The Italian Almanac


Lucrezia Borgia


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"Lucrezia Borgia"
by Gaetano Donizzetti


Lucrezia Borgia

Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519)

Lucretia Borgia was born in April 1480, the daughter of Rodrigo Borgia, who later became pope Alexander VI. She was married, at the age of 13, to Giovanni Sforza from Pesaro and then again, after the annulment of that first wedding, to Alfonso d'Aragona, Duke of Bisceglie when she was 18. Her second husband was murdered two years later by Lucretia's brother, Cesare Borgia, the famous Valentino. Between the two weddings, she embarked on a love affair with Pedro Calderon, a young papal legate. This relationship was dramatically terminated by her family: Pedro was first stabbed and later found dead in the Tiber with his hands and legs tied.

Following new wedding plans of the Borgias, Lucretia was married to Alphonse d'Este, the son of Ercole I, duke of Ferrara, after lengthy negotiations on her dowry. Accompanied by a large cortege, Lucretia left Rome and entered Ferrara on February 2, 1502. She lived in the Este city for seventeen years and her conduct was more subdued than it had been in Rome. Alphonse, asked to meet with her before the marriage, fearing a woman who had provoked so much gossip in her lifetime, a request which was highly unusual for the time. She was a prolific mother (she bore seven children between 1505 and 1519), prudent and patient with the Duke Ercole I-who was always quick to lay claim to her dowry or to cut the expenses of her retinue-and was highly esteemed for her religious devotion, her spiritual retreats and her penitential devotions. During her stay in Ferrara, she established relationships with famous dukes and princes, prominent artists and men of letters of her time, particularly Pietro Bembo, with whom she kept a long and intense correspondence.

Lucretia died in childbirth on June 24, 1519.