1 January 1431 –
18 August 1503
Being a member of the powerful Borgia family during the Italian renaissance brought a certain prestige, but as a cardinal nephew of a sitting Borgia Pope this elevated your position well above the bothersome rabble of princes born to nobility. Immeasurable power is within your fingertips with every decision, unquestioned by other advisors fearful of the wrath of one who is considered the closest to God. A heady lifestyle and one not for the faint of heart, but all provided by the random chance of birth. Perhaps not a mere accident if your name is della Rovere , Medici, Farnese, or the family that created one of the most entrenched group of relations controlling the Catholic Church during the renaissance and beyond, the Borgia. This group of Catalins (Spaniards) raised nepotism to an art form through strategic alliances provided by cousin marriages, legitimatized bastards by papal bulls; creating a bloodline of the papal throne. Not of royal blood, but made royal by the church.
Studying law trained Rodrigo Borgia in the minutia of rules that governed society, but that career choice had its own short lifespan for one with ambition. The request of his uncle, Pope Calixtus III, to join the Catholic Church, engaging his abilities to a higher intellectual purpose and financially secure future, tempted the young man’s ego and he was appointed cardinal in 1444.
Taking his place within the hierarchy of the church, Borgia realized that the only people he could rely on and control totally would be his own family, and he set about creating his own inner circle to be a tool of his whim. Nine or ten children in all, history is not clear in some instances, but all served a purpose for their father, a few more infamous than others. Children were not unusual for priests, cardinals, bishops, or popes; Innocent VIII being the first pope to acknowledge his offspring; Borgia was allowed one step further by Sixtus IV, recognizing Rodrigo’s children as legitimate through papal order in 1481.
Children of Rodrigo Borgia
With mistress of unknown name –
Pedro Luis (Pier Luigi) – 1462-1488, 1st Duke of Gandia, betrothed to Marie Enriquez de Luna.
Girolama (Jerenima) – 1469-1483, married Gian Andrea Cesarini
Isabella – 1470-1541, married Pier Giovanni Matuzzi
Rodrigo – 1503-1527, Benedictine monk
With Vanozza de Cantanei – 1442-1518-
Giovanni Juan Borgia – 1474-1497, 2nd Duke of Gandia, married Maria Enriquez de Luna, the Spanish betrothed of his deceased half brother, Pedro Luis.
Cesare – 1476-1507, became cardinal at 18, first person in church history to resign cardinalate, married Charlotte of Albret.
Lucrezia – 1480-1519, married Giovanni Sforza, Alfonso of Aragon and Alfonso d’Este.
Jofre Borgia – 1481-1516/17, Prince of Squillace, married Sancia of Aragon.
With Giulia Farnese – 1474-1524, descendant of Pope Boniface VIII, sister of Pope Paul III-
Laura – 1492-?, married Niccolo della Rovere, nephew of Pope Julius II.
Clearly, Pope Alexander IV attempted to legitimize his children through marriages to powerful Italian families, creating a bloodline with descendants of non-titled aristocracy, yet noble within the Catholic Church, perpetuating a royal bloodline of his own creation directly linked to the Popes.
“Now we are in the power of a wolf, the most rapacious perhaps that this world has ever seen. And if we do not flee, he will inevitably devour us all,” statement of Giovanni de’ Medici at the conclave of Rodrigo Borgia, 11 August, 1492. For more intrigue Showtime has a new series, The Borgias, coming in 2011.