Brother Borgia

He’s not English, but he’s heavily featured on this blog, so happy birthday, Cesare Borgia! One of the most ruthless and successful members of the Borgia family was born in Rome on September 13, 1475 (possibly. He may also have been born in April 1476).

Cesare was the son (either the eldest or the second-born) of Carinal Rodrigo Borgia, who would become Pope Alexander VI. From his earliest days, he was groomed for a place in the church. He was named Bishop of Pamplona at the age of 15 and made a cardinal at 18 after he went to school in Perugia and Pisa to study law. Things changed after Cesare’s brother, Juan, was assassinated in 1497, paving the way for Cesare to leave the church and pursue a military career. On August 17, 1498, he became the first person to ever resign the cardinalate. King Louis XII of France named him Duke of Valentinois the same day, and Cesare soon married Charlotte d’Albret, the daughter of a powerful, noble French family.

Pope Alexander deposed all his vicars in Romagna and Marche in order to give his son an estate worthy of his titles. The vicars were not well loved by the people of the area, and Cesare was seen as an improvement after he arrived.

His father also appointed Cesare commander of the papal armies, which Cesare used to unseat the indominable Caterina Sforza, who was holding out against Cesare in the Romagna. Giovanni Sforza, first husband of Cesare’s sister, Lucrezia, was also ousted from his estate in Pesaro by Cesare.

Cesare led French troops during the sieges of Naples and Capua, which resulted in French victories and the end of Aragonese power in the south of Italy.

Cesare was known to be a capable statesman and general, but he struggled to maintain control over his domain after his father’s death in 1503. Alexander had propped his son up through patronages, but once he was gone and the Borgia family’s mortal enemy, Cardinal della Rovere, took the papal throne all that ended. Cesare was captured and imprisoned by Gian Paolo Baglioni near Perugia and exiled to Spain in 1504, where he was kept in the Castle of La Mota. He escaped and joined his wife’s brother, King John III of Navarre and was killed fighting for him in 1507. He left one legitimate daughter, Louise Borgia, and at least 11 illegitimate children.

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