12th March 1507: The Death of Cesare Borgia

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On 12th March 1507, Cesare Borgia was killed just outside of Viana in the Kingdom of Navarre (now part of modern day Spain). I have written on his death before, and you will also be able to read more about it in my upcoming book. But this year, to honour the passing of this intriguing Renaissance bad-boy, I thought I’d do something a little different. Below is a little piece of fiction that I threw together on Cesare’s final moments in the world. Enjoy!

The rain poured from the sky in inky black sheets, soaking his skin as he lay on the forest floor. His eyes were starting to glaze over with the agony of the wounds that had been inflicted on him, blood seeping from the stab wounds that covered his bare chest and mingling with the freezing rain that trickled from his skin. Oh, how he regretted riding off with his vision so tunnelled by rage. Now he was alone, naked and cold as his life blood trickled away.

Every breath felt like torture, the sort of torture that he had inflicted on so many others during his time. A cough crackled through his chest then and he felt the sticky warmth of blood on his lips, tasted the metallic tongue upon his tongue. If he were a God-fearing man, he would be praying for his soul in this instance. But Cesare Borgia was not a God-fearing man – even when he had been forced to wear the crimson robes of a cardinal, he had never feared God nor had he believed. Fortuna was the goddess that he believed in. Fortuna was the one who had guided each and every one of his decisions since he was a young man – her hand had taken him from the College of Cardinals to ruling the Romagna. She had also overseen his downfall. He imagined her standing over him then, but her face was the face of his dear sister, Lucrezia. The rain soaked her beautiful golden hair and her normally beautiful face was stretched in a macabre grin as wicked laughter escaped the confines of her chest.

Oh Lucrezia. What will you do when you find out I am gone? I have done so much wrong by you. Please forgive me.

Because of his actions his sister had suffered. She had lost and she had grieved, and it had all been his fault. At the time he had cared little, but it was only when they had started to grow apart because of it that he had started to feel the smallest twinge of guilt. She had been his light, one of the few women that he had ever truly loved. And it was that closeness that had made their enemies spit spurious rumour.

He started to shiver then, the ice-cold rain hitting his skin and allowing the cold to get into his bones. The bastards who had done this to him had stripped him of his armour and left him completely naked, exposed to the elements, with just a red tile to cover his modesty. He supposed it was because they had no idea who he was. If they had any sort of idea, he would be in irons now rather than about to breath his last.

It was coming. Oh he knew it was coming. The pain was starting to numb now, and the cold was getting heavier. The cold wings of death were starting to shroud him. Cesare Borgia, he who had wanted to be King of all Italy was no longer for this world. He tried to think on his sister as his eyes dimmed, but the thought was cut off as death claimed him…

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.