This is an exciting week for book lovers at Medievalists.net. We’re hosting two book tours and giveaways! Today, we’re featuring author Samantha Morris’ Cesare Borgia in a Nutshell, and running an international contest to give away a copy of the book. Want a chance to win it? Subscribe to our free newsletter and send us an email by November 30th answering the following question : Where was Cesare imprisioned in 1505 by King Ferdinand II of Aragon after a failed escape attempt? (A simple one line response will suffice!)
About the Book
Cesare Borgia in a Nutshelloutlines the life of one of history’s most controversial figures from his birth, through to his murder in 1507 at the age of just 31. This book aims to expose the truth behind the age-old rumours of this ancient family and to shed light onto a fascinating period of history.
In the following piece, Samantha Morris shares a few lesser known insghts about everyone’s favourite Italian villain.
Ten Things You Never Knew About Cesare Borgia
Even with the most well-known of historical figures, there are interesting little titbits of information that you come across sometimes that make you go, “Oh, I never knew that”. Throughout the writing process of my book, although I concentrated on the main events of Cesare Borgia’s life, I still came across little bits of information within my books that I had never noticed before. So I thought, rather than writing out a super serious post on an aspect of Cesare’s life that people already know about, I’d have a bit of fun and do a “Ten Things You Never Knew”.
- Cesare’s strength was incredible, and he was super athletic – It was reported that he could bend a horseshoe with his bare hands. He was also an expert bullfighter and astounded the Roman crowds with his bullfighting feats.
- In 1502, Cesare had Machiavelli take a note to Leonardo Da Vinci – When Machiavelli and Cesare first met, one of the outcomes of the meeting was that Leonardo Da Vinci would work for the Captain General of the Papal Armies. Whether or not this was the Florentine government offering Da Vinci as a way of placating Borgia, or whether it was Borgia ordering Florence to hand the artist over, is unclear. Either way, Borgia had Machiavelli ride back to Florence with orders for Da Vinci to go and work for him.
- Cesare was related to the Tudors through marriage – Okay, so it’s very distantly, but it’s still all kinds of awesome. Cesare’s brother, Juan Duke of Gandia, married the Spanish noblewoman Maria Enriquez De Luna in 1493. She was the cousin of Ferdinand and Isabella, Catherine of Aragon’s parents. Catherine married Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, in 1501 – three years after Juan’s death.
- Cesare was also held as a ‘guest’ of Ferdinand and Isabella – Maria Enriquez De Luna was convinced that Cesare had murdered her husband in 1497, and as such, Ferdinand and Isabella also believed he had done the deed. In 1504, after having been kept under lock and key at the Vatican and refusing to hand over his remaining lands in the Romagna to the new Pope, he was transferred to the fortress of Chinchilla high in the Valencian Mountains. After a failed escape attempt (using knotted bedsheets, no less), he was transferred, in 1505, to the impregnable La Mota on the orders of Ferdinand. But Cesare did the impossible here – he escaped and, although horrifically injured from his fall from the window, rode to Navarre.
- Cesare really did wear a mask – but it wasn’t to hide his syphilis – Despite the fact that he did have syphilis, most contemporary chroniclers were still saying that Cesare was incredibly good looking even when his enemies were going on about how horrifically scarred he was. The mask that he wore was out of a simple need for privacy whilst in public, NOT to hide syphilitic marks upon his face. Although even with the mask on, everyone knew who he was.
- Cesare reported back to his father about his wedding night – He said he consummated his marriage 8 times! What he didn’t report was the fact that the pills he had taken to help in the marriage bed actually kept him on the privy, as the apothecary accidentally gave him laxatives. It gave Charlotte D’Albret’s ladies, who had been spying on the couple through the keyhole, much amusement!
- In 1501, Cesare abducted a noblewoman named Dorotea Malatesta Caracciolo – Cesare desired this young woman so much that he had her abducted, using a retinue of armed men. There was absolutely nothing romantic about the kidnapping, rather it was Cesare satisfying a sudden need to have her. Whether or not the young woman was molested by him is unclear, but she all but disappeared whilst being held by Cesare. No one knew where she was being held, and when questioned about it, Cesare feigned ignorance and blamed the whole thing on one of his Captains. The whole thing irked the Venetians, as Dorotea was married to a Florentine who was in the employ of the Venetian army. They demanded her return, even going to the Pope and demanding his help in the matter (who stated that if his son was responsible then he had “lost his mind”). Cesare just ignored it all, as was his way.
- Cesare’s syphilis was more than likely cured by the illness he suffered in 1503 – Both Cesare and his father came down with the same illness in 1503, very likely a malarial fever given the time of year, the illness claimed the life of Alexander VI. In an effort to cure Cesare of the illness that had him in a delirium, and doctors worrying for his life, Cesare was submerged in a jar full of ice cold water and his skin peeled from his body in shock.
- Cesare actually SUPPORTED Giuliano Della Roverre’s efforts to become Pope – In a desperate move, with his father dead and the rest of his family far away from Rome, Cesare knew that he had to cleverly in order to keep himself safe. So, in 1503, Cesare decided the best thing to do was support his father’s enemy – a man who was likely to win the conclave anyway – and make sure he could extract promises from the man who would be Pope. Ultimately, it was a bad move on Cesare’s part.
- Cesare only had one legitimate child – Louise Borgia was seven when her father died, and she never saw the man even though he had a hand in organising her marriages. He had plenty of illegitimate children, however, though only two were ever mentioned in the diaries of Johannes Burchard. Gerolamo and Camilla Lucrezia were very likely the two children that Cesare took with him into the Castel Sant Angelo in 1503.
Samantha Morris studied archaeology at the University of Winchester where her interest in the history of the Italian Renaissance began. Since university, her interest in the Borgia family has grown and she is always on the look out for new information, as well as fighting against the age-old rumours that haunt them. Samantha describes herself as an accountant by day, historian and author by night. Her first published book, Cesare Borgia in a Nutshell, is a brief biography which aims to dispel the myths surrounding the infamous Cesare Borgia. She runs the popular Borgia website The Borgia Bull and would love to see you on her site!
Follow Samantha on Twitter: @TheBorgiaBull
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