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Lucrezia Borgia was an Italian noblewoman and daughter of Pope Alexander VI. A notorious reputation precedes her, and she is inextricably, and perhaps unfairly, linked to the crimes and debauchery of her family.
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After Alfonso’s death, Lucrezia's father arranged for her to be married to Alfonso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, in early 1502. Lucrezia's new husband was initially hesitant because of the Borgia reputation. The couple soon moved out of Rome to Ferrara, escaping the endless scheming of her father and brother, and the pair had several children (many of whom died young). With this marriage, Lucrezia managed to rise above her family’s reputation, and she thrived in her new surroundings.
In 1503, Lucrezia’s father, Pope Alexander, died, and with him many of Cesare's remaining plots died as well. Lucrezia's life became more stable, and when Alfonso’s father died in 1505, Lucrezia and Alfonso became the reigning duke and duchess of Ferrara. Over the next several years, Lucrezia gained a reputation as a patron of the arts, and she presided over a famed and flourishing artistic community.
In 1512, Lucrezia withdrew from public life and turned to religion. It is speculated that her withdrawal was in response to the news that Rodrigo, her son by Alfonso of Aragon, had died. On June 24, 1519, ten days after giving birth to a stillborn girl, Lucrezia Borgia died at the age of 39.
Lucrezia Borgia has primarily been remembered as a member of the scandalous Borgia family—the daughter of the corrupt and scheming Pope Alexander VI and the sister of the immoral and most likely murderous Cesare Borgia. Rumors of incest with Cesare have chased her through the centuries, and events such as the birth of her mysterious baby, the death of her second husband at the hands of assassins, and her attendance of the Banquet of Chestnuts (an orgy hosted by Cesare Borgia involving 50 prostitutes and countless members of the clergy) have only added to the persona.
But history has recently been kinder to Lucrezia, and she is now increasintly viewed as more of a pawn in the wicked games of her family than as a real participant. While she may have accepted the fruits of her family’s schemes, it is likely that her father and brother merely used her to advance their own political agendas. Lucrezia Borgia may have been as much a casualty of her family's machinations as anyone else who fell victim to them.
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