The Tudor Society

Who was Cesare Borgia?

800px-cesare_borgia_duke_of_valentinoisI had the pleasure of sharing a table with Samantha Morris, author of Cesare Borgia in a Nutshell at the Evening with the Authors event in London recently and her enthusiasm for the Borgia family is infectious. I know they're not Tudor, but they're fascinating and are another family that is surrounded by myth and controversy, and that has larger than life characters.

Thank you to Samantha for joining us today with this short biography of Cesare in celebration of the recent release of her book.

Born at some point between 1475 and 1476, Cesare Borgia was the son of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia and Vanozza Cattanei. It was only after Rodrigo's ascension to the Papacy that Cesare and his siblings were formally recognised as his children. Cesare was brought up in the church, eventually becoming a Cardinal – a career that he did not want. He believed he was meant to be a soldier, and that he was meant to follow the career that had been laid out for his brother Juan.

After Juan was brutally murdered in 1497, Cesare left the College of Cardinals and became a soldier just as he had always wished. Proven to be an incredibly adept commander on the field of battle, Cesare went on to take the Romagna – even going so far as to imprison the infamous Tigress of Forli, Caterina Sforza. His success on the battlefield ended up earning him the respect of the Florentine diarist and politician Niccolo Machiavelli, who used Cesare as his inspiration for The Prince – a guidebook of how the best rulers were tyrannical in their nature.

Cesare married Charlotte D'Albret in 1499 in the Queen’s closet at Blois, a masterful move on his part to gain the friendship of the French King, however when Cesare left France he never saw his wife again.

By 1504, thanks to the machinations of the new Pope Julius II, Cesare was imprisoned in Spain accused of the murder of his own brother (who was related by marriage to the Spanish royal family), yet a daring escape from La Mota in 1505 meant freedom for him. He went to his brother-in-law, King Jean of Navarre, who offered him a place at the head of his armies. Together, Cesare and Jean worked towards making the infant Charles V as the recognised ruler of Castille. But in 1507, Cesare found himself surrounded by enemies outside the small town of Viana. Navarre. He was stabbed from all sides and died of his wounds on 12th March 1507, at the age of just 31.

An astute politician, warlord and strategist Cesare Borgia has become one of the most vilified men in history – but the man behind the myth proves to be much more interesting than the rumours that still surround him.

Find out more about Samantha and why she's so fascinated by Cesare Borgia in Samantha Morris and Cesare Borgia.

Book details:

samantha_morris_borgiaCesare Borgia in a Nutshell outlines 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.

Samantha Morris studied archaeology at the University of Winchester where her interest in the history of the Italian Renaissance began. Her interest in the Borgia family has grown and she is always looking for new information on the subject.

Paperback: 88 pages
Publisher: MadeGlobal Publishing; 1 edition (11 Oct. 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8494593757
ISBN-13: 978-8494593758
ASIN (Kindle): B01MA1MQWW

Go to to view the book on your country's Amazon site.

There are 9 comments Go To Comment

  1. T

    I love the Borgias! I watched the series and it got me hooked! Thank you for this wonderful article

  2. k

    I loved the series too it was really good and I found a book on them which is very interesting!

    1. T

      Hi Kari,
      which book? I would love to read it

      thank you

    2. S

      Hey. Which book? There are a number on the family in general

  3. k

    Love the borgias, it was a brilliant series.
    In our local cemetery we have a nun whos last name is borgia. Its pretty cool concidering im in Australia!

  4. R

    I recall many years ago going to Riminni in the Romargna region of Italy which Cesare conquered and suppressed as his own lordship. The way in which he was thought of varied and he was thought of as a strong but effective leader and he left his mark on the area. He did get a reputation for quelling rebellions and his struggle to win the region met with resistance but other cities also have evidence that he was a great general and good administrator. He may have been ruthless and cruel at times and their are stories of personal cruelty, but a lot written about the Borgias was invented by their enemies for the purpose of bringing them down, so it must be difficult to decide fact from fiction. I am not saying Cesare was not cruel or ruthless, but there was more to him than that. Some of the randier stories have overshadowed his brilliance as a military leader and I don’t believe that he had a sexual relationship with his sister anyway. There is also no conclusive proof that he killed his brother Juan who was murdered while on his way back from a night out at the local brothel. Juan, as with all the Borgias had plenty of enemies and Rome was full of cut throats, so anyone could have killed him and dumped him into the Seine, it was not that unusual. He became seperated from his bodyguard so became an easy target. Lucretia was not the evil poisoner of legend and I bet few people know that she became a successful wife, mother and scholar and is burird simply in a convent asking pardon as a penitent. Cesare was a soldier and a diplomat but he was also a Cardinal and a priest, a role that he hated, but which was useful to him. As his father’s henchman he was guilty of serious crimes, but he was also sent to rival cities to negotiate alliances and to try to unite the families against invasion by France. He also controlled the papal finances and arranged loans and alliances with Florence. His growing military success to expand and restore the ancient papal authority and eststes gained him more and more powerful enemies who in the end gathered to surround, trap and destroy him.

    1. T

      Wow, thanks for all the new information. I agree that Cesare Borgia was more than just a ruthless man. I also don’t believe he had a sexual relationship with his sister or murdered his brother . I’m no expert but from all I have read about him, this is what I say about it

    2. S

      Thank you for your wonderful comment. I believe you are correct in what you say. From my research, Cesare was so much more than ruthless. He was a very talented general and tactician, and knew just how to quell his enemies and rebellions. Which is why Machiavelli modelled The Prince on him!

  5. M

    History always get written by winners, and they always demonize their opponents to put themselves in a better light. F x pope julius II was just as ruthless, and imo mostof the clergy at the time and nobles were cynicals and hypocrites who did whatever they like and could get away with. Cesare Borgia was a strong mind a powerful force in himself and he was trying to change how the system was working. that is enough to be vilified and hated as the powers that ended him had to make an example of him. If its one thing ive learned its to never trust written history and always look between and behind the lines

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Who was Cesare Borgia?