14. Lucrezia Borgia may or may not have been a murderer
Lucrezia Borgia has been vilified for centuries, as a conniving and cunning woman capable of murder. To some she poisoned several victims. The daughter of a Roman Catholic Cardinal who later reigned as Pope Alexander VI, she entered into an arranged marriage at the behest of her father, who wanted to ally himself with a powerful family. When the family’s support was no longer need Alexander annulled the first marriage and arranged another. A child born to the Borgia family prior to her second marriage was recognized first as her brother Cesare’s, and secondly as her father Alexander’s though the mother was never named. Rumors that she had borne the child followed her throughout the rest of her life. Her second marriage ended after less than two years, when her husband was murdered in 1500. Her brother Cesare may have ordered him killed.
Lucrezia’s third marriage lasted 17 years, during which she gave birth to eight children, though she maintained extramarital relationships throughout. But she also proved to be a capable administrator of the duchy of her husband, the Duke of Ferrara. A contemporary rumor that she killed former lovers when she was finished with them included her wearing a hollowed-out ring in which she carried poison. The Borgia family, known for extravagance throughout the Italian lands, were the subject of similar rumors throughout her life. Lucrezia bore a dozen or more children, depending on the sources, and numerous miscarriages. She died following the birth of a child in June, 1519. The child, a girl, died the same day. Lucrezia died ten days later, at the age of 39. Her name conjures images of an alluring but deadly woman to this day, probably undeservedly.