On 18 April 1480, Lucrezia Borgia was born in Subiaco just outside Rome – the daughter of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia and Vanozza Cattanei. She would have been born outside of the city as a method of keeping her birth and parentage discreet – Rodrigo Borgia had his own personal policy of discretion, unlike some other Cardinals. He wished for his family to be kept out of the public eye. It was only after his election as Pope Alexander VI that Rodrigo moved his illegitimate family closer to the Vatican, openly acknowledging him as his own.
Lucrezia’s name has been vilified and maligned throughout the centuries – accused of incest and murder, the reality of her life was quite different. The rumours came about by those who wished to tar the name of Borgia – the rumour of incest only started after her divorce from Giovanni Sforza when it was whispered that the Pope wanted his daughter for himself. As for the rumours of murder, it was a brush that tarred the entire family. Lucrezia was, in fact, a political pawn in her father and brother’s plans for her. She was also incredibly intelligent – she spent time in charge of the Vatican as well as Spoleto – and pious.
Her bad image isn’t helped by modern television adaptations that show her as a murderer and guilty of incest. The evidence and historical fact paint a very different story – however today I have seen an awful lot of comments floating about on social media stating that she was a harlot who poisoned her enemies. There is no evidence for this at all, only rumour brought down through the centuries started by those who wished to darken the Borgia name. Lucrezia Borgia was more sinned against than sinner, and a woman who deserves to be recognised for what she was rather than what people want her to have been.
Historians have worked solidly to get rid of Lucrezia’s bad image and it is my hope that my own work will help contribute to this. But for now?
Happy birthday, Lucrezia Borgia.