12th March 1507 – The Death of Cesare Borgia


Portrait of a Gentleman, traditionally said to be Cesare Borgia by Meloni Altobello

On 12th March 1507, Cesare Borgia was killed in battle outside the walls of Viana. Having joined up with the King of Navarre following his miraculous escape from the prison of La Mota in Spain, Cesare and the army of the King decided to take the town of Viana back into the hands of Navarre.

As the weather in Viana turned bad, Cesare believed that in such weather no attack would happen. In his mind, he and his soldiers were safe. Except this was the opportunity that the enemy had been waiting for. They attacked, and as the alarm was raised in the town confusion reigned. Cesare dressed quickly in light armour and ordered his soldiers to ride out with him to meet the oncoming enemy. Cesare, in his excitement, rode out before his soldiers – he rode so fast that he outdistanced himself and did not realise he was alone until it was too late. Three men ambushed Cesare as he rode forward – as Cesare raised his arm to attack one of the men struck him underneath the arm with a lance. He was mortally wounded but still, having fallen from his horse, fought for his life but he was overcome. Stabbed countless times, Cesare Borgia died just days before the Ides of March and the death of his hero, Julius Caesar. He was just thirty-one years old.

Stripped naked, Cesare’s attackers covered his genitals with a stone to cover his modesty. The man had absolutely no idea that they had killed Cesare Borgia, whom they had been ordered NOT to kill if they met him in battle. It was only when Cesare’s squire, Juanito, was shown his master’s armour that they realised. The boy had burst into tears.


Cesare’s death in Los Borgia

Cesare Borgia was buried in the church of Santa Maria within the walls of Viana. His tomb was carved with the following epitaph:

“Here in a scant piece of earth, lies he whom all the world feared”

His body was removed from the Church by the Bishop of Calahorra in 1537 – the bishop did not wish such an ‘evil’ man buried in consecrated grounds. So, his tomb was destroyed and his bones moved outside the front of the church. His remains were walked over for centuries until in 2007, the Archbishop of Pamplona allowed Cesare Borgia’s remains to be brought back inside the church. He lies there still, a simple stone plaque marking his final resting place.

Further Reading

Sarah Bradford – Cesare Borgia: His Life & Times
Michael Mallet – The Borgias
Mary Hollingsworth – The Borgias: History’s Most Notorious Dynasty
Ivan Cloulas – The Borgias
Christopher Hibbert – The Borgias & Their Enemies
Samantha Morris – Cesare Borgia In A Nutshell
Paul Strathern  – The Artist, The Philosopher & The Warrior.
Raphael Sabatini – Cesare Borgia


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