Renaissance Women

Subject: Renaissance Women

Assigned Topic: Lucrezia Borgia

Your Name: dlux

Abstract: Quick overview of the topic significance and its particulars, 75-100 words. Lucrezia Borgia (1480 – 1519) was one of the most notable women of the Italian High Renaissance. The illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia), Lucrezia is remembered primarily as bargaining chip in three arranged marriages and as the object of scurrilous rumors floated by her family’s enemies. In her own right as Duchess of Ferrara in her third marriage, Lucrezia came to be much admired as a patron of the arts and literature.

Paragraph 1: Who? What? The critical facts. Lucrezia Borgia was one of four illegitimate children acknowledged by Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia in the years before his election to the papacy (1492) as Alexander VI. All four – Cesare, Giovanni, Lucrezia, and Gioffre– were conceived with his favorite mistress, Vannozza dei Cattanei. Besides Lucrezia, Cesare Borgia carries the strongest recognition among historians, particularly as one of the brutal contemporary figures Niccolo Machiavelli drew from in laying out the political characteristics embodied in The Prince. Alexander VI first arranged a marriage for Lucrezia with Giovanni Sforza in 1493 in order to ingratiate himself with the powerful Sforza Duke of Milan. When the Sforzia alliance lost its luster, Alexander sought (and obtained) an annulment of Lucrezia’s marriage. From that point onward, Giovanni Sforza became one of the prime sowers of scurrilous rumors outlining Lucrezia’s supposed depravity and sexual license, particularly her willingness to engage in incestuous relations with both her father and Cesare. No corroboration has ever emerged to support Giovanni’s claims. Lucrezia’s second marriage (1498) was to Alphonso of Aragon, a member of the royal family of Naples. Again, the political fortunes turned, and Alexander broke of his alliance with Aragon. Soon afterwards, Alphonso was attacked on the street in Rome. Lucrezia nursed him personally, but he was strangled in bed a few weeks of the attack (1500), possibly on Cesare’s orders. The third marriage (1502) Alexander arranged for Lucrezia brought her better fortune. That marriage to Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, took her out of the immediate political circle of her father and her brother Cesare. She flourished in Ferrara as a patron of the arts and letters. While both Lucrezia and her husband engaged in numerous affairs, they reportedly had a close and warm personal relationship. Lucrezia died in 1519 of complications from the birth of her eighth child with Alfonso.

Paragraph 2: Context? Lucrezia Borgia fits well into one of the recognizable life patterns for illegitimate daughters of the Italian Renaissance nobility. She was certainly acknowledge and loved in her family, and she was well educated and talented. Across her entire life, she was noted as a particular beauty of great personal accomplishments. Other notable women who also fit this pattern would include Felice Della Rovere and Caterina Sforza.

Paragraph 3: Why? As historians, early-modern women such as Lucrezia Borgia–or Caterina Sforza, Isabella d’Este, or Artemisia Gentileschi–should challenge any easy acceptance of sweeping stereotypes defining women as powerless, or homebound. The recent scholarship on such women has significantly expanded the scope of our understanding of the social history of the Renaissance.


Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Lucrezia Borgia.” Encyclopædia Britannica. June 20, 2018. Accessed September 12, 2018.

“Lucrezia Borgia.” Life In Italy. Accessed September 12, 2018. borgia.asp.

Bradford, Sarah. Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy. Reprint edition. New York: Penguin Books, 2005.

“Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara Facts.” YourDictionary. Accessed September 12, 2018.