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25-Apr-2016 09:30

But despite her pregnancy and rumours of an incestuous relationship with not only with her father but also her brother, the Borgias brazenly persisted in portraying Lucrezia as a virgin bride at her second marriage, a fallacy that, in the words of one contemporary, ‘set all of Italy laughing since it was common knowledge that she had been and was then the greatest whore there ever was in Rome’.

Bishops and cardinals were murdered, and their lands and palaces looted before their bodies were cold.

Today, it is Lucrezia Borgia’s name that has survived down the centuries, thanks to her depiction in paintings and operas as a murderess who used a hollow ring to drip arsenic into her enemies’ drinks.

But in Renaissance Italy, it was the entire Borgia family who had a reputation for murderous intrigue, ruling Rome with an iron fist and stopping at nothing to satisfy their lust for money, sex and power.

He insisted, however, that the marriage was not to be consummated for some months. Was he hedging his bets in case a better match were to present itself and he could then annul the marriage? His male pride stung, Giovanni insisted that he had carnally ‘known’ Lucrezia ‘an infinite number of times’.

But when he learned the Borgias were plotting to kill him, he gave in, bitterly remarking that the marriage was only annulled so the Pope could have Lucrezia to himself.

She bore Alfonso — who shared the same name as her second husband — six children, including an heir.Handsome and clever, but mercurial and violently jealous, of all the Borgias he was perhaps the most ruthless and amoral.A notorious womaniser, he was also said to harbour an obsessive love for his sister which seems to have gone well beyond normal fraternal affection.Already, rumours were rife that she and her father were having a physical relationship.

If true, this did not prevent Alexander — played by Irons in the new series — from marrying her off to Giovanni Sforza, the 26-year-old son of an important northern Italian family, in order to strengthen the Borgias’ position.The scene may sound familiar to those who follow the scandalous activities of Italy’s infamous septuagenarian premier, Silvio Berlusconi.



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