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Did Lucrezia Borgia poison the king of Naples and other musings

Caterina Sforza, Countess of Forli  

A post from 2012:


Hooray!  The Showtime Borgia miniseries actually features some real history in third season Episode 6, giving me something to blog about!

 

Did Lucrezia poison the king of Naples, though? Definitely not.  First, the King of Naples in 1499—when this episode supposedly occurs—died in France in 1504. Second, Lucrezia never acknowledged  baby Giovanni as her son—and he may not have been her son–so the whole premise for poisoning the king is fiction. (See more about that at http://maryannphilip.com/cesare-borgia-pope-alexander-vi-lucrezia-borgia-involved-incest/).  Finally, she and Alfonso, who were married in the Vatican (shocking!), never went to Naples together.

 

I resent that Showtime is  making Lucrezia into a villainess, and her brother Cesare into a relatively likeable figure.  In real life, it was the opposite.  Showtime is slandering a (relatively) innocent woman, and minimizing the conduct of a sociopath.

 

The rest of this episode, however, has a lot of truth in it.  The pope, not Cesare, initiated the alliance with France. But Cesare did bring the new French king a papal bull allowing the king's divorce, and did marry a French princess.

The French king did lend the pope an army to begin re-conquering the Romagna, also known as "the Papal States." This had been a papal goal for centuries. But the papacy was weak until Alexander came along, because of the "Babylonian Captivity" that took the popes to France and the "Great Schism" that created multiple popes who spent all their time excommunicating each other.

 

Pope Alexander maintained that his wars were for the papacy, not for the Borgias—a point the Showtime writers seem confused about.  Granted, it's  likely Alexander would have arranged for a permanent Borgia territory in the Romagna had he lived long enough, just as his predecessor Pope Sixtus "gave" Forli  to Caterina Sforza's first husband, Pope Sixtus' "nephew"/ illegitimate son.  But Alexander's ostensible purpose was laudable, from a papal perspective, whatever his ulterior motives.

 

One last note about this episode:  Caterina Sforza did send the pope a gift, wrapped in the blanket of a plague victim.  With real history like that, why do the Showtime writers keep making things up?

 

For a complete  and fun history of this period, the Borgia family and Caterina Sforza (among others), read A Borgia Daughter Dies , which is getting great reviews on Amazon, see http://www.amazon.com/A-Borgia-Daughter-Dies-ebook/product-reviews/B007WONQV2/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1.   Versions for Nook/Apple and other miscellaneous e-readers are available at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/151617.

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Did Cesare Borgia Kill Juan Borgia?

Believed to be Juan Borgia 

A post from 2012:

 

Did Cesare Borgia kill Juan Borgia?

 

In my  e-mystery, A Borgia Daughter Dies, the first corpse is plucked from the Tiber by the same fisherman who found Juan's body, and became famous because. . . .well, enough of that. If you want to know, A Borgia Daughter Dies will tell you exactly what happened and when, in a fun way.


Cesare Borgia may well have killed  his brother Juan, or had him killed,  to escape from ecclesiastical orders and become the chief soldier of the papacy.  But no one knows for sure.  It's obvious that his own father suspected him, from the pope's  behavior at the time.  Ultimately,  Cesare either persuaded his father that the accusation was false, or the pope decided  to forgive his most competent son.  Pope Alexander VI  could forgive much, but it seems unlikely he could forgive fratricide, particularly since his love for Juan was made clear by the extremes of his mourning.  So I vote for Cesare's powers of persuasion.

 

It is very unlikely that Lucrezia had anything to do with Juan's murder, contrary to the Showtime miniseries. Juan did not threaten  baby Giovanni Borgia, who was born after Juan died.  And Juan didn't kill Lucrezia's lover, who was not named Paolo and was not a stable boy.  Cesare  did.  (See my earlier blog on this subject, if you want the details. Or read A Borgia Daughter Dies.)

 

But there were certainly other suspects.   The Showtime series could have blamed Caterina Sforza, who had vowed vengeance for Juan's treatment of her son. These events were fictional, but in real life Juan had botched  a siege of an Orsini  castle, and the Orsini were angry because  Virginio Orsini had died abruptly in the Castel Sant'Angelo, where the pope had imprisoned him for siding with the French army in the recent invasion.  They were sure Virginio was poisoned, and he may well have been.  Secret vengeance by killing a relative was part of the vendetta culture in Italy at the time, and the Orsini /Borgia vendetta dated back at least to the reign of the first Borgia pope, Calixtus III.  And the nine stab wounds, all over Juan's body and legs, suggest multiple assailants who wanted vengeance.  Cesare and Michelotto were killers, but they were rational and efficient ones.  Something that messy doesn't seem like their style.

 

There were also rumors that a wronged husband, father or brother killed Juan, who was definitely pushy, arrogant  and promiscuous. One thing is certain: it wasn't a robbery.  Juan's body still bore a rich purse when it was pulled from the Tiber. And the fisherman who found it became famous because. . . . Oh, right.  You can read  the story in A Borgia Daughter Dies.  I believe the first pages are free--you can easily  find the answer there. 

 

 

 

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