OTD in history: 12th March 1507

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It’s that time again, folks. A day in history that always chokes me up just a little bit…

On 12th March 1507 Cesare Borgia, the feared Duke Valentino, was killed during a skirmish outside the small town of Viana in Navarre.

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 body was moved back into the little town and buried inside the church of Santa Maria, within a beautiful tomb. The tomb was inscribed with the words:

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

However in 1527, the Bishop of Calahorra had Cesare’s remains removed from inside the Church and destroyed the tomb. His reasoning for this was that a man who was such a ‘monster’ had absolutely no right to be buried in consecrated ground. His bones lay under a pavement, and were walked over for centuries, until the Bishop of Pamplona agreed that Cesare could be moved back inside in 2007. His remains had previously been excavated by and studied by a Spaniard who came to the conclusion that the bones found within the small grave were almost certainly that of Cesare Borgia. Following the re-internment of the bones, a simple slab was placed over Borgia’s final resting place, describing briefly who he was an his military exploits.

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