the Este family and the Ferrarese court. On February 2, the day of the Virgin's purification, Lucrezia made a solemn entrance into Ferrara, welcomed with joy by the city's inhabitants. After a lavish reception, Lucrezia went to her apartments, where shortly afterward she was joined by Alfonso, and, according to reports from Isabella's chancellor to the duke of Mantua, the marriage was consummated three times that night.

New life at the Estense court

After the lavish celebrations due to the wedding, life at the Ferrara court resumed its daily rhythms. Lucrezia tried to adapt to her new surroundings, but before long disagreements arose over the 10,000 ducats given to her by Duke Ercole, which she considered too small considering the enormous dowry she brought to the Este family. The effects of her discontent were reflected in her relations with her gentlemen and gentlewomen from Ferrara, who complained about the preference Lucrezia showed for Spanish and Roman women: in fact, Lucrezia did not care as much about being popular as she did about creating a company around her that she could trust blindly, without a shadow of suspicion.

In the spring Lucrezia became pregnant with Alfonso, but the pregnancy proved difficult, partly because of news about the sacking that Cesare's troops had carried out in Urbino, a city that had welcomed her sumptuously a short time before. These events, together with the discovery in the Tiber of the corpse of Astorre Manfredi, who had long been held in Castel Sant'Angelo, put the Borgias even more in a bad light, and only after making inquiries among the Spaniards did the Ferrara people become convinced that Lucrezia's expressions of grief were true.

In the summer Lucrezia was infected by a fever epidemic that had struck Ferrara. On September 5 she was seized by convulsions and gave birth to a dead baby girl. The difficult situation was overcome and the period of convalescence was spent in the Corpus Christi monastery. On both the outward and return journey, Lucrezia was acclaimed by the people and well received by the courtiers.

Cesare's warlike prowess brought the fame of the Borgias to its apogee, also instilling a certain awe, and reflexively Lucrezia also received more consideration from the Este, so much so that the duke decided to increase her appanage. Since Ercole was a widower, Lucrezia began to be called "the duchess," even occupying positions of representation in public celebrations. Thanks to her love of culture, she made the Ferrarese court the center of a host of literati, among whom was Ercole Strozzi, whom she took under her protection, offering him preferential friendship. It was he who told Lucrezia about the Venetian warehouses, not far from Ferrara, where she sent him to buy her regal fabrics, golden brocades and other hues on credit. As a revenge against her father-in-law's avarice, Lucrezia's expenses far exceeded the appanage granted her.

It was also Strozzi who introduced her to his close friend, the humanist Pietro Bembo. Intellectual prestige, accompanied by physical prowess, impressed Lucrezia, who began a pleasant exchange of rhymes and verses with Bembo. After a few months, as the correspondence between the two also testifies, the Platonic love became more passionate, so much so that when the poet fell ill in July 1503, she visited him.

At Medelana, where the court had taken refuge to escape the plague, Lucrezia received news of Alexander VI's death on August 18. Lucrezia closed herself in tight mourning, in which no member of the Este family joined. The only ones who stood by her side were Ercole Strozzi and Pietro Bembo. The latter wrote her a letter to comfort her and to suggest that she should not show excessive despair, lest rumors arise that her sadness depended, in addition to her father's death, on her fear of repudiation by her husband. Lucrezia had in fact not yet managed to give Alfonso an heir, but she had nevertheless managed to make herself well-liked by the people of Ferrara and her father-in-law Ercole d'Este.

The Borgias' misfortune increased when, after the brief pontificate of Pius III, Pope Julius II, an avowed enemy of the Valencian family, was elected. The new pontiff ordered the Valentino to immediately return to the Papal States all the fortresses he had conquered in Romagna. Cesare refused, supported by Lucrezia who defended through a small army of mercenaries her brother's duchy of Romagna. The Venetian Republic took action in favor of the Pope, helping many lords regain the domains taken from them by the Valentine, however Lucrezia's mercenary army managed to defeat the Venetians, defending Cesena and Imola.

Lucrezia was also concerned with the fate of her son Rodrigo and Giovanni Borgia, the Infans Romanus, his half-brother. Duke Ercole opposed having Rodrigo come to Ferrara and advised her to send him to Spain, but Lucrezia refused and entrusted the child to his father's relatives so that he could keep his Neapolitan possessions. Instead, Giovanni grew up in Carpi with Girolamo and Camilla, the two illegitimate children Cesare Borgia had had by one of Lucrezia's ladies-in-waiting.

Julius II complained about Lucrezia's behavior to Duke Ercole, who replied that he did not participate in these actions because the thousand foot soldiers and five hundred archers were paid only by his daughter-in-law. Despite this, Ercole secretly supported Lucrezia's actions, preferring that Romagna continue to be dominated by several small lords rather than by the pontiff or the nearby power of the Republic of Venice. However, Cesare was captured on the orders of Julius II. Once in prison, in exchange for freedom, he agreed to part of the papal demands. Once free he took refuge in Naples, where, however, he was arrested with the complicity of Sancha of Aragon and the widow of Juan Borgia.

Ercole d'Este died of illness on January 25, 1505, and the next day Alfonso was crowned duke. After the ceremony Lucrezia and Alfonso received ovations and applause from the people of Ferrara.

Duchess of Ferrara

Having become duchess, out of respect for the moment that imposed a new official dignity on her and perhaps because of suspicions on Alfonso's part, Lucrezia decided to abandon her Platonic relationship with Pietro Bembo, probably consensually. In February 1505, however, the poet dedicated to her Gli Asolani, a work that disquisites love. Pietro went to Urbino and until 1513 continued his correspondence with the duchess, which was marked by more formal tones.

On September 19, 1505, in Reggio, Lucrezia gave birth to a male child named Alessandro, who, of puny constitution, died after only one month of life. Lucrezia was greatly grieved by this: it was the second time she had failed to give the Este family an heir. On that occasion her brother-in-law, Francesco Gonzaga, tried to console her by promising to intervene to have Cesare Borgia freed, which seemed to hearten her: Lucrezia still did her best to try to save him, through pleas and prayers.

A close friendship developed between the two brothers-in-law. Francesco then invited her to his estate in Borgoforte, and Lucrezia gladly accepted. Later the two brothers-in-law joined the marquise Isabella in Mantua, where Lucrezia was forced by her sister-in-law to a general viewing of all the works of art, salons and riches owned by the Gonzaga, in order to demonstrate their superiority to the duchess of Ferrara.

Back in Ferrara, Lucrezia found the court unsettled by a drama sparked by jealousy between Cardinal Ippolito and his half-brother Giulio. The issue had arisen because of the beautiful Angela Borgia, Lucrezia's lady and cousin, who was disputed by both Giulio and Ippolito: the latter, rejected by the lady, had taken revenge on his half-brother by having his servants attack him, disfiguring his face and blinding him in one eye. Alfonso sought justice, but could not punish his brother the cardinal to avoid trouble with the Holy See; however, he demanded a reconciliation between the half-brothers.

The feud, however, was not healed even after the intervention of Duke Alfonso, who was accused by Julius of failing to do justice. It was at that time that Julius together with his brother Ferrante organized the assassination of the two older half-brothers. The conspiracy was discovered in July 1506, and Julius and Ferrante were pardoned from the death penalty and sentenced to life imprisonment (unlike other conspirators who ended up beheaded or quartered).

Toward the end of 1506, Pope Julius II defeated the Bentivoglio and conquered Bologna. Meanwhile, Cesare Borgia managed to escape from the prison of Medina del Campo, taking refuge in Navarre from his brothers-in-law d'Albret. Lucrezia received the news from a Spanish messenger sent to her by the Valentino so that she could try to help him, and she immediately worked for him by sending him letters and trying to find for him the support of King Louis XII, who, however, refused to help the Valentino now that he had fallen from grace.

Happy for her brother's release, Lucrezia spent the carnival of 1507 having a great time, thanks in part to the presence at court of Francesco Gonzaga, for whom she felt a deepening affection. Lucrezia danced so impetuously with Francesco that she suffered an abortion. Alfonso did not hide that he held his wife responsible for the misfortune, yet she recovered quickly and continued the festivities.

In the spring Alfonso left for Genoa where Louis XII was, leaving the government of the duchy to Lucrezia, which had already happened in 1505 although at that time, however, the regency had also been exercised by Cardinal Ippolito. On April 20 Juanito Grasica, Valentino's faithful squire, arrived in Ferrara bearing the news of Cesare Borgia's death. At the news Lucrezia showed "great prudence" and her "most constant mind," saying only, "The more I try to conform with God, the more I visit myself de affanni." But as night came, her ladies heard her crying alone in her room. Finally, in honor of her brother she had a funeral song written, in which Caesar was presented as the hero sent by Divine Providence to unify the Italian peninsula.

In the summer of 1507, after her husband's return, Lucrezia became pregnant. She then began to devote herself to the pregnancy but, at the time of her delivery, Alfonso suddenly decided to go to Venice on a political trip. While the pretext was true, it also appears that he did not want to witness the loss of a new heir. On April 4, 1508, the future Ercole II, a healthy and robust child, was born, and Lucrezia quickly recovered from the birth.

Meanwhile, already during the summer of 1507, the relationship between Lucrezia and her brother-in-law became increasingly passionate and secretive. In order to conceal her correspondence with the marquis, the duchess again employed Ercole Strozzi, already the intermediary between the Borgia and Pietro Bembo, who cultivated the sibylline feelings Lucrezia had for her husband and who, as she wrote to Gonzaga, put his life on the line for them "a thousand times an hour." Probably during the summer the two brothers-in-law were able to find themselves at one of Ferrara's holiday resorts. Also adding to the risks of the relationship was the underground rivalry, known to Lucrezia, that existed between the marquis and Duke Alfonso.

In the weeks following the birth, a letter in which Lucrezia hoped for a reconciliation between the two men, so that Francesco could come to see her freely, was probably intercepted and a spy, a certain Masino del Forno (an intimate of Cardinal Ippolito), allegedly set a trap for the Gonzaga by confusing him in order to lure him to Ferrara and thus prove his affair with the duchess. The plan failed, and Lucrezia, Francesco and Strozzi increased precautions and began burning the missives after reading them.

On June 4, 1508, Don Martino, a young Spanish priest formerly Cesare's chaplain and who had arrived in Ferrara a few months earlier, was found murdered under the porticoes of the church of San Paolo. Two days later, the corpse of Ercole Strozzi, pierced by twenty-two stab wounds, was found in the city. No investigation was made, although Strozzi was one of the most important men in Ferrara. There is still mystery surrounding this death. Distressed by the murder, Lucrezia equally resumed correspondence with her lover through Lorenzo Strozzi, brother of the late Ercole.

Meanwhile, Julius II, supported by the great European powers, declared war on Venice. At the head of the papal army was placed Alfonso, who, through war, intended to regain the Polesine. The marquis of Mantua also joined the alliance against the Venetians. Since her husband was at war, Lucrezia took charge of governing the duchy together with a council of ten citizens. The papal artillery led by Alfonso defeated the Venetians at Agnadello, but on August 9, 1509, Francesco Gonzaga was captured by the Venetians. Lucrezia, who on August 25 gave birth to a child (the future Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este), was the only one who contacted Francesco and worried about him during his captivity.

Having successfully concluded the military campaign against Venice, Julius II reversed political alliances by declaring war on France. Alfonso refused to betray Louis XII and was excommunicated by the Pope. Francesco Gonzaga, after being forced to send his son Federico as a hostage to Julius II, was appointed gonfalonier of the church and placed at the head of the army against the Duchy of Ferrara. In agreement with his wife Isabella, the marquis found a pretext not to attack his brothers-in-law's duchy. Meanwhile, Alfonso with the help of the French contingent led by knight Baiardo valiantly defended Ferrara, defeating the papal troops at the bastia of Fosso Geniolo (Feb. 11, 1511).

Lucretia as a perfect castellan showed no fear of the situation and received her victorious defenders with great honors, feasts, and banquets. Baiardo called her "a pearl in this world" adding that "she was beautiful and good and sweet and courteous to all" and had "rendered good and great services" to her "wise and brave" husband.

While on May 22 the Pope lost Bologna, reconquered by the Bentivoglio, Lucrezia retired to the convent of San Bernardino for health reasons. At that time there was also talk of her visiting Grenoble, to the queen of France, who had expressed a desire to meet her; however, she did not leave, perhaps because of another miscarriage.

In 1512, the death of Gaston de Foix and the flower of the French army induced Louis XII to retreat. Alfonso, left alone, decided to go to Rome as a penitent: the Pope welcomed him, removing the excommunication from him, his family and the city, but as compensation, Alfonso would have to free his brothers Giulio and Ferrante and also leave the duchy of Ferrara to the Pope in exchange for the county of Asti. Before he could give an answer, the duke fled aided by Fabrizio Colonna.

While anxious about her husband, Lucrezia received news of the death of Rodrigo, the son she had had by her second husband. Despite the distance, Lucrezia had always cared for the child and was devastated by his death, taking refuge for a month in the convent of San Bernardino. Only Alfonso's return to Ferrara gave her some joy again. Upon the death of Julius II, who was preparing a new attack against the Este, Ferrara rejoiced. Thanks to Pietro Bembo, special secretary to Pope Leo X, Ferrara and Mantua were reconciled with the Holy See.

By the end of the four years of war Lucretia had changed: inclined toward devotion, she had begun to wear a cilice under her shirts and stopped wearing low-cut dresses; she assiduously visited the city's churches and listened to religious readings during meals; and finally she joined the Franciscan Third Order, which she also had the Marquis of Mantua join. All this did not prevent her from slowing the pace of her pregnancies. In 1515 she gave birth to a girl, baptized Eleonora, and in 1516 to a boy named Francesco. The numerous pregnancies, alternating with miscarriages, weakened her greatly.

When Leo X expressed hostile intentions toward the Este family, Alfonso requested and obtained the protection of King Francis I of France, traveling to the Valois court along with Giovanni Borgia, who had long been under Lucrezia's protection in Ferrara. In the meantime, the duchess was hit by several mournings: in 1516 her brother Jofré died, in 1518 her mother Vannozza died, and on March 29, 1519, Francesco II Gonzaga died. The spring of 1519 was very difficult: being pregnant again and very fatigued, Lucrezia spent all her days in bed.

On June 14 she gave birth to a baby girl, baptized Isabella Maria, but the duchess fell ill with puerperal fevers and, to ease her torment, her hair was cut off. On June 22 she dictated a letter requesting a plenary indulgence from the Pope. Finally she signed before her husband her will. Before falling into a coma she affirmed, "I am God's forever." She died on June 24, 1519 at the age of thirty-nine, leaving her family and the city in deep mourning, and was buried in the Corpus Christi monastery, wearing the habit of a Franciscan tertiary.

As with the rest of the Borgia family, during and after her life Lucrezia was the subject of gossip and accusations. Her scandalous fame was interrupted during her time in Ferrara, when "no gossip had ever touched her again," writes Indro Montanelli in his Storia d'Italia, and then resumed upon the duchess's death. The most persistent rumors depicting her as "a kind of Messalina, scheming, bloodthirsty, corrupt, not succubus, but an accomplice of her father and brother," were taken up and reported and handed down to posterity in chronicles and pamphlets by the Borgia's many enemies: including Jacopo Sannazaro (who called Lucrezia "daughter, wife and daughter-in-law" of the pontiff) Giovanni Pontano,

The famous accusation that he had an incestuous relationship with his father was launched by Giovanni Sforza against the Pope during the trial to annul his marriage to Lucrezia, during which the lord of Pesaro was accused of impotence. Pro-Borgian historians have labeled the Count of Pesaro's words as mere slander, launched during a fit of anger due to wounded pride. It would not have been considered, writes Maria Bellonci (Lucrezia's well-known biographer), "the whole demeanor of Sforza, from the thousand reticences of the early days, from the mysterious allusions to the cause of his flight, to his confession in Milan," but also "the continual references" later, Bellonci continues, "stand to prove a certainty that was in him, alive present and accursed."

On the other hand, it has been surmised that Giovanni Sforza may have mistaken for incestuous love the Pope's warm attentions to his daughter. Indeed, Alexander VI possessed a carnal and instinctive nature and was wont to manifest his affection for his children and in particular for Lucrezia with excessive transport, but even his delirium for the Duke of Gandia (and later for Cesare) "almost seems to be the blindness of a lover." Maria Bellonci wonders if Sforza "had anything more than vices and suspicions," but points out that while accusing the pope, Giovanni did not blame his wife directly and indeed several times requested the pontiff to have her back: "one will have reasons to believe that she should be saved, or that nothing had happened and everything was limited to suspicions, or, in the most hellish of hypotheses, that in her there was only the error of a lost and subjugated assertion; conscience the desire and responsibility for incest remaining, if at all, on the other side."

However, the accusation of incest quickly spread through Italian and European courts, making itself heard again, during the wedding negotiations between Lucrezia and Alfonso of Aragon. These were joined by rumors of the girl's sexual promiscuity due to her relationship with Pedro Calderon: based on the popular rumors that were spreading in Rome and throughout Italy, the Venetian chronicler Girolamo Priuli would later call Lucrezia "the greatest whore that was in Rome," and the Umbrian chronicler Matarazzo would describe her as "she who carried the banner of whores." It is likely, however, that Priuli and Matarazzo, who lived far from Rome, were drawing on popular rumors against the Borgias rather than reliable accounts. Indeed, although several Italian chroniclers of the time reported on the affair with Pedro Calderon, no one ever spoke of Lucrezia's other loves.

Regarding incest with the siblings, there were malicious insinuations that Cesare had his brother Juan killed not only because it got in the way of his political plans, but because he was jealous, since he was preferred "in love by madonna Lucrezia common sister," says Guicciardini in his Storia d'Italia. As an English biographer of Lucrezia, Sarah Bradford, writes, the relationship that bound the Borgia siblings was very close, particularly the one between Cesare and Lucrezia: "whether they had committed incest or not, no doubt Cesare and Lucrezia loved each other more than they loved anyone else, and they maintained their mutual fidelity to the end." Even according to Maria Bellonci, the accusation of fraternal incest is doubtful, since Giovanni Sforza made no allusion to his brothers-in-law in the incest accusations made against the Borgias, while in them he openly accused the pope.

An important person to have news of Lucretia's private life in Rome is Johannes Burckardt of Strasbourg, Italianized as Burcardo, master of ceremonies during the pontificate of Pope Borgia. In his diary known as Liber Notarum he describes with precision and rich detail the ceremonials and etiquettes of the papal court and does not fail to note some scenes and events that were anything but flattering to the Borgias and Lucretia herself. Although the Puritan mentality might have caused him to partly misrepresent the meaning of the Borgias' actions, historians generally consider him an objective source of information regarding the papal court. Indeed, in his diary he never gossips or hurls accusations against the Borgias, but limits himself to meticulously describing facts, sometimes scabrous, often confirmed by other chroniclers of his contemporaries. If Burcardo had wanted to pad his diary with testimonies against the Borgias he could easily have done so, instead he barely mentions Giulia Farnese, Vannozza or the annulment of the marriage between Lucrezia and Giovanni Sforza, scandals that were making a big deal in Roman palaces and could easily have been manipulated. Therefore, there seems to be no reason to doubt the veracity of two scabrous episodes reported by the master of ceremonies, both of which occurred during the period of negotiations for Lucrezia's third marriage.

The first episode is the "dinner of the courtesans," a party with orgiastic implications conceived by Cesare, on the evening of October 31, 1501. According to the Florentine Francesco Pepi, "the Duke of Valentino had had fifty 'cantoniere' courtesans come to the palace, and all night they were in the mood for dancing and laughter." after a quick dinner, the courtesans had come in and started dancing with servants and young men of the house, "primo in vestibus suis deinde nude"; late in the night Caesar had lit candelabra placed on the floor, and the naked women on all fours had to compete to pick up the chestnuts thrown to them, incited by the Pope, Caesar and "domina Lucretia sorore sua," writes Burcardo. The second episode narrated by the master of ceremonies took place on November 11, 1501, when from a window, Alexander VI and Lucretia witnessed "cum magno risu et delectatione" a savage mounting scene between four stallions and two mares. Burcardo reports only these two isolated episodes with Lucretia's participation, and if others had occurred in all likelihood he would have noted them in his diary. For this reason, and since the two scenes took place shortly before Lucrezia's departure for Ferrara, Maria Bellonci assumes that they were "performances of matrimonial initiation that would not have offended a woman already married twice."

The reading of these two episodes has "aroused scandal and horror for centuries among puritanical or hypocritical commentators, while Lucretia's exalters do not want to believe that she could participate in such a kind of bacchanal," writes Geneviève Chastenet, a French biographer of Lucretia, concluding, "But that would mean forgetting that these were amusements perfectly in keeping with Renaissance mores." Finally, many historians have sought to downplay the accusations of perversion levelled against her during her time spent in Borgia-dominated Rome. "From her own experience, she could already know what an abominable world that was, in which she lived. Those who believe, however, that she or others similar to her saw and judged it as we do today or perhaps did some few, animated then by purer sentiment, are wrong. Let it be added moreover, that at that time the concepts of religion, decency and morality were not the same as prevail today," says Ferdinand Gregorovius. The German historian's thesis is later taken up, for example, also by Roberto Gervaso in his essay on the Borgia family: "If she was not a saint, she was not even a monster. If she had not been called Borgia, she would have needed neither defense lawyers nor posthumous and belated rehabilitations."

Another accusation concerning Lucrezia, and her family in general, is the use of a deadly poison, called cantarella, with which the Borgias allegedly eliminated their enemies by pouring it into drinks or on food. Lucrezia came to be associated with the use of this Borgian poison, becoming one of the most famous poisoners after the staging of Victor Hugo's romantic tragedy: "A terrible poison," says Lucrezia, "a poison whose mere idea makes every Italian who knows the history of the last twenty years pale . No one in the world knows an antidote to this terrible composition, no one except the pope, Mr. Valentino and myself." Yet today's chemists and toxicologists are convinced that cantarella, a poison capable of killing in precise times, is only a legend linked to the Borgia family.

Throughout the centuries the figure of Lucretia has been associated with the fame of her family of origin. Although after becoming the wife of the Duke of Ferrara she was never at the center of new scandals, and during the last years of her life she had finally managed to erase the mark of infamy by which she was marked, after her death, the accusations made against her in her youth came to the fore again.

For example, as early as 1532, Francesco Maria I Della Rovere forbade his son Guidobaldo from marrying women unworthy of him, giving him as an example the marriage of Alfonso I of Ferrara to Lucrezia Borgia, "a woman of that sort that is publicly known." But it was above all Guicciardini who, drawing on popular rumors or satires, spread the scandalous reputation about the figure of the woman, writing in his Storia d'Italia: "Lucrezia Borgia is not considered except as the incestuous daughter of Alexander VI, the mistress at one time of her father and her two brothers

During the seventeenth century, society was not scandalized by life in the time of the Borgias, in which faith and a certain freedom of customs coexisted. Everything changed following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which caused a rupture within the scientific community. The famous mathematician and philosopher Leibniz, as a protest to the lack of reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants, polemicized by publishing in 1696 some of the most scandalous excerpts from Burcardo's Diary, under the title Specimen Historiæ Arcane, sive anecdotæ de vita Alexandri VI Papæ. The book was a great success and was printed again, and in his commentary the philosopher remarked that "never was there a Court more sullied with crimes than that of Alexander VI."

In 1729 the Scottish antiquarian Alexander Gordon published his Vita del Papa Alexander VI e di suo figlio Cesare Borgia (The Lives of Pope Alexander VI and his son Cæsar Borgia), in whose "Preface" he took care to write about the Pope's daughter, "Lucrezia, daughter of Alexander, is as famous for her debauchery as Lucrezia the Roman was for her chastity: Cesare is no less so for a double fratricide and incest committed with his own sister." In his work Gordon cites the sources used, while equating authors such as Burcardo or Machiavelli with other unreliable sources, and the text is perhaps the first referenced case study on Alexander VI and his family. In 1756, Voltaire shrewdly treats Alexander VI in his Essai sur les moeurs, where he casts doubt on the Borgias' use of poison and the Pope's poisoning as the cause of his death, yet repeats the accusations of incest against Lucretia and Caesar's crimes.

The period of the French Revolution was followed by a reevaluation of both Caesar's military adventure and the intentions Machiavelli had expressed in The Prince, namely, the idea that the Valentinus had wanted the construction of a secular state where freedom could later be established. With the advent of the French Empire and later the Restoration, distrust was again created regarding the history of the Borgias and their scandalous customs.

Lord Byron, a famous exponent of English Romanticism, was so fascinated by Lucrezia's love letters preserved in Milan that, after reading them, he stole a hair from the lock that accompanied them. In February 1833, Lucrezia Borgia, a tragedy by Victor Hugo, was first performed, in which the duchess of Ferrara is portrayed as an archetype of female villainy, becoming, "with the dark favor of the Romantics, The drama inspired Felice Romani, who composed the libretto for Gaetano Donizetti's opera of the same name.

In the same vein is set the portrait of Lucretia provided by Alexandre Dumas father in the first volume of the Famous Crimes series: "The sister was worthy companion of her brother. Libertine by fancy, impious by temperament, ambitious by calculation, Lucretia craved pleasures, flattery, honors, gems, gold, rustling cloth and sumptuous palaces. Spanish beneath her blond hair, courtesan beneath her candid air, she had the face of a Raphael madonna and the heart of a Messalina." Later, French historian Jules Michelet saw symbolized in the "Italian Andalusian" the female demon installed on the Vatican throne.

A period of historical rehabilitation followed: numerous historians went to verify the texts on which the accusation against the Borgias was based, and while biographies tending toward hagiography on Pope Alexander VI were coming out, in 1866 Giuseppe Carponi published a study on Lucrezia entitled: A Victim of History. This biography included texts that had never before been consulted, such as documents from the Modena archives of the Este family. In 1874 another impressive essay was published, set on the scientific approach to the character and history of the Borgias: the biography on Lucretia, written by Ferdinand Gregorovius with the contribution of numerous unpublished documents, advances the thesis that if Lucretia "had not been the daughter of Alexander VI and sister of Caesar, she would hardly have been noticed in the history of her time, or rather would have been lost in the multitude, as a seductive and much courted woman." In the same way, thanks in part to the opening of the Vatican archives in 1888 on the orders of Leo XIII, Ludwig von Pastor was able to begin writing the history of the popes from the Middle Ages onward.

During the first two decades of the 20th century the Borgias became the subject of novels and psychiatric studies, as in the case of I Borgia, published in 1921, by the Milanese physician Giuseppe Portigliotti. After that of Gregorovius an important biography on Lucrezia was written by Maria Bellonci whose work, published in the spring of 1939, had numerous reprints. In 1973 RAI invited about 20 Italian writers to write a series of imaginary interviews with famous people of the past for the radio: Bellonci chose Lucrezia, who was played by actress Anna Maria Guarnieri. The "impossible interviews" were broadcast by the Second Program, in the summer of 1974. In 2002, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Lucrezia's arrival in Ferrara, an exhibition dedicated to the Borgia was held, during which a short film, based on Maria Bellonci's impossible interview, directed by Florestano Vancini and starring Caterina Vertova in the role of the duchess of Ferrara, was shown.

In 2002, scholar Marion Hermann-Röttgen of the University of Berlin published, within the catalog of the exhibition I Borgia - The Art of Power held in Rome that same year, an article on the importance of the Borgia family at the literary level in both northern and southern Europe. While in southern Europe, particularly Italy and Spain (nations closely linked to the Borgia family), there would have been "a considerable amount of historical and scientific literature," publication of "a surprising amount of literary works" on the subject would have taken place in northern European countries. The professor identifies the three main points on which the fame of the Borgia legend is based: "the importance of national greatness and military power" in particular of Cesare, "the critical stance with respect to the Roman Church," perpetrated by anti-Catholics and anticlericals, "which focuses attention on the fearful and criminal stories around the figure of Pope Alexander VI" and which will lead "to a demonization of the whole family and of the pope himself." to whom will be attributed, even, "a pact with the devil" and, lastly, "eroticism and sexuality, which has always been a focal point with respect to the interpretation of the role of female figures in the family."

Lucrezia Borgia would in fact be "one of the historical female figures suited to offer a model to male fantasies." This is found in the depiction of Lucretia in Hugo's tragedy: the woman is represented as a monster, for while "on the one hand she represents the highest sense of the good and loving mother, ready to sacrifice herself for the love of her son, on the other she is the femme fatale, murderer of men, beautiful but cruel who takes revenge for every offense with her horrible poison." The French poet "does not find in her the feminine ideal, because the 'good' woman is undesirable in that she is a mother, while the desirable woman is diabolical because she seduces man toward sin." According to Hermann-Röttgen it would be "the interest in eroticism and sexuality" in reference to "the Borgia legend" that has allowed the depiction of Lucretia as femme fatale to survive to the present day in new literary works.

From her first marriage Lucrezia had no children; however, it appears that in March 1498 she had a son by Pedro Calderón, her father's messenger. Little is known about this alleged child, delivered in the monastery of San Sisto. In case he was actually born, English historian Sarah Bradford speculates that he may have died at birth or shortly after: the hypothesis stems from the fact that Lucrezia ended many pregnancies with an abortion. Other historians have identified him with the infans romanus, the Roman infant, born Giovanni Borgia. In this case, even the child's father is mysterious: Alexander VI in a papal bull, attributes paternity to his son Cesare, but later, in a secret bull in September 1502, attributes it to himself; these details only fueled rumors of an incestuous relationship within the Borgia family.

From the second marriage, after an abortion in February 1499, Lucrezia had:

From her third marriage, to Alfonso I d'Este, after several miscarriages and a premature birth in 1502 in the seventh month of pregnancy (which led to the death of her first daughter) Lucrezia had:


  1. Lucrezia Borgia
  2. Lucrezia Borgia
  3. ^ Gli italiani definivano "marrani" i catalani originari di Valencia (Bradford, 2005, p. 26).
  4. ^ Pur conoscendosi appena, il fratellastro le lasciò ugualmente in eredità diecimila ducati (Bradford, 2005, p. 28).
  5. ^ a b  Lipsește sau este vid: |title= (ajutor)
  6. ^ The Borgias by Ivan Cloulas page 52
  7. ^ George R. Marek "The Bed and The Throne" p.142
  8. ^ ab Bradford,2005,op.cit.,pag.21-22.
  9. Vermutlich anlässlich der Hochzeit Lucrezias mit Alfonso d’Este geprägt. Die Medaille wurde erstmals 1806 von Julius Friedländer, Direktor des Berliner Münzcabinets, beschrieben. Nach Ferdinand Gregorovius zeigt sie das einzige noch überlieferte, lebensnahe Bild von Lucrezia, mittlerweile wurden allerdings weitere Darstellungen entdeckt.
  11. 1 2 Gregorovius, 1909.
  12. 1 2 Шастенэ, 2004, с. 16—18.
  13. Gregorovius, 1909, p. 11—12.
  14. Шастенэ, 2004, с. 19.

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