icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle


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. 




Be the first to comment

The Second Half of Lucrezia Borgia's Life

Palace of Diamonds, Ferrara, Italy


A blog from 2013: 



Lucrezia Borgia spent the second half her life in Ferrara. After two marriages that ended in bizarre and terrible ways–as you will see if you read my book, A Borgia Daughter Dies, or watch the Showtime series– her last marriage to the Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso I (or Alfonso II if you count how many husbands she had named Alfonso) was relatively tranquil.

In fact, her life had a fairy tale quality, as shown in the pictures here: https://www.pinterest.com/maryannphilip/the-second-half-of-lucrezia-borgias-life/    She lived in a giant brick castle with a moat around it and attended church in a pink and white striped gothic cathedral, which had  a pink and white striped bell tower that is leaning a bit, after close to a thousand years.  
When Lucrezia tired of her castle or her pink striped cathedral, she could visit the castles and hunting lodges all over her husband's dukedom, including at least two more in Ferrara. One of them was the Palazzo Schifanoia, which means, roughly, the Palace where Boredom is Banished. It had a large interior garden, high, coffered ceilings and walls covered with frescoes of lords, ladies and mythological beasts.  If Lucrezia got bored at Schifanoia, there was always the Palace of the Diamonds, named for its elaborate walls:. (See image above.)  Lucrezia probably had plenty of diamonds of her own. The Este dukedom was fabulously rich. Her husband had one of the finest collections of art and precious objects in the world at the time.



But of course, life is never a fairy tale. While Lucrezia and her family dwelt in sumptuous Renaissance apartments in the castle, her husband's uncles were down below in the dungeons. They had made the mistake of trying to wrestle the dukedom away from Alfonso, who was a dangerous man to mess with. And he had not wanted to marry Lucrezia. The Estes considered themselves the oldest and most cultured of all Italian nobility. Marrying the bastard daughter of a Spanish pope was not part of Alfonso's plan. However, Lucrezia's father was even more dangerous than Alfonso d' Este. Alfonso had taken the offer of an alliance with the pope, which was one he couldn't refuse.

Lucrezia had been forced once again into a marriage she hadn't chosen. So she had a lot to cope with when she moved to Ferrara. But she seems to have won Alfonso over with her legendary charm. They had a large number of children together—many more than the heir and spare that suggest cold relations between husband and life. By all reports she was a solicitous mother, a devout Christian and patroness of many charities. In fact, she became known as "the good Duchess." And when she died in childbirth in her late 30's, her husband expressed genuine sadness.

 Lucrezia is buried in Ferrara in the Corpus Domini convent, along with her husband, several of her children, and many of the Este family from that era and before. Knowing how the Este operated, you would expect large, ornamental tombs. You won't find them. I walked over all of them without even noticing. In fact, the floor vault that contains the remains of Lucrezia and her immediate family is so worn from six centuries of footsteps that you can't even read their names.

The Este family fell apart a century or two after Lucrezia's death. The large art collection was dispersed; the palazzi fell into other hands and much of the interior artwork was destroyed. Only the residents of Ferrara really remember the Estes. But the entire world knows about Lucrezia Borgia.



Be the first to comment