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Infamous Facts About Lucrezia Borgia, The Black Widow Of Rome

Christine Tran

Seductress. Schemer. Poisoner. Such words (and worse) have often described Lucrezia Borgia, one of the scandalous children of Pope Alexander VI. Though Lucrezia is known as a Renaissance femme fatale, when we cut through the rumors and myths, the truth is much more complicated and somehow even more jaw-dropping than her already-spicy reputation. Strap in: This is the deranged story of Lucrezia Borgia.


Lucrezia Borgia Facts

1. She Was Born Into Scandal

Lucrezia Borgia entered the world on April 18, 1480. At the time, her father was “just” Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia—not yet Pope Alexander VI. Sure, men of the cloth were technically supposed to be celibate. But that hardly stopped Rodrigo from fathering multiple children with Lucrezia’s mother…along with several other women.

2. Her Mother was a Mistress

Lucrezia’s mother, Vannozza dei Cattanei, may not have been Rodrigo Borgia’s only mistress, but she was definitely his longest-lasting affair. The couple shared three sons in addition to Lucrezia: Cesare, Giovanni, and little Gioffre. While her brothers gained power through battles, Lucrezia would have to seduce her way to the top. It’s a good thing she inherited her mom’s vixen gene…

3. She Had a Bad Teacher

For such an infamous woman, we don’t know much about Lucrezia Borgia’s upbringing. She wasn’t raised in the heart of her father’s court (see: him being a priest and all). At nine, she got an education at a distant relative’s house…alongside her father’s brand-new mistress, Guilia Farnese. As though that’s not awkward enough, things would get even worse for Lucrezia.

4. She Had Mommy Issues

Talk about mommy issues. Not only did Lucrezia grow up away from her disinterested mother, she also had a pretty weird relationship with her dad’s new girlfriend Guilia. Back in the Renaissance, people often made a point of comparing Guilia and Lucrezia’s looks—and awarding the title of “Miss Renaissance” to Guilia. Ouch.

5. She was a Regulation Hottie

Despite the haters, Lucrezia was still a great beauty. In her early 20s, a courtier took a totally-not-creepy catalog of the Borgia daughter. He described her “graceful form” and went into raptures over her long golden hair, brilliant white teeth, and “admirably proportioned bust.” Okay, we get it, she was hot! But Lucrezia would learn that beauty could be a double-edged sword.

6. Her Love Life Started Early

Back in the Renaissance, people started adulting early. Case in point: Lucrezia was just 11 years old when she got engaged to the Lord of Val D’Ayora, a minor nobleman. Then a couple months later, when the Borgia family sniffed out a better option, they dumped Lucrezia’s first fiancé and traded up. But when Papa Borgia became Pope Alexander VI, they ghosted that guy too. Lucrezia wasn’t even a teenager, and she already had two failed engagements under her belt, and her love life would only get more scandalous.

7. Her Marriage was Doomed

At the age of 13, Lucrezia finally made it down the aisle. The groom was Giovanni Sforza, himself an out-of-wedlock son of Costanzo I Sforza. Not unlike Lucrezia, Giovanni’s low birth was offset by his powerful connections (his uncle was the Duke of Milan), and the couple wed on June 12, 1493. It was definitely not a match made in heaven. Lucrezia’s husband was 14 years older than his child bride.

8. Her Marriage Didn’t Last

Shocker: The 13-year-old Lucrezia found little in common with her 27-year-old first husband Giovanni Sforza. After just four years of mutual unhappiness, the mismatched couple would accuse each other of “misconduct” also known as the Renaissance equivalent of irreconcilable differences. Of course, this disharmony was politically convenient to the Borgias…

9. A Huge Conflict Tore Her Marriage Apart

Not long after Lucrezia’s marriage, the Borgias’ need for an alliance with the Sforza family expired in bombastic fashion. When the French King tried to take over Naples, the Borgias politely declined (read: convinced him they were BFFs, then ruthlessly betrayed him), only for the Sforzas to support him. With Lucrezia’s family and her hubby’s family on opposite sides of a huge conflict, it was only a matter of time before the couple headed to splitsville.

10. She Misbehaved

Even before Papa Borgia got his daughter a scandalous annulment, Lucrezia was already making a name for herself as Italy’s new troublemaker. She and her sister-in-law Sancia would chat and laugh throughout church services. Their behavior caused a huge scandal, but it paled in comparison to what they did behind closed doors.

11. Her Sister-in-Law was Freaky

You’ve gotta hand it to them: No one did family drama quite like the Borgias. Lucrezia’s confidante Sancia might have been married to little Gioffre Borgia, but that didn’t stop her from sleeping with her hubby’s brothers, Giovanni and Cesare. Somehow, even this twisted arrangement is better than what the Borgias did to Lucrezia’s spouse.

12. She Had a Good Heart

After Lucrezia’s hubby ticked off her dad, Pope Alexander hatched a brutal plan. Forget about an annulment—this kid was going down. The Borgias would kill their useless son-in-law…or at least, they would have if it hadn’t been for that meddling Lucrezia. She got wind of her family’s plot and warned Sforza to get out of Rome. Bur don’t feel too sappy about Lucrezia and Sforza just yet.

13. JK—She Was Ruthless

In another version of the story, Lucrezia doesn’t save her husband. She actively plots with her family to, as someone in The Godfather would say, “take care of him.”

14. She was Schooled in Being Cool

Despite her scandalous lineage, Lucrezia was kind of a nerd. She was fluent in Spanish and French as well as a handful of other languages. This sounds fancy, but at the time, it was incredibly controversial. The Church believed that such an education would turn demure ladies into impious rebels. In the case of Lucrezia Borgia, they weren’t wrong…

15. Her Dad Drove a Soft Bargain

After his bride’s family literally threatened to kill him, Sforza suddenly thought that an annulment seemed like a pretty good idea. He just had one condition: He wanted to keep Lucrezia’s dowry. That worked well enough for the Borgias. However, Giovanni Sforza also had to sign a contract saying that the marriage was never consummated because he was impotent. So, exactly how much was that dowry again?

16. Another Scandal Loomed

Keep in mind that as this mess was unfolding, Lucrezia was only 17 years old. Justifiably, the girl felt like she needed a vacation. After her marriage ended, she booked it to a convent and tried to enjoy some peace and quiet. Of course, her hasty retreat only fuelled more rumors. Whether she needed some me-time because of her recent split or she was peeved at her interfering family, Rome was abuzz with Lucrezia’s mysterious trip to the San Sisto nunnery. Little did they know, there would soon be a way bigger scandal to occupy them.

17. Her Brother Met a Brutal End

Shortly after Lucrezia tried to go on vacation, she received some brutal news. At first, it seemed like her brother Giovanni had just gone missing…but after a week or two, it turned out that he was never coming home. When her brother’s corpse washed up on the shores of the Tiber River, it was easy to see that his demise was not due to natural causes. Giovanni had been stabbed multiple times.

18. Her Ex Lashed Out

The Borgias were justifiably distraught by their loss, with Pope Alexander so devastated that he went on a self-imposed hunger strike. But here’s the worst part: According to some, Giovanni’s demise could have been prevented. Some believe that Lucrezia’s spurned ex-husband Giovanni Sforza arranged for the brutal attack. If the Borgias hadn’t humiliated him with that “I’m impotent” clause, would Lucrezia’s brother still be alive?

19. She May Have Had a Secret Baby

Ah, Lucrezia. Her life really was a Renaissance soap opera. In between the breakdown of her marriage, her trip to the nunnery, and her brother’s violent demise, the show-runners threw yet another plotline into Lucrezia’s stuffed schedule: a secret baby! In 1498, a mysterious baby entered the Borgia family, but here’s the thing: No one would say which Borgia it belonged to. Without a clear answer, Rome provided multiple possible explanations, each wilder than the last.

20. Her Name is Accidentally Hilarious

Some people suit their name perfectly. Some people…are Lucrezia. Our girl was named after an incredibly chaste and prim Roman woman. When a jerk named Tarquinius tarnished her virtue, this Lucretia was so upset that she ended her own life. As we’ve seen, Lucrezia Borgia is famous for playing the field. Just look at the list of her potential baby daddies.

21. A Lovechild Entered the Fray

The Borgia baby’s parentage stoked a huge debate in Rome, with the main possibilities playing out as follows. A) The baby was Lucrezia’s secret child with her now-ex-husband Sforza; B) Lucrezia had the baby with her own brother (!) Cesare; or C) it was Lucrezia’s baby with her dad the Pope (ew). These days, historians don’t put much faith in any of these options, but there’s one other explanation that holds more water.

22. Nobles Accused Her of Adultery

During Lucrezia’s annulment proceedings with her ex-hubby Sforza, Italian nobles alleged that her “misconduct” had another name: Adultery. They accused Lucrezia of having an affair with her dad’s chamberlain, Perotto Calderon. Going even further, Lucrezia’s naysayers alleged that she was pregnant with her lovechild at the same time that she was testifying to her own virginity. It seems far-fetched—but the evidence is chilling.

23. Her Lover Met a Dark End

Remember how Lucrezia skipped town and entered a convent in 1497? Some people thought that she wasn’t there just for some R&R. Soon after Lucrezia settled into the nunnery, the body of her alleged lover Perotto was found in the Tiber river, along with a chambermaid. To explain the mystery, many believed that just as Lucrezia went into a convent to have her secret lovechild, the Borgias had Perotto and the maid killed in order to tie up loose ends.

24. Her Dad Made Everything Worse

And so, in March 1498, a boy of uncertain parentage entered the Borgia household. Was he truly Lucrezia Borgia’s lovechild, as many speculated? The child was named Giovanni, but is often mysteriously referred to as Infans Romanus, or “the Roman child.” As though all that wasn’t enough scandal, Pope Alexander then did something that would solidify the controversy into historical fact.

25. The Borgias Changed Their Story

Pope Alexander issued not one, but two contradictory papal bulls about his parentage. One said the kid was the illegitimate offspring of Lucrezia’s older brother, Cesare. But then, the Pope changed his story and said that the secret lovechild was the natural son of the Pope himself! Whatever the truth, Lucrezia raised the Infans Romanus as a close companion and referred to him as her beloved half-brother. The two even lived together when Lucrezia became the Duchess of Ferrara years later.

26. Her Family was Close for a Dark Reason

As we’ve seen, the Borgias were often accused of being a little too close. Heck, they even spoke a rare language other to make sure their secrets stayed in the family. But there was a legitimate reason for their intense attachments to one another. Because of their Spanish ancestry and their ties to an area with a prominent Jewish population, Italian society wasn’t exactly welcoming. The Borgias clung to each other because, in a way, they were all they had.

27. She Rebounded Fast

Lucrezia didn’t waste time being single. Barely a year after splitting up with Sforza, she walked down the aisle with another Italian hotshot. This time, the lucky groom was Alfonso of Aragon, the illegitimate son of the King of Naples. Unlike Lucrezia’s first marriage, this couple was much closer in age and even had a son, Rodrigo. Unfortunately, the couple was also doomed to an utterly heartbreaking end.

28. She Got Too Close for Comfort

Awkwardly, Alfonso already knew Lucrezia a little too well. He wasn’t just the King of Naples’ secret son, he was also Lucrezia’s brother-in-law. Remember Sancia, who was married to Lucrezia’s younger brother, but banging her two older brothers? Alfonso was her brother. Yeah, back in the day, people seemed determined to create the most confusing family trees possible. Unsurprisingly, this too-close-for-comfort marriage turned into a huge mess.

29. She Suffered a Terrible Loss

At first, things went well between Lucrezia and Hubby Number Two. Alfonso was a noted hottie, with the teenage couple seeming to like each other very much. Lucrezia even became pregnant with Alfronso’s baby in 1499, but sadly, she miscarried. As though that roller coaster of emotion wasn’t enough for one year, Lucrezia quickly became pregnant again. While she’d carry this baby to term, in the long run, the child’s birth spelled doom for Lucrezia.

30. Her Family Ruined her Life

Even Lucrezia’s love for her new husband Alfonso couldn’t save the couple from a fatal encounter with the Borgia Special: adultery, power grabs, and murder. Lucrezia’s dad Pope Alexander decided to team up with France, who just so happened to be the enemy of Lucrezia’s new in-laws. At first, Alexander contented himself with marrying off another one of his kids to a French noblewoman, but soon that wasn’t enough. Alexander betrayed his new son-in-law Alfonso by plotting to invade Naples with France by his side. Things were tense, but they’d only get worse.

31. Her Hubby Abandoned Her

Terrified of his violent father-in-law, the 17-year-old Alfonso decided to skip town and lay low. He ran away from Rome, leading Pope Alexander to send his men to track Alfonso down. Despite weeks of hunting, they just couldn’t find him, leading the furious Pope to shift gears. He decided to distract himself by indulging in some deranged activities…

32. She Had Deranged Duties

At this time, Alexander used his son-in-law’s absence as an excuse to give his daughter Lucrezia a fancy promotion. She became the Governor of Spoleto in her own right, and in addition to the official chores she performed, Lucrezia also did far more scandalous work. According to the gossip mill, while Lucrezia was trying to cope with her crumbling marraige, Pope Alexander tasked her with the daughterly duty of managing his orgies. Great parenting in the Borgia family, folks.

33. She Had a Miserable Year

Obviously this whole situation was bad, but here’s the cherry on top for poor Lucrezia. The entire time that her dad and her husband were fighting and she was busy arranging dicey extra curricular activities for her pervy father, Lucrezia was also heavily pregnant. In fact, her husband ran away when she was six months pregnant. Oof. Lucrezia was not having the best year, but unfortunately things would get so much worse.

34. But Things Got Even Worse

Alfonso couldn’t hide from his angry papal father-in-law forever. Eventually, the Pope discovered secret letters from Alfonso to Lucrezia, where he begged her to sneak away from Rome and join him in Genazzano. Realizing that he now had a way to communicate with Alfonso, Pope Alexander immediately did what any awful dad would do. He forced his daughter into luring her beloved husband back so that Alexander could personally punish him.

35. She Had Tricks up her Sleeve

There are plenty of rumors about Lucrezia Borgia’s femme fatale cred, but few are as wicked as this one. According to lore, Lucrezia’s favorite piece of jewelry was a special ring. It looked like a typical accessory, until you realized that it contained a hollow cavity. Apparently, Lucrezia would use it to poison her enemies’ drinks.

36. Her Childbirth was Harder than Usual

Amidst all the drama with Lucrezia’s runaway husband, she did manage to enjoy one good thing. Thanks to her dad’s machinations, Alfonso eventually returned to Rome and even better, Alexander decided to go with the flow and not punish Alfonso for running away. Instead, he sat back while Alfonso and Lucrezia welcomed their first and only child, a son named Rodrigo. But this idyllic period was short-lived…

37. Her Brother-in-Law, Shall We Say, Disliked Her Brother

It didn’t take long for those good old Borgia family tensions to hit fever pitch. At some time after Alfonso returned to Rome, Lucrezia’s brother Cesare accused Alfonso of trying to kill him with a cross bow. Most people don’t believe Cesare’s claim and in any other family, I’d have my doubts too. But when it comes to the Borgia clan, anything goes.

38. Her Husband was Attacked

But after Rodrigo’s birth, everything changed for the worse. On a hot summer night in July of 1500, Alfonso climbed the steps that led to the Vatican. At the top, he encountered a group of cloaked men who viciously stabbed him all over his body. As Alfonso fell to the ground, the assassins tried to capture him, only for Alfonso’s own men to whisk him away to a nearby palace. Alfonso thought he was out of the woods, but he was wrong.

39. She Expected the Worst

Lucrezia was no dummy. She knew how “statecraft” worked in Renaissance Italy and it wasn’t through cordial invitations and above-board debates. Instead, Lucrezia felt certain that the attempt on Alfonso’s life would be repeated. To keep her husband safe, she personally made all his meals to make sure no one could poison him. She also refused to let anyone see him, except for his sister and doctor. Despite her efforts, Alfonso was doomed.

40. And She Got It!

As Alfonso recovered from his extensive wounds with Lucrezia by his side, the couple began to think that they just might get out of this mess. Unfortunately, they were very wrong. A man named Michelotto Corella lead a group of warriors into Alfonso’s chambers, where they proceeded to strangle the already-weak man. After this attack, Alfonso passed. He was just 19 years old.

41. People Blamed Her Family

For centuries, people have argued over who ordered the hit on Alfonso. From the rival Orsini family to Alfonso’s own nefarious uncle, historians have pointed the finger at plenty of suspects, but there’s fairly compelling evidence that points to one specific person: Cesare Borgia, the brother of Lucrezia. Not only was he allies with Alfonso’s enemies, the French—he and Alfonso’s main assassin Michelotto Corella were old chums too.

42. Her Brother Taunted His Prey

According to lore, Cesare Borgia set up both attacks on Alfonso of Aragon, and he wasn’t shy about taking the credit for his vicious actions. Apparently, after the first attempt on the steps of the Vatican failed, Cesare came up to Alfonso and whispered threateningly, “What didn’t happen at lunch could still happen at dinner.”

43. Dark Rumors Swirled

When word got out about Alfonso’s brutal fate, the Roman people immediately began gossiping about the drama behind his demise. Thanks to rumors spread by Lucrezia’s early ex-husband, Sforza, people believed in the most scandalous possible option. Cesare had killed Alfonso because he was insanely jealous that he got to marry his sister. To make things worse, people also believed that Lucrezia helped plan the attack.

44. She was Distraught

In reality, Lucrezia was utterly devastated by the loss of her second husband. When she signed letters as a widow, she even changed her name. She called herself “the most unhappy princess of Salerno.” Sadly, Lucrezia spoke too soon. Before she breathed her last, things would manage to get much, much worse.

45. Her Family Went Hard

Even so, to this day, people think of Lucrezia Borgia as a femme fatale who facilitated her male relatives’ corruption. And fair enough, the stories are pretty jaw-dropping. The worst of all is the legendary “Banquet of the Chestnuts.” The 1501 banquet was an orgy hosted by Lucrezia’s brother (ew) for their pope father (double ew). But why was it called the banquet of the chestnuts? Buckle up.

46. They Hosted a Depraved Party

According to lore, the infamous banquet involved 50 courtesans who crawled around and picked up chestnuts off the floor. The Borgias apparently looked on as people who could “perform” with as many partners as possible got prizes for their achievements. Lucrezia’s presence, and even the event itself, is heavily disputed, but it’s still a wild story from the footnotes of history.

47. Her Dad Didn’t Waste Time

After Alfonso’s violent end, Lucrezia was devastated by grief. But her dad wasn’t one to let a perfectly eligible young lady sit around without a politically advantageous marriage. Barely two years after her second ex-husband kicked the bucket, Lucrezia’s dad made her marry yet another man: Alfonso d’Este, the future Duke of Ferrara.

48. She Knew What Was Up

For her part, Lucrezia was not interested in tying the knot. When her dad brought up the idea of a new marriage, Lucrezia shut him down, bitterly saying that her husbands had record of being “very unlucky.” Yeah, her third husband wouldn’t break that trend.

49. Her New Father-in-Law was Hesitant

Fair enough, Lucrezia’s future father-in-law was initially hesitant to wed his heir to Rome’s most scandalous widow. After all, Lucrezia’s two previous marriages had ended in (1) an impotence declaration and (2) murder. The Duke’s reluctance, though merited, led Pope Alexander to take matters into his own hands. Come what may, his daughter would walk down the aisle.

50. Her Third Wedding Wasn’t Swoon-Worthy

What’s more romantic than having your dad intimidate your new husband into saying “I do”? After Alfonso d’Este’s dad was reluctant to let his son put a ring on Lucrezia’s finger, Pope Alexander got him to warm his cold feet with a simple recipe: threats and bribes. After Alexander implied that the d’Este family just might lose their lands, he sweetened the deal with a large dowry and cushy church job for his new son-in-law. Oh, and he also made the literal King of France write to the Duke and tell him to do what the Pope said. The couple got married in 1502.

51. She was More Than a Maneater

Even thought their “courtship” wasn’t too lovey dovey, the marriage between Lucrezia and Alfonso d’Este was very successful. Not only did the couple have eight children, Lucrezia also got to do more than answer her dad’s mail and organize his debauched parties. Instead, Lucrezia ran an impressive court at her husband’s place.

Even when the Borgia family’s power declined after Pope Alexander’s breathed his last in 1503, Lucrezia’s prominent court helped her hold onto her authority. What can we say? This girl knew how to play the game. But even Lucrezia couldn’t get off scot-free…

52. She Got Freaky

Here’s another sign that Lucrezia and Alfonso d’Este truly had the hots for each other. It’s a historical fact that on their wedding night, they did the deed three times. How do we know this? Just normal Renaissance stuff: Lucrezia’s nosy sister-in-law Isabella hired a spy to watch the newlyweds. Don’t get too mad about this. In time, Lucrezia would show Isabella who was boss.

53. She Had a Tense Mother/Son Relationship

By all accounts, Lucrezia seemed to really love her third husband. But in order to marry him, she had to make a huge sacrifice. Before walking down the aisle with Alfonso d’Este, Lucrezia had to declare herself to be a virgin. Record scratch–but wait, you say, didn’t she already have a kid? Yup. As a workaround, Lucrezia made do with a brutal action. She had to give up custody of her beloved toddler Rodrigo.

54. Her Heart Broke

After saying goodbye to her son Rodrigo in 1502, Lucrezia was distraught. She made multiple attempts to regain custody of her child, but they all came to naught. Mother and son never saw each other again. Then, to make matters so much worse, Rodrigo contracted a fatal illness in 1512. He was just 12 years old. After this loss, Lucrezia needed an entire month to recover. But there’s an even sadder dimension to little Rodrigo’s demise.

55. History Maligned Her

As part of Lucrezia’s “Bad Girl of the Renaissance” image, people would claim that her giving up Rodrigo was proof that she had an ice-cold heart. In reality, Lucrezia was devastated that she had to say goodbye to Rodrigo, and even from afar, she did what she could to help him by funding his education, and sending him letters and gifts.

56. She Made a Scandalous Switch

When she had to leave her little son, Lucrezia distracted herself by diving into her new role as the Duchess of Ferrara. By focusing on poetry and painting, Lucrezia made a mid-career switch from scandalous widow to patroness of the arts. Among the poets who praised her was the man who invented the term “humanism,” Ludovico Ariosto himself. Meanwhile, Lucrezia’s relationship with another artist went way beyond admiration and praise…

57. She Got Hers

After a lifetime of lewd accusations, Lucrezia may have finally taken the plunge and done something REALLY naughty. It’s said she had an affair during her third marriage. One of her greatest admirers was the poet Pietro Bembo. As Duchess of Ferrara, Lucrezia heavily patronized Bembo’s work, and their letters to each other have been interpreted by some as quite romantic. The poet Lord Byron himself described them as “the prettiest love letters in the world.”

58. She is Still Surrounded by Mystery

Ironically for a woman of such reputation, there is no definite surviving portrait of Lucrezia Borgia. Even the most popular image attributed to her figure—Portrait of a Youth by Dosso Dossi—is uncertain. Even so, she is reported to have had one particularly beautiful feature: Her thick locks of strawberry blonde hair were so long that they reached passed her knees. It’s no surprise that men couldn’t resist her…even when some of them should have stayed far, far away.

Lucrezia Borgia facts

59. She Played the Field

Lucrezia was quite the bad girl in her third marriage. Historians speculate that not only did she have fun with her poet-lover, she also enjoyed an extramarital affair with her own brother-in-law, Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua. The “bro-mance” probably began in 1503, and some think it continued until Gonzaga romantically caught syphilis. Lucrezia really knows how to pick em!

60. She wasn’t Subtle

In any case, Lucrezia seems to have been flagrantly thirsty for her not-so-secret boyfriend. In a stunning move, she even named one of her children “Francesco,” suggesting that her actual husband maaaaaaybe wasn’t the baby’s real dad.

61. She Got her Revenge

There’s an incredible meet-ugly behind Lucrezia’s affair with her brother-in-law Francesco. During her third marriage, Lucrezia took great pains to befriend her husband’s sister, Isabella d’Este, you know, the one who spied on Lucrezia during her wedding night. The two ladies had a lot in common as intellectual patronesses of the Renaissance but alas, their friendship was not to be.

As Isabella coldly snubbed Lucrezia’s overtures, feeling that she was her rival. Lucrezia responded with a ruthless betrayal. She slept with Isabella’s husband, naturally.

62. Her Husband was WEIRD

But wait, you say, wasn’t this third marriage supposed to be good? If that’s the case, why is Lucrezia having all these affairs? Here’s the thing: Lucrezia and Alfonso d’Este’s marriage worked despite her third husband’s intense weirdness. When Alfonso got bored, he didn’t do a puzzle or read a book (though, to be fair, he did like music). No, he’d either go to his personal cannon-making factory or walk around town in his birthday suit while he held two things: His sword and his manhood. Those affairs make a little more sense now, right?

63. Don’t Shortchange Her

But Lucrezia did more than have affairs. In addition to funding the arts, Lucrezia also had an entrepreneurial streak. As Duchess of Ferrara, she shrewdly invested her cash in marshes so the lands could be drained and converted into farmlands. She then reinvested the wealth back into convents and hospitals, which earned the goodwill of the common folk. See, that Borgia wiliness can be used for good stuff too!

64. Her Pregnancy was Awful

Lucrezia had an absolutely brutal time when it came to childbirth. Amid at least four miscarriages, she managed to become  pregnant only for the poor woman suffered from seizures and high fevers. Then when she went into a difficult labor, her daughter was stillborn. But even after that, Lucrezia’s suffering was far from over.

65. But Childbirth was Worse

Lucrezia bled so much during the birth that everyone believed she might die, leading her husband and brother to rush to her side to bid adieu. In the end, Lucrezia managed to pull through, but at one dark moment, she was so weak that she couldn’t even feel her own pulse. Instead of freaking out, Lucrezia was so tired that she just said, “Oh good, I am dead!”

66. Her Life was Miserable

Lucrezia had plenty of reasons to hope for the sweet release of death. Her later life was plagued by tragedies. In 1503, her father Alexander died and his corpse decomposed so badly that he literally had to be poured into his coffin. Then in 1505, her brother Cesare was kidnapped and sent to prison, only to escape the next year and die in battle. This was, in sum, a lot for Lucrezia to deal with.

67. Motherhood was Cruel to Her

Here’s a sad fact. Along with Lucrezia’s endless parade of difficult pregnancies, miscarriages, and stillbirths, only four of her children managed to make it to adulthood. The other five passed away in infancy or childhood. As though that’s not bad enough, Lucrezia was also the last Borgia standing. This poor girl buried both her parents and all of her siblings. Oof.

68. She Met Her Maker

In 1519, Lucrezia gave birth to her final child—but the “happy” day doomed her. The baby was a premature girl named Isabella and sadly, she died on the same day that she was born. After an absolutely brutal birth, Lucrezia herself would die from postnatal complications 10 days later on June 24, 1519. She was just 39 years old.

69. You Can’t Take Him With You

Despite their mutual adultery, Lucrezia’s final marriage to Alfonso d’Este was also mutually affectionate. At her funeral in 1519, people saw the Duke weeping at the demise of his “sweet companion.”

70. She was Destined for a Wild Life

Even Popes can be superstitious. Upon Lucrezia’s birth—at which point no one believed that she was the child of her mother’s official husband—her natural father Rodrigo Borgia hired astrologists to visit the baby and predict her future. The experts foretold this baby would have a “remarkable” life ahead of her. As we’ve seen, they were right.

71. She Had a Famous Fan

The English poet Lord Byron was a big fan of Lucrezia Borgia. Centuries after she lived, he claimed to be in the proud possession of a lock of her hair, which he referred to as “the prettiest and fairest imaginable.” What Byron failed to mention was the fact that he stole said lock of hair from Milanese archives. Dicey fanboys have truly been around forever.

72. She Had a Talent for Tonguing

Even when her first marriage ended in a complete disaster, Lucrezia knew how to keep a level head. While attending her own annulment proceedings as a teenager, she made a speech so eloquent that an ambassador declared, “not even Cicero could have spoken with more grace.” As we’ve seen, this ability to keep cool under pressure proved to be very useful for her. But even Lucrezia couldn’t smooth over every scandal.

73. Her Ex Tarnished Her Legacy

To this day, people are convinced that Lucrezia and her brother Cesare were closer than siblings should ever be, but the person who first made this claim actually went way further. Remember Lucrezia’s first husband Giovanni Sforza and how her family made him say that he couldn’t perform in the sack? Shocker: That ticked Sforza off. Before he said “peace” to his ex-wife’s family, he gave them one final parting gift. He said that Pope Alexander broke up him and Lucrezia so that he could, and I quote, “have the freedom to enjoy himself with his own daughter.” Obviously, Giovanni Sforza was biased. Still gross, dude.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14


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