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Lucrezia Borgia

lucrezia borgia, lucrezia borgia actress
Lucrezia Borgia Italian pronunciation: luˈkrɛttsja ˈbɔrdʒa; Valencian: Lucrècia Borja luˈkrɛsia ˈbɔɾdʒa; 18 April 1480 – 24 June 1519 was the daughter of Pope Alexander VI and Vannozza dei Cattanei Her brothers included Cesare Borgia, Giovanni Borgia, and Gioffre Borgia

Her family arranged several marriages for her that advanced their own political position including Giovanni Sforza Lord of Pesaro, Alfonso of Aragon Duke of Bisceglie, and Alfonso I d'Este Duke of Ferrara Tradition has it that Alfonso of Aragon was an illegitimate son of the King of Naples and that her brother Cesare may have had him murdered after his political value waned

Rumors about her and her family cast Lucrezia as a femme fatale, a role in which she has been portrayed in many artworks, novels and films


  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Marriages
    • 21 First marriage: Giovanni Sforza
    • 22 Alleged affair with Perotto
    • 23 Second marriage: Alfonso d'Aragon Duke of Bisceglie
    • 24 Third marriage: Alfonso d'Este Duke of Ferrara
  • 3 Appearance
  • 4 Rumours
  • 5 Issue
  • 6 Biographies
  • 7 Treatments and references
    • 71 Literature and opera
    • 72 Film and television
  • 8 See also
  • 9 References
  • 10 External links

Early lifeedit

See also: House of Borgia

Lucrezia Borgia was born at Subiaco, near Rome Her mother was Vannozza dei Cattanei, one of the mistresses of Lucrezia's father, Rodrigo Borgia Pope Alexander VI2 Lucrezia Borgia's education was entrusted to Adriana Orsini de Milan, a close confidant of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia Pope Alexander VI during her early life Her education would primarily take place in the Piazza Pizzo de Merlo, an adjacent building next to her fathers residence Her education is common for a woman of her social stature, but uncommon someone of her gender Unlike educated women of her time, hers came from within the sphere of intellectuals in court and close relatives For most women who wanted to be educated, convents were the primary source for knowledge Her upbringing would differentiate to others to due to the inclusion of Humanities, which the Catholic Church at the time considered using detrimental to the foundations of piety and obedience This education would be successful in teaching Lucrezia; Spanish, Catalan, Italian, French, and some dominance of Latin and Greek She would also become proficient in the lute, poetry, and oration The biggest testament is her capability in administration, as later on in life she would take care of Vatican City correspondence and governance of Ferraracitation needed


First marriage: Giovanni Sforzaedit

Possible portrait of Lucrezia as St Catherine of Alexandria in a fresco by Pinturicchio, in the Sala dei Santi the Borgia apartments in the Vatican c 1494 Giovanni Sforza

On 26 February 1491, a matrimonial arrangement was drawn up between Lucrezia and the Lord of Val D'Ayora in the kingdom of Valencia, Don Cherubino Joan de Centelles, which was annulled less than two months later in favour of a new contract engaging Lucrezia to Don Gaspare Aversa, count of Procida3 When Rodrigo became Pope Alexander VI, he sought to be allied with powerful princely families and founding dynasties of Italy As such, he called off Lucrezia's previous engagements and arranged for her to marry Giovanni Sforza, a member of the House of Sforza who was Lord of Pesaro and titled Count of Catignola4 Giovanni was an illegitimate son of Costanzo I Sforza and a Sforza of the second rank He married Lucrezia on 12 June 1493 in Rome2

Before long, the Borgia family no longer needed the Sforzas, and the presence of Giovanni Sforza in the papal court was superfluous The Pope needed new, more advantageous political alliances, so he may have covertly ordered the execution of Giovanni: the generally accepted version is that Lucrezia was informed of this by her brother Cesare, and she warned her husband, who fled Rome5

Alexander asked Giovanni's uncle, Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, to persuade Giovanni to agree to an annulment of the marriagecitation needed Giovanni refused and accused Lucrezia of paternal incest6 The pope asserted that his daughter's marriage had not been consummated and was thus invalid Giovanni was offered her dowry in return for his cooperation7 The Sforza family threatened to withdraw their protection should he refuse Giovanni finally signed confessions of impotence and documents of annulment before witnesses

Alleged affair with Perottoedit

There has been speculation that during the prolonged process of the annulment, Lucrezia consummated a relationship with someone, perhaps Alexander's chamberlain Pedro Calderon, also named Perotto8 In any case, families hostile to the Borgias would later accuse her of being pregnant at the time her marriage was annulled for non-consummation She is known to have retired to the convent of San Sisto in June 1497 to await the outcome of the annulment proceedings, which were finalized in December of the same year The bodies of Pedro Calderon,8 and a maid, Pantasilea, were found in the Tiber in February 1498 In March 1498, the Ferrarese ambassador claimed that Lucrezia had given birth, but this was denied by other sources A child was born, however, in the Borgia household the year before Lucrezia's marriage to Alfonso of Aragon He was named Giovanni but is known to historians as the "Infans Romanus"

In 1501, two papal bulls were issued concerning the child, Giovanni Borgia In the first, he was recognized as Cesare's child from an affair before his marriage The second, contradictory, bull recognized him as the son of Pope Alexander VI Lucrezia's name is not mentioned in either, and rumors that she was his mother have never been proved The second bull was kept secret for many years, and Giovanni was assumed to be Cesare's son This is supported by the fact that in 1502 he became Duke of Camerino, one of Cesare's recent conquests, hence the natural inheritance of the Duke of Romagna's oldest son Giovanni went to stay with Lucrezia in Ferrara after Alexander's death, where he was accepted as her half-brother9

Second marriage: Alfonso d'Aragon Duke of Bisceglieedit

Duke Alfonso of Aragon

Following her annulment from Sforza, Lucrezia was married to the Neapolitan Alfonso of Aragon, the half-brother of Sancha of Aragon who was the wife of Lucrezia's brother Gioffre Borgia The marriage was a short one2

They were married in 1498; Lucrezia—not her husband—was appointed governor of Spoleto in 1499; Alfonso fled Rome shortly afterwards but returned at Lucrezia's request, only to be murdered in 150010

It was widely rumored11 that Lucrezia's brother Cesare was responsible for Alfonso's death, as he had recently allied himself through marriage with France against Naples Lucrezia and Alfonso had one child, Rodrigo of Aragon, who was born in 1499 and predeceased his mother in August 1512 at the age of 122

Third marriage: Alfonso d'Este Duke of Ferraraedit

Alfonso d'Este Lucrezia Borgia, 1518 Dosso Dossi12

After the death of Lucrezia's second husband, her father, Pope Alexander VI, arranged a third marriage She then married Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, in early 1502 in Ferrara She had eight children during this marriage and was considered a respectable and accomplished Renaissance duchess, effectively rising above her previous reputation and surviving the fall of the Borgias following her father's death13

Neither partner was faithful: beginning in 1503, Lucrezia enjoyed a long relationship with her brother-in-law, Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua1415 Francesco's wife was the cultured intellectual Isabella d'Este, the sister of Alfonso, to whom Lucrezia had made overtures of friendship to no avail The affair between Francesco and Lucrezia was passionate, more sexual than sentimental as can be attested in the fevered love letters the pair wrote one another16 The affair ended when Francesco contracted syphilis and had to end sexual relations with Lucrezia17

Lucrezia also had a love affair with the poet Pietro Bembo during her third marriage Their love letters were deemed "The prettiest love letters in the world" by the Romantic poet Lord Byron when he saw them in the Ambrosian Library of Milan on 15 October 18161819 On the same occasion Byron claimed to have stolen a lock of Lucrezia's hair – "the prettiest and fairest imaginable"19 – that was also held there on display202122

Lucrezia met the famed French soldier, the Chevalier Bayard while the latter was co-commanding the French allied garrison of Ferrara in 1510 According to his biographer, the Chevalier became a great admirer of Lucrezia's, considering her a "pearl on this Earth"23

After a long history of complicated pregnancies and miscarriages, on 14 June 1519 Lucrezia gave birth to her tenth child, named Isabella Maria in honour of Alfonso's sister Isabella d'Este The child was sickly and – fearing she would die unbaptised – Alfonso ordered her to be baptised straightaway with Eleonora della Mirandola and Count Alexandro Serafino as godparents

Lucrezia had become very weak during the pregnancy and fell seriously ill after the birth After seeming to recover for two days, she worsened again and died on 24 June the same year She was buried in the convent of Corpus Domini24


Portrait of a Woman by Bartolomeo Veneto, traditionally assumed to be Lucrezia Borgia "Lucretia de Borgia" in a letter to her sister Isabella Gonzaga March 1519 Tomb of Alfonso I d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia, Ferrara

She is described as having heavy blonde hair that fell past her knees, a beautiful complexion, hazel eyes that changed color, a full, high bosom, and a natural grace that made her appear to "walk on air"25 These physical attributes were highly appreciated in Italy during that period Another description said that "her mouth is rather large, the teeth brilliantly white, her neck is slender and fair, and the bust is admirably proportioned"26

One painting, Portrait of a Youth by Dosso Dossi at the National Gallery of Victoria, was identified as a portrait of Lucrezia in November 20082728293031 This painting may be the only surviving formal portrait of Lucrezia Borgia; however, doubts have been cast on that attribution32 Several other paintings, such as Veneto's fanciful portrait, have also been said to depict her, but none have been accepted by scholars at present


Several rumours have persisted throughout the years, primarily speculating as to the nature of the extravagant parties thrown by the Borgia family Many of these concern allegations of incest, poisoning, and murder on her part; however, no historical basis for these rumours has ever been brought forward beyond allegations made by rival parties

  • It is rumoured that Lucrezia was in possession of a hollow ring that she used frequently to poison drinks3334
  • An early 20th-century painting by Frank Cadogan Cowper that hangs in the London art gallery, Tate Britain, portrays Lucrezia taking the place of her father, Pope Alexander VI, at an official Vatican meeting This apparently documents an actual event, although the precise moment depicted a Franciscan friar kissing Lucrezia's feet was invented by the artist35


Lucrezia was mother to seven or eight known children:

  1. Rodrigo of Aragon 1 November 1499 – August 1512 Son by Alfonso of Aragon;
  2. A stillborn daughter 1502, First child by d'Este;
  3. Alessandro d'Este 1507;
  4. Ercole II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara 5 April 1508 – 3 October 1559;
  5. Ippolito II d'Este 25 August 1509 – 1 December 1572 Archbishop of Milan and later Cardinal;
  6. Alessandro d'Este 1514–1516;
  7. Leonora d'Este 3 July 1515 – 15 July 1575, a nun and composer;
  8. Francesco d'Este, Marquess of Massalombarda 1 November 1516 – 2 February 1578;
  9. Isabella Maria d'Este born and died on 14 June 151936 Complications at birth caused the death of Lucrezia ten days later

Giovanni Borgia, "infans Romanus" "Child of Rome", c 1498–1548 had his paternity acknowledged by both Alexander and Cesare in two separate Papal bulls, but it was rumoured that he was the child of Lucrezia and Perotto The child identified in later life as Lucrezia's half-brother was most likely the result of a liaison between Rodrigo Borgia Pope Alexander VI, Lucrezia's father and an unknown mistress and was not Lucrezia's child37

At least one biographer Maria Bellonci claims that Lucrezia gave birth to three more children, one by Alfonso of Aragon and two by Alfonso d'Este, who did not survive infancy She is also thought to have had at least four miscarriages38

Lucrezia is claimed to be the ancestor of many notable people, including American Civil War Confederate general PGT Beauregard39


  • Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love And Death In Renaissance Italy by Sarah Bradford; Viking 2004; ISBN 0-670-03353-7
  • Lucrezia Borgia: A Biography by Rachel Erlanger; 1978; ISBN 0-8015-4725-3
  • Lucrezia Borgia by Maria Bellonci; Phoenix 2002; ISBN 978-1-84212-616-5
  • The Borgias 1971 by Michael Mallett
  • Lucretia Borgia 1874 by Ferdinand Gregorovius Author; translated in 1903 by John Leslie Garner Translator
  • The Borgias by Christopher Hibbert; Constable 2011; ISBN 978-1-84901-994-1
  • Blood And Beauty by Sarah Dunant; ISBN 1-443-40644-9; ISBN 978-1-44340-644-4; Harper Collins Publishers Ltd | July 8, 2013 |

Treatments and referencesedit

Literature and operaedit

  • Victor Hugo's 1833 stage play Lucrèce Borgia, loosely based on the stories of Lucrezia, was transformed into a libretto by Felice Romani for Donizetti's opera, Lucrezia Borgia 1834, first performed at La Scala, Milan, 26 December 1834
  • F M Klinger´s 1791 novel Fausts Leben, Thaten und Höllenfahrt features an episode in which the Borgias figure, including an affair between Faust and Lucrezia
  • Rafael Sabatini wrote the 1912 non-fiction book, The Life of Cesare Borgia,40 that attempts to treat the Borgias historically
  • The 1947 historical novel Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger describes the adventures of the fictional Andrea Orsini, a captain in the service of Cesare Borgia, during his conquest of the Romagna; it was made into a film of the same name in 1949, starring Orson Welles and Tyrone Power
  • Jean Plaidy's two 1958 novels, Madonna of the Seven Hills and Light On Lucrezia, follow the story of Lucrezia and her entanglement with her father and brothers
  • Lucrezia, Cesare and Alexander play key roles in Cecelia Holland's 1979 historical novel City of God: A Novel of the Borgias41
  • In Roberta Gellis's 2003 novel Lucrezia Borgia and the Mother of Poisons, Alfonso d'Este of Ferrara accuses Lucrezia of murder, and she must solve the crime and expose the true murderer

Film and televisionedit

  • Lucrezia Estelle Taylor and Cesare Warner Oland Borgia are the major antagonists in Alan Crosland's 1926 silent film Don Juan, starring John Barrymore
  • Lucrezia is the subject of Abel Gance's film Lucrèce Borgia 1935 and of a French film of the same name in 1953, played by Martine Carol
  • Lucrezia is the "Bride of Vengeance" 1949, played by Paulette Goddard, with Macdonald Carey in the role of Cesare Borgia, and John Lund playing Alfonso d'Este Duke of Ferrara
  • In the Showtime television series The Borgias, Lucrezia is played by English actress Holliday Grainger Grainger's portrayal of Lucrezia is notable for showing the pope's daughter not as a ruthless murderer, but initially as a compassionate and sweet young girl who suffers from her family's ambitions, both struggling against and aiding them
  • In the Canal+ television series Borgia, Lucrezia is portrayed by German actress Isolda Dychauk
  • In the video game Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Lucrezia is an incestuous relationship with her brother Cesare and is kidnapped by Ezio Auditore during the course of the story

See alsoedit

  • Castello Borgia
  • Felice della Rovere
  • Route of the Borgias


  1. ^ Bellonci, Maria 2003 Lucrezia Borgia Milan: Mondadori p 613 ISBN 978-88-04-45101-3 
  2. ^ a b c d "Lucrezia Borgia, Predator or Pawn" 2017-01-17 Retrieved 2017-04-15 
  3. ^ Bellonci, Maria 2000 Lucrezia Borgia London: Phoenix Press p 18 ISBN 1-84212-616-4 
  4. ^ Bellonci, Maria 2000 Lucrezia Borgia London: Phoenix Press p 23 ISBN 1-84212-616-4 
  5. ^ Bellonci, Maria 2003 Lucrezia Borgia Milan: Mondadori pp 121–122 ISBN 978-88-04-45101-3 
  6. ^ Bellonci, Maria 2003 Lucrezia Borgia Milan: Mondadori pp 139–141 ISBN 978-88-04-45101-3 
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b Thurmel, Joseph 1923 Le Journal de Jean Burchard, Évêque et Cérémoniaire au Vatican Paris: Les Éditions Reider p 328 
  9. ^ Lucas, Emma 2014 Lucrezia Borgia New World City 
  10. ^ James A Patrick, Renaissance and Reformation, Volume 1, Marshall Cavendish, 2007, p 124
  11. ^ Bradford, Sarah 2005 Lucrezia Borgia La storia vera Milan: Mondadori pp 85–88 ISBN 88-04-55627-7 
  12. ^ "NGV's Renaissance mystery woman revealed" Brisbane Times 
  13. ^ Roberto Gervaso, I Borgia, Milano, Rizzoli, 1977, p 362, pp 375–380
  14. ^ Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy, Sarah Bradford, Viking, 2004
  15. ^ David Jays "Observer review: Lucrezia Borgia by Sarah Bradford" the Guardian Retrieved 22 January 2015 
  16. ^ Marek, pp166–67
  17. ^ Marek 1976 p 169
  18. ^ Viragos on the march, The Spectator, 25 June 2005, by Ian Thomson, a review of Viragos on the march by Gaia Servadio I B Tauris, ISBN 1-85043-421-2
  19. ^ a b Pietro Bembo: A Renaissance Courtier Who Had His Cake and Ate It Too, Ed Quattrocchi, Caxtonian: Journal of the Caxton Club of Chicago, Volume XIII, No 10, October 2005
  20. ^ The Byron Chronology: 1816–1819 – Separation and Exile on the Continent
  21. ^ Byron by John Nichol
  22. ^ Letter to Augusta Leigh, Milan, 15 October 1816 Lord Byron's Letters and Journals, Chapter 5: Separation and Exile
  23. ^ Shellabarger, Samuel 1971 The Chevalier Bayard eNet Press p 165 
  24. ^ "Ferrara 2002 Anno di Lucrezia Borgia" Comune di Ferrara 
  25. ^ George R Marek The Bed and the Throne: the Life of Isabella d'Este, Harper & Row, 1976, ISBN 978-0-06-012810-4 p 142
  26. ^ The Times Arts section page 14, 31 January 2011
  27. ^ NGV's Renaissance mystery woman revealed, The Age, 25 November 2008, retrieved on 25 November 2008
  28. ^ Only known painting of Lucrezia Borgia discovered in Australian gallery The Times, London, 25 November 2008
  29. ^ Infamous Renaissance woman subject of mystery portrait – Australian Broadcasting Corporation 26 November 2008, retrieved on 26 November 2008
  30. ^ Gallery unveils portrait of infamy, The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 November 2008, retrieved on 26 November 2008
  31. ^ Portrait of Renaissance femme fatale Lucrezia Borgia found at NGV, The Age, 26 November 2008, retrieved on 26 November 2008
  32. ^ Art detective says the brother did it, The Age, 27 November 2008
  33. ^ Lucretia Borgia | guardiancouk:Philip Pank 5 February 2002
  34. ^ BBC – h2g2 – A Brief History of Poisoning, 28 July 2005
  35. ^ "'Lucretia Borgia Reigns in the Vatican in the Absence of Pope Alexander VI', Frank Cadogan Cowper – Tate" Tate Retrieved 22 January 2015 
  36. ^ Gregorovius, Ferdinand Lucrezia Borgia p 292 ISBN 9783954554195 
  37. ^ Sarah Bradford: Lucrezia Borgia, Penguin Group, 2004, p 68 and 114
  38. ^ Bradford, Sarah 2005 Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy Penguin Books 
  39. ^ Frances P Keyes, Madame Castel's Lodger, pp 40–41
  40. ^
    • The Life of Cesare Borgia at Project Gutenberg
  41. ^ Maclaine, David "City of God by Cecelia Holland" Historicalnovelsinfo Retrieved September 5, 2014 

External linksedit

  • Lucrezia Borgia: The Family Tree in Pictures
  • Lucretia Borgia at the Internet Movie Database
Lucrezia Borgia House of Borgia Born: 18 April 1480 Died: 24 June 1519
Royal titles
Vacant Title last held by Maddalena Gonzaga Lady of Pesaro and Gradara
12 June 1492 – 20 December 1497
Vacant Title next held by Ginevra Tiepolo
Vacant Title last held by Eleanor of Naples Duchess consort of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio
15 June 1505 – 24 June 1519
Vacant Title next held by Renée of France

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