Saturday, October 27, 2007

Lucrezia Borgia

(1480 - 1519)
Duchess of Ferrara

Daughter of Pope Alexander IV (Rodrigo Borgia) by principal mistress Vanozza dei Cattenels. Sister of Juan, Duke of Gandia and Cesare, Cardinal, Duke of Romagna, Duke of Valentinois (also known as "Il Valentino").

Lucrezia was blonde, beautiful, and cultured. She grew up in Rome during the Renaissance. At times, she was accused of complicity in the crimes of both her father and brother. There is however, no evidence to support any of these accusations. She often attended many of the "parties" arranged at the Vatican by both father and brother; and her closeness to her brother Cesare ignited rumours of incest between them - it may also have had something to do with the fact that Cesare had named one of his many bastards after his beloved sister. Cesare was athletic, charming, subtle, a diplomat, master of dissimulation, capable soldier and administrator, who preferred to defeat enemies by treachery; he deceived, betrayed and attacked without warning, killing without excuse, murdering and raping; he campaigned in the name of the church (and for his own personal aggrandizement) and was financed by it.

To further the political ambitions of her father and brother Cesare, Lucrezia was married three times:
(1) Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pesaro (1493). A son, the Roman Infante Giovanni, was born (1498) of this marriage. This son was firstly passed off as the illegitimate son of her brother Cesare, then as a son of her father. However, despite this, the marriage annulled (on the grounds of her husband's alleged impotence) to allow a second marriage.
(2) Alfonso (Duke of Bisceglie) of Aragon (1500). This husband was then murdered by her brother Cesare (who had most probably murdered their brother Juan 1499) when the prospect of a more influential marriage was considered.
(3) Alfonso d'Este (1501) who became 3rd Duke of Ferrara (1505) - the same year her son from her first marriage died (1505).

Alfonso I d'Este was the son of Ercole d'Este, 2nd Duke of Ferrara and Eleanora of Naples. He was the brother of Isabella (m. Francesco Gonzaga and Duchess of Mantua), Beatrice (m. Lodovico Sforza and Duchess of Milan), Ferrante, Cardinal Ippolito, Sigismondo, and half-brother of Guilo. When Alfonso was aged 15 (c.1491) he was married to 18yo Anna Sforza who later died in childbirth (1497). Unfortunately for Alfonso, he was not attractive not likeable; he was coarse, uncivilised, brutal, brave, cruel, arrogant, licentious; patronized prostitutes. One his prized possessions was his own personal own foundry and cannon (symbol of prestige). When the engagement of Alfonso to Lucrezia was made public, his sister Isabella flew into a rage demanding the arrangements be broken off. However, Alfonso and Lucrezia were married, first by proxy in Rome, then in grandeur in Ferrara (1501).

Shortly after his marriage, Alfonso imprisoned brothers Guilo and Ferrante (1501) after plot to depose him was discovered ? he dealt with them cruelly. At Ferrara, she learned of the death of her father Pope Alexander VI and the fall from power (and death 1507) of her brother Cesare (his ambitions ended with their father's death (1503) which came about after Cesare accidently poisoned both himself and his father; he was imprisoned by the new Pope Julius II (1503); escaped to Naples (1504); shipped to a Spanish prison (1505); escaped but was killed whilst fighting in Castile/Navarre for the King of Navarre (12/3/1507) Viana. Patron of the arts, protector of Leonardo da Vinci. Praised by Machiavelli as a model prince).

After the death of his father Ercole d'Este (1505), he became Hereditary Prince of Ferrara and its third Duke - he was aged 25yo.

Alfonso was suspicious of her (due to a false reputation for wantonness) and spied on her and had her followed. At Ferrara where she established a literary and artistic court, she developed a number of amorous friendships, including Francesco Gonzaga (1505-1511) Duke of Mantua and husband of Alfonso's sister, Isabella and with the poet Pietro Bembo. She also devoted herself to the patronage of the arts and education, as well as devoting herself to works of charity and to the care of her children, including son Ercole II (b.1508).

Despite his suspicions, Alfonso appointed Lucrezia as regent of duchy during his many absences. He never loved her, but did respect her.

Alfonso was forced to defend Ferrara (1510) against Venetians. He fought at the battle of Ravenna (1512). However, he was detained in Rome but fled at coronation of de Medici Pope (c.1513).

After a difficult pregnancy and birth of stillborn child, Lucrezia died (1519) a week after. She was buried in church of Corpus Domin, Ferrara.

Alfonso lost no time in taking up with his mistress Lauri Dianti (who would bear him two sons). He was forced to defend Ferrara against Pope (1519); to defend himself against an attempt by Pope to kidnap him (1521). In the forthcoming wars, he tried to recapture Modena. He was loyal to France (1525) - sent aid. He captured Modena (1527). Plague (1528) at Ferrara. Met Emperor Charles V (1529) - he was aged 53; at Bologna (1530). Alfonso died 1534, and buried in the church of Corpus Domin, Ferrara, Italy; succeeded by his son by Lucrezia, Ercole II.

~~~ Melisende (first pub: Women of History)

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