The Borgia Family: A History of Power, Intrigue and Scandal
The Borgia family was one of the most influential and notorious dynasties in Renaissance Italy. They rose to prominence in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, when two of their members became popes: Alexander VI and his son, Cesare Borgia. The Borgias were known for their ambition, ruthlessness, corruption and decadence, as well as their patronage of arts and culture. They were also involved in many political intrigues, wars and scandals that shaped the history of Italy and Europe.
Origins of the Borgia Family
The Borgia family originated from the town of Borja in Aragon, Spain. The first notable member of the family was Alfonso de Borja, who became a cardinal in 1444 and later pope under the name of Calixtus III. He was the uncle of Rodrigo Borgia, who followed his footsteps and became a cardinal in 1456. Rodrigo was a charismatic and ambitious man who amassed a great fortune and influence in the papal court. He had several mistresses and children, among them Cesare, Giovanni, Lucrezia and Gioffre Borgia.
Rise of the Borgia Family
In 1492, Rodrigo Borgia was elected pope under the name of Alexander VI. He used his power to promote the interests of his family and allies, granting them titles, lands and offices. He also forged alliances with other powerful families, such as the Sforza of Milan and the Medici of Florence. He supported the exploration and colonization of the New World by Spain and Portugal, granting them papal bulls that divided the lands between them.
One of his most loyal and ambitious sons was Cesare Borgia, who became a cardinal at the age of 18. Cesare was a brilliant military leader and politician who aimed to create a unified state in central Italy under his control. He conquered several cities and territories with the help of his father’s troops and mercenaries. He also eliminated his enemies and rivals, such as his own brother Giovanni, who was murdered in 1497. Cesare was admired and feared by many contemporaries, including Machiavelli, who based his famous treatise The Prince on him.
Fall of the Borgia Family
The Borgia family’s fortune began to decline after the death of Alexander VI in 1503. He was succeeded by two hostile popes: Pius III and Julius II. Cesare Borgia was stripped of his titles and lands by Julius II, who also formed an anti-Borgia alliance with France, Venice and other states. Cesare was captured by the Spanish in 1504 and died in 1507 while fighting for his former ally, King John III of Navarre.
The other surviving members of the Borgia family also faced difficulties and tragedies. Lucrezia Borgia, who was married three times and accused of incest, adultery and poisoning, retired to Ferrara after her father’s death. She became a respected patroness of arts and letters and died in 1519. Gioffre Borgia, who was married to Sancha of Aragon, the illegitimate daughter of King Alfonso II of Naples, lost his lands in Naples after the French invasion. He died in 1516.
The Borgia family’s legacy remains controversial and fascinating to this day. They have inspired many works of art, literature, film and television, such as The Borgias by Mario Puzo, The Family by Mario Puzo, The Borgias by Neil Jordan.