Sunday, 11 February 2018

Lucrezia Borgia 1480-1519 A woman to admire.

Lucrezia Borgia

"History is written by the winners".  They were mostly male. They often got it wrong. They damned Lucrezia Borgia because of her family.

Lucrezia Borgia (1480 - 1519) was the daughter of  Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia who became Pope Alexander VI,  and his mistress Vannozza dei Cattaniel  (also the mother by Alexander of Lucrezia's brother Cesari).

The Borgias,  ( in truth "Borjas", of Spanish heritage. from Valencia) were viewed as outsiders and with disdain by the Italian nobility.

Father Rodrigo and son Cesari Borgia were power crazed, violent, sexually cruel and avaricious.  And they were patrons of the arts!

As Pope, Rodrigo Borgia, now Alexander VI, was the head of the Catholic Church, and the head of the Papal States.

He was not much interested in religion, but he used his role as Pope to make money for his own wealth, (selling Bishoprics and Cardinal's hats etc).

He was chiefly concerned with defence and enlargement of the Papal States, and his own political power.

Thus he was in confusing and shifting alliances with various other Italian Duchies, Kingdoms and States: (Milan, The Venetian Republic, the Kingdom of Naples etc, together with the French King and the Spanish House of Aragon: sometimes they were allies, sometimes they were enemies. (Think modern day Syria).

To these political ends Pope Alexander and his wicked son Cesari arranged three marriages for Lucretia.

"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" (from Wikipedia).

Her first marriage was annulled (by her father the Pope of course!) on the dubious grounds that Giovanni Sforza was impotent.

Her second husband, Alfonzo of Aragon was murdered either by, or on the orders of Cesara Borgia.

Her third marriage, to Alfonso d'Este came after long and difficult political and financial negotiations  between the Papacy and the Este dynasty. (Lucrezia had no role in the negotiations  surprise, surprise!).

Once in Ferrara, Lucrezia gained  the respect of her father-in-law  Ercole I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara.

When he died her husband Alfonso became Duke, and she Duchess.

They seem to have had a loving and tender marriage. He was no saint and had numerous sexual liaisons when he was away in battle.  She  (as was common in those days) had secret lovers.

But in the frequent and many absences of Alfonso she was loved and respected as a firm, gentle and just "ruler in absence".  She is to be admired not damned.

Of course the life of Lucrezia is far more complicated than I can convey in a blog.

Thus I recommend the book "Lucrezia Borgia" by Sarah Bradford, Viking Books, 2004,  which I have just read.

"History is written by the winners".  They were mostly male. They often got it wrong. They damned Lucrezia Borgia because of her family.  

Not when you read Sarah Bradford's superb biography of Lucrezia.

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