Borgia, a house of Aragonese (from Aragon, now of Spain) origin which rose to political prominence in the period of the Italian Renaissance from the 15th to 16th century.
The object on which they rose to fame? The Roman Catholic Church which then was one of the strongest forces in the world believed to be the central power of Christendom with the monarchy of God on earth being held by one man- The Pope, Archbishop of Rome. It was through the seemingly omnipotent power of the Pope as well as the heavy politics that was characteristic of the Church at that time that the Borgia family gained wealth and influence much to the chagrin of their many enemies who very often were the objects of their power-grabbing.
Their aims and means were quite fruitful and bore two kings of Rome who sat upon the throne of St. Peter:
- Alfons Borgia crowned as Pope Calixtus III
- Rodrigo ”Lonzal” Borgia who was ordained as Pope Alexander VI due, in part, to political influence and nepotism.
This house was accused of a host of salacious crimes against humanity and the church some of which include- incest, simony, public lechery, debauchery, murder by Cantarella (most likely arsenic), nepotism, bribery, and even fratricide. Though the list of crimes may seem long and alarming they are continually proven to be either alleged or magnified in degree. Most of the crimes they allegedly committed were common practice in the Roman Catholic Church of the day which was at that time- and more than ever before- like a business corporation trading in the quite heavy currency which could be disbursed only by the Archbishop of Rome- approved of God Almighty Himself.
The level of acrimony portrayed towards this family was, largely, as a result of their foreign status with the position of Rome at the time- in between the families of a then divided Italy giving them (the families of Italy) a sense of birthright to the papal seat of St. Peter. Also, how the latter Borgia Pope rose to power was against the expectations of the many who backed other candidates in the Roman Curia – most Italian houses had cardinals in the Vatican who would have given support to their backers if they attained the status of Pope and even the eventual successor of Pope Alexander Sextus, a sworn enemy of house Borgia, Giuliano Della Rovere ( Pope Julius II) at the time of Rodrigo’s ascent to the seat of St. Peter was backed by the French for the papal crown.
Their many enemies from far and wide included the great Italian families of Sforza, Orsini, Vessuci, Machiavelli & Medici to mention a few, the Roman Curia, Giuliano Della Rovere, the French, Naples etc. They even drew the ire of a friar, Girolamo Savonarola who preached against them on the streets of Florence, being backed and eventually betrayed by the greater families of Italy.
Alas, the quest of this attempt at a dynasty to carve out a niche for themselves in the Papal States came to an abrupt and disappointing end due to their failure to secure a strong foothold and backing in the lands they strived to possess with their many alliances held together by marriages and the sale of ecclesiastical offices-most of which fell apart after the death of the last Pope in the house.
A house of firsts, they are one of the prime examples of keeping family first, with Pope Alexander VI being the first pope to openly acknowledge children as his, and his son Cesare being the first person to resign from a cardinalate.
Love, for oneself and family, hate, greed, betrayal, and tragedy follow the intrigue in this noble. And the members of this family will be our focus in the coming posts.