Some people believe that Lucrezia Borgia had slept with and killed an incredible number of men.
The belief probably originates from Victor Hugo’s play from the 19th century, and the opera based on it. In actuality, there is no proof that Lucrezia Borgia killed anyone; the deaths around her are connected to her father (Pope Alexander VI) and her brother (Cesare Borgia).
Lucrezia Borgia was born and raised in a monastery within the Vatican, where she acquired considerable knowledge about art and literature. At the age of 13, her father arranged a marriage between her and Giovanni Sforza, who cheated on her on a regular basis.
Before long however, the Borgia family no longer needed the Sforza’s and the marriage lost its value. Giovanni soon fled Rome fearing for his life. The Sforza family wanted to avoid an open conflict with the Borgias, so they eventually convinced Giovanni to admit to being impotent, so that the marriage could be annulled. While Giovanni eventually signed the confessions of impotence, he also accused Lucrezia of regularly sleeping with her brother and father.
According to some rumors, Lucrezia was pregnant during the “annulment negotiations”. While this was never confirmed, the alleged father, Pedro Calderon, was later found dead in the Tiber in 1498, less than a year after Lucrezia’s marriage was annulled. Some think that Cesare Borgia was the one who ordered the killing.
Lucrezia then married Alfonso of Aragon in 1498, who was the Duke of Bisceglie at the time. They were happily married for two years until Alfonso was murdered; supposedly the work of Cesare Borgia once again. Lucrezia was reportedly heartbroken, and vowed to never marry again.
However, she did eventually marry Alfonso d’Este, the son of the Duke of Ferrara. In Ferrara, she lived an exemplary life; she supported artist and hospitals. During her 30’s, she became deeply religious and prayed multiple times a day. When she eventually died to illness in 1519, the whole of Ferrara mourned her death.