1902 Encyclopedia > Caesar and Lucretia Borgia

Caesar and Lucretia Borgia
Members of the Borgias, a Valencian-Italian noble family during the Renaissance

CAESAR and LUCRETIA BORGIA. The history of Caesar and Lucretia Borgia up to the death of their father has been related under ALEXANDER VI. (vol. i. p. 487). Alex-ander's sudden decease at an unfavourable conjuncture proved the ruin of Csesar, who, as he subsequently told Machiavelli, had provided for every contingency except that of his father and himself being disabled at the same time. Though suffering from a dangerous illness, popularly be-lieved to be the effect of poison, he possessed himself of his father's treasures, and exerted sufficient influence in the conclave to procure the election of a friendly pope. The pontificate of Pius III., however, only endured for a few weeks, and his successor, Julius II., the hereditary enemy of the Borgias, threw Csesar into the prison of St Angelo, where he was detained until he had consented to deliver up all his fortresses. He was then sent to Naples, where the Spanish viceroy, Gonsalvo de Cordova, in violation of his pledge, caused him to be arrested and sent to Spain. After two years' confinement in the castle of Medina del Campo, he escaped and took refuge with his brother-in-law, the king of Navarre, in whose service he was slain before Viana, March 12, 1507. Caesar possessed considerable abilities, but these are in general much overrated by historians, especially by Lord Macaulay in his essay on Machiavelli. His extraordinary success was not so much owing to the superiority of his qualities as to his utter emancipation from every restraint of conscience and honour. As a ruler he was intelligent and sagacious; his subjects regretted him, and his mercenaries served him with remarkable fidelity. Lucretia Borgia's life, after her marriage to the duke of Ferrara's son, was prosperous and uneventful, or at most only troubled by the not very well attested homage of Cardinal Bembo. She obtained uni-versal respect by her piety and prudence, and her patron-age of men of letters, and died in 1520. In fact, although intelligent and highly educated she was essentially a common-place woman, incapable from every point of view of the atrocities imputed to her by libellers in her own day, and by poets and romancers ever since. She has suffered vicariously for her father and brother. See especially her latest historian, Gregorovius (Lucrezia Borgia, 1874), whose volumes contain a mass of most interest- ing information, especially relating to Lucretia's early years, but whose vindication of his heroine might have been much more decided. The English biography by Gilbert is well intended, but devoid of literary or historical value. (R. G.)

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