On 12th March 1507, Cesare Borgia lost his life just outside the town of Viana in Navarre. Following his escape from imprisonment in Spain, he had made his way to Navarre where his brother in law was King – whilst there, following his recovery after a rather nasty fall during his escape from La Mota, he continued his work as a soldier.
But on 12th March, everything was about to come crashing down. He and his soldiers were holed up within the city and Cesare believed that they would be safe from any sort of attack from the opposing forces they were fighting against. Why? Because the weather had turned. But this was the opportunity that the enemy had been waiting for – the alarm was raised that an attack was imminent and confusion reigned supreme.
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 taken back inside the city of Viana where he was interred in the church of Santa Maria. His tomb was etched with the words:
“Here, in a scant piece of earth lies he whom all the world feared”
But in 1537 the Bishop of Calahorra ordered that Cesare’s remains be removed from the Church. He had no right to be buried in consecrated ground, according to the Bishop, due to him being such an evil man. His body was reburied outside the church and he was walked over for centuries until in 2007 the Archbishop of Pamplona agreed that Cesare could be moved back inside. Today, Cesare Borgia lies beneath a simple stone slab on the floor of the Church.
Last year, I penned a simple piece of fiction to mark Cesare’s death day. I’m resharing it this year for you all to enjoy again.
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…
If you want to find out more about Cesare and his life, you can read more about him in my latest book – Cesare & Lucrezia Borgia: Brother and Sister of History’s Most Vilified Family