Cesare Borgia – the Valentino Duke
A dark and attractive Renaissance prince
He was son to Rodrigo Borgia, the Spanish Pope Alexander VI and his mistress Vannozza Cattanei. He had been elected cardinal and due to his archbishopric of Valencia in Spain, he was since then called “the Valentino”. He followed his fate by playing so a leading role in his warlike times that humanist and politician Niccolo’Machiavelli made his human and political portrait the subject of his masterpiece “Il Principe”.
Born in a morally suspicious family being the Borgias the symbol of the Renaissance church outrageous policy, the Valentino, was extremely ambitious, cruel and cunning, but also provided with great seductive power end elegance, as Italian writer Maria Bellonci wonderfully portrayed him in her novel “Lucrezia Borgia”. He was attached to the family, most of all to her sister Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara and by means of deceptions and crimes he rejected his cardinal career to become a powerful captain and prince, for all his lifetime always being ruled by passions though supported by a remarkable sharpness and devilish strategic skills.
In the early years of 1500 the Valentino became Governor of Romagna as a consequence of the alliance between the King of France and his father the Pope, eventually he married a French noble lady and was granted the title of Duke of Valentinois.
Across Italy and the ancient world his name was the symbol of terror and crime despite this the people of the Romagna towns appreciated him for the generosity and right government, as since ever they had been ruled by greedy and tyrannical lords, Girolamo Riario included.
Among the many famous episodes of his life, the encounter with Caterina Sforza during the Forlì siege of 1499 is one of the most legendary.
After the occupation of Imola he entered in Forlì in the middle of winter while Caterina Sforza had arranged for a strong and brave defense of her Ravaldino Fortress. Historical accounts have it that the Valentino got really impressed by this determined lady who fought with her soldiers and when she got prisoner he kept her with him for a while before leading her back to Rome treated with all honors.
What happened between them is not reported in the historical chronicles, yet regarding this issue many have sensed a romance, maybe an easy deduction based on their mutual passionate natures.
After an audacious and warlike existence the Valentino lost all his lands in Romagna, he was prisoner in Spain, his father’s homeland, where he eventually died in 1507, aged only 32.