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Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519) was the illegitimate daughter of Rodrigo Lanzol Y Borgia, who is better known as Pope Alexander VI and one of his many mistresses, Vannozza dei Catanei. The life of Lucrezia Borgia is, in many ways, a mystery. Her name lives on in myth, surrounded by intrigue, but little is actually known about her. Some scorned her as a whore, others praised her for being an intelligent woman. As William Manchester writes in his novel, A World Lit Only By Fire, "Despite the unquestioned depravity of Alexander, the most intriguing figure in the carnal history of the time was one of the pope's four children by Vannozza dei Catanei. Born in 1480, the Lucrezia Borgia who has come down to us is an admixture of myth, fable, and incontestable fact... There is certainly evidence that at least in some respects she was what she was thought to have been, but only a few documents are extant."(pages 79-80)

During her youth, she was incredibly beautiful, and her angelic, innocent expression earned her the nickname "dolce ciera" (sweet face). In addition to being beautiful, she was fluent in Italian, French and Spanish, and could read classical Greek and Latin, and according to Manchester "...had been educated in manners and style, could engage in lengthy learned discussions, and was an accomplished poet."(page 80)

Despite her intelligence and good education, she was looked down upon. Many of the townspeople believed that she had inherited her father's sexual appetite at a young age, and Alexander VI used this as a political tool. He married her to three diffferent husbands, depending on which allegiance suited him best at the moment. Manchester writes, "Left to her own devices... she is reported to have spent her time between marriages making an obsessive study of dalliance, seeking to expand the outer limits of lewd pleasure. All situations, positions, and groupings of participants found in pornographic books and films have been attributed to Lucrezia's lustful imagination." (pages 81-82) However, it has been alleged that Lucrezia had incestous relationships with her father, and her two brothers: Cesare Borgia (who murdered several people while a cardinal) and Juan Borgia. Juan 's corpse was found in the Tiber river on the morning of June 15, 1497. It was rumored that Cesare had killed him out of lust over his own sister. Given her track record and his role as a murderer, this does not seem unlikely. However, Juan also had many other powerful enemies who wanted him dead. Lucrezia was discovered to be pregnant, but no one knew who the father was.

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