29. Alexander had a high-profile affair with Giulia Farnese, and made her brother Cardinal
In 1489, a beautiful young girl named Giulia Farnese married Orsino Orsini in one of the then-Rodrigo’s palaces. Almost immediately, she became Rodrigo’s mistress, and her politically-motivated husband went home. Giulia’s beauty was famous in Rome, and people referred to her as La Bella, making this a very public arrangement. When Giulia returned to her husband, apparently ending the affair, Cardinal Rodrigo threatened to excommunicate her, and she duly returned. But such loyalty – however under duress – meant a lot to Rodrigo. When he became Pope Alexander VI, he made Giulia’s brother a Cardinal.