The much talked about DUCHESS OF FERRARA! Preceded by the fame of her surname, as illegitimate daughter of the Pope, she was considered a manipulative and wicked woman.
But the years spent as Duchess of Ferrara tell a very different story…
Lucrezia Borgia was born in Subiaco on 18 April 1480, the third illegitimate daughter of the then Spanish cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, archbishop of Valencia, who in 1492 was elected Pope of the Catholic Church under the name of Alexander VI, and of Vannozza Cattanei, a Mantuan courtesan originally from Lombardy. The woman arrives in Rome intending to look for a lover who can assure her a life of comfort, and indeed she does, becoming the mistress of Pope Alexander VI. It is an intense relationship, which lasts 15 years, during which they give birth to four illegitimate children: Cesare, Giovanni, Lucrezia and Goffredo.
The four children are all much loved by their father, but the first Cardinal Rodrigo, and then Pope Alexander VI, has a particular attention for his third child Lucrezia throughout all her life.
Lucrezia's blood ties, which see her related to none other than the pope, involve her from a young age in the scandals caused by her family, in particular with those of her brother Cesare.
Already from the age of eleven, Lucrezia is bound to marriage politics, as a consequence of the ambitions of her father and brother. She celebrates three weddings during her life.
The first is with Giovanni Sforza, a union that will be canceled after only a few years, due to non-consummation. The second marriage is with Alfonso of Aragon, also an illegitimate son, of Alfonso II of Naples. After Lucrezia's second marriage, the Borgia family allied with the pro-French party, resulting in the assassination of Alfonso of Aragon, Lucrezia's husband, by order of her brother Cesare Borgia. As a result of these events, Pope Alexander VI and his son Cesare Borgia were accused of nepotism, manipulation and political careerism.
The third marriage, the one with Alfonso I d'Este, sees Lucrezia directly involved in its negotiations. It will be a lasting and solid marriage, which will see Lucrezia in the role of Duchess of Ferrara, well-liked and loved by the entire duchy.
Lucrezia Borgia enters Ferrara on February 2, 1502, a slender young woman with golden hair, turquoise blue eyes and delicate, harmonious features. Upon her entrance she wears a light purple satin gown with gold fringes, a gold-trimmed cloak lined with ermine, a gold, gem, pearl, and diamond cap, riding a splendid white horse covered in scarlet, under a satin canopy, accompanied by Ferrarese gentlemen, followed by dozens of mules, loaded with precious objects of all kinds.
In just two years after her arrival, Lucrezia makes the whole court and all the people of Ferrara forget her origins as an illegitimate daughter, her two failed marriages and her stormy past made up of scandals and her family's political ambitions.
Lucrezia, having grown up in Lazio with the Spanish princes of her family of origin, the Borjas, in a multicultural environment, is the architect of a notable improvement at the court of Ferrara: she brings in poets, musicians and writers, and Ferrara becomes the cradle of comedies, chivalric poems, laudatory writings, and discussion rooms on the most fashionable topics of the time; she introduces dance, which she loves so much, music, in particular Iberian opera, and sends the poet Pietro Bembo some verses to translate them into Italian. Thanks to his kind and affable ways, he manages to animate the renowned Este court with art and beauty.
A LITTLE PARENTHES ON THE LEGENDARY LOVE WITH PIETRO BEMBO
The poet Pietro Bembo and the Duchess Lucrezia Borgia met in 1502, shortly after her marriage to the Duke Alfonso I d'Este. The poet falls in love with her instantly, and will remain at her court until the autumn of 1505.
Theirs is a mostly literary relationship, characterized by exchanges of gifts, letters, sonnets, walks and court entertainment.
Among the belongings of the poet Pietro Bembo, a lock of Lucrezia Borgia's bright blond hair stands out, which seems to have been given to him by the Duchess as a pledge of their love, albeit platonic.
For the curious, we talk about the love story between Lucrezia Borgia and Pietro Bembo in more detail in the following article of our blog: "The secret story between Lucrezia Borgia and Pietro Bembo: "The greatest of loves" in Ferrara"
PERFECT LADY OF THE RENAISSANCE
Lucrezia Borgia is considered the perfect Renaissance lady, a person with a sunny soul and a dynamic, sociable and good character, with an immense joie de vivre.
Among other things, she deals with the politics and diplomacy of the duchy during the periods of absence from the court of her husband Alfonso, and she is the only woman in history to have ever held the position of governor of papal territories.
Lucrezia, however, besides being an acclaimed Renaissance politician, has other unavoidable duties. She has to ensure the continuity of the dynasty, but it's not easy for her. She has 17 pregnancies during her three marriages, of which she will only complete 10, with a stillborn baby girl. Of the other nine children, only five manage to live beyond adolescence, including Ercole II d'Este, born in 1508, and heir to the duchy of Ferrara. For Lucrezia every pregnancy not completed, and every lost child, will always represent a shock, despite the fact that these were very common eventualities at the time.
To the pain for the loss of the children is added the one for the loss of the father, Pope Alexander VI, who passed away on 18 August 1503.
Lucrezia effectively became Duchess of the Duchy of Ferrara in 1505, and during the entire period in this capacity she dealt with the court with dedication and passion, until her death on June 24, 1519, at the age of only 39, caused by complications due to childbirth.
Her husband Alfonso, desperate and in tears for the loss, gives the news like this:
«I cannot write it without tears, so much is it for me to see myself deprived of such a sweet and dear companion, as she was to me for her good habits and for the tender love that was between us».
And the pain is great throughout the duchy.
METROPOLITAN LEGENDS ON THE CHARACTER OF LUCREZIA BORGIA
Over the years, various rumors have been attributed to the image of Lucrezia. She goes from being considered an evil and poisonous woman by some, to being considered a charming woman with a noble and good soul by others.
The gossip derives from the reputation of her family, which is considered corrupt both from a moral and political point of view, unscrupulous and even careerist. Lucrezia, therefore, is an integral part of these rumors, even to be accused of incest with her father and brother Cesare by her first husband Giovanni Sforza, after the annulment of their marriage.
The figure of Lucrezia, tarnished over the years by the fault of her family, is re-evaluated thanks to the years spent in Ferrara as Duchess, which transform her into a wise and intelligent woman, devoted to the arts and to the people, capable in politics, and a good mother and wife, marked by a painful life, which, however, never takes away her joy and will to live.
Here at the Hotel Lucrezia Borgia we bear her name, and we choose to honor her every day by remembering all her positive sides, celebrating the most loved figure of the Duchess of Ferrara over the centuries.
Come and visit us and immerse yourself in an elegant atmosphere inspired by the great Lucrezia Borgia!
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